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Royal Air Force Regiment
Crest of the RAF Regiment
Active 1 February 1942 – Present
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
Type Infantry
Role Force Protection
Size 9 squadrons
Part of No. 2 Group, Air Command
Garrison/HQ Depot - RAF Honington
Nickname The Rock Apes
Motto Per Ardua (Latin for Through Adversity)
March Quick - Holyrood
Commandant-General Air Commodore S Abbott[1]
Air Commodore-in-Chief HM The Queen
Tactical Recognition Flash RAF TRF.svg

The Royal Air Force Regiment (RAF Regt) is a specialist airfield defence Corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. After a 29 week trainee gunner course its members are trained and equipped to prevent a successful enemy attack in the first instance; minimise the damage caused by a successful attack; and ensure that air operations can continue without delay in the aftermath of an attack, the RAF Regiment are trained in CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) defence and equipped with advanced vehicles and detection measures and RAF Regiment instructors are responsible for training all Royal Air Force personnel in basic Force Protection, such as first aid, weapon handling and CBRN skills. Members of the Regiment are known within the RAF as 'The Regiment', 'Rock Apes' or 'Rocks'.



The genesis of the RAF Regiment was with the creation of No. 1 Armoured Car Company RAF in 1921 for operations in Iraq, followed shortly afterwards by No. 2 Armoured Car Company RAF and No. 3 Armoured Car Company RAF. These were equipped with Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars and were highly successful in ground combat operations throughout the Middle East in the 1920s and 1930s. The RAF Regiment came into existence, in name, on 5 February 1942. From the start it had both field squadrons and light anti-aircraft squadrons, the latter originally armed with Hispano 20mm cannon and then the Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft gun. Its role was to seize, secure and defend airfields to enable air operations to take place. Several parachute squadrons were formed to assist in the seizing of airfields and No. II Squadron retains this capability. 284 Field Squadron was the first RAF unit to arrive in West Berlin in 1945, to secure RAF Gatow.

A recruiting poster from the 1950s.

The Regiment has a museum at RAF Honington near Bury St Edmunds. The RAF Regiment occasionally mounts the King's Guard/Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, with the first occasion being on 1 April 1943.

During World War II, the RAF Regiment grew to a force of 66,000 men in 280 Squadrons of 185 men each (each squadron including five officers). Each squadron consisted of a Headquarters Flight, three Rifle Flights, an Air-Defence Flight, and an Armoured-Car Flight. The flights were grouped together into Wings as needed. It also operated six Armoured Car Squadrons to provide an area response capability to several RAF stations. Light Armoured Squadrons, equipped with FV101 Scorpion and FV107 Scimitar light tanks, continued to be operated into the 1980s.

Formerly the RAF's firefighters were also members of the RAF Regiment, although they are now independent of it.


Origin of the "Rock Ape" nickname

In the past the nickname "Rock Ape" has been attributed to their traditional role guarding areas of Gibraltar, but this is not so. The term came into use after an accident in the Western Aden Protectorate in November 1952. Two Regiment officers serving with the APL at Dhala decided to amuse themselves by going out to shoot some of the baboons (locally referred to as "rock apes"). The officers drew rifles and split up to hunt the apes, yet in the semi-darkness one of the officers fired at a moving object in the distance. When he reached the target he discovered he had shot the other officer. After emergency treatment Flight Lieutenant Mason survived to return to service a few months later. When asked why he had fired at his friend by a board of inquiry the officer replied that his target had "looked just like a rock ape" in the half light. The remark soon reverberated around the RAF and it was not long before the term was in general use.

Organisation and current role

Osprey body armour basrah.jpg

The RAF Regiment comes under command of 2 Group, Air Command. Its members are organised into eight regular squadrons, of which seven are field squadrons and three Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) squadrons. These are intended to counter ground-based threats to the RAF and to this end are trained to move on foot or mounted in helicopters and Land Rovers to defend airfields.

Members of the RAF Regiment are equipped with a range of direct and indirect fire systems and surveillance and night vision equipment. The way a field squadron operates depends upon the threat they are facing, mounting defensive positions or aggressive patrolling outside the airfield boundary. As air bases are fixed and supporting elements are unable to redeploy quickly, field squadrons must engage an attacking adversary at the earliest opportunity to prevent air operations from being disrupted.

Field Squadrons are divided into Flights, which are the equivalent in size of an army platoon. Each squadron contains several rifle flights, whose task is to engage the enemy at close range, and a support weapons flight, which provides fire support to the rifle flights using machine guns, mortars, and snipers.

The field squadrons are 166 strong (increasing soon to 171 strong) making them larger than an infantry company in the army. All regular RAF Regiment personnel are male although the Auxiliary Squadrons do recruit women, it is British Government policy that women cannot serve in close combat units[2]. There are approximately 2,000 regular airmen (i.e. Other Ranks), 300 regular officers, and 500 reservists.

Since 1990, the RAF Regiment has supported air operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone. Some RAF Regiment officers and Senior Non Commissioned Officers have been seconded to the Army in roles such as Forward Air Controlers with some Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs) that coordinate Close Air Support for the ground forces. The Regiment provides staff for the Defence CBRN Centre at Winterborne Gunner which trains personnel from all three services and the civilian police in CBRN defence skills and a flight of 40 RAF Regiment personnel forms part of the tri-service Special Forces Support Group

The RAF Regiment's basic training has recently increased to incorporate the field gunners course and currently stands at 29 weeks.

Current RAF Regiment units

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "WOMEN IN THE ARMED FORCES". MoD. May 2002. "The principal areas from which women are excluded today - and which were the concern of this review - are those that are required deliberately to close with and kill the enemy face-to-face," 

Further reading

  • Kingsley M Oliver, Through Adversity: History of the Royal Air Force Regiment, Forces & Corporate Publishing Ltd., 1997. ISBN 0952959704.
  • Tim Ripley, 'RAF Regiment to boost equipment and recruitment', Jane's Defence Weekly, 16 April 2008, p. 10.

External links


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