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Flight Lieutenant or Flight Observer
Flight Commander or Flight Observer
Squadron Commander or Squadron Observer

Royal Naval Air Service formed 100 years ago today

Published: 01 Jul 2014

The Admiralty adopts the title Royal Naval Air Service for the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps.

The strength of the RNAS on formation is: 55 seaplanes and "shipborne" aircraft; 40 aeroplanes; seven airships; 111 officers and 544 men.

Extracts from Admiralty Circular Letter CW.13964/14 of 1.7.14 'Royal Naval Air Service - Organisation (Adm.1/8378)

The Royal Naval Air Service, forming the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps, will comprise all naval aircraft and personnel, either for active or reserve service and will be administered by the Admiralty.

'Officers who join the RNAS will wear naval uniform with an eagle on the sleeve above the lace.'

In the RNAS both pilots and observers held appointments as well as their normal Royal Navy ranks, and wore insignia appropriate to the appointment instead of the rank. The insignia for both Pilots and Observers consisted of standard Royal Navy cuff stripes corresponding to their normal ranks (RN, RNR or RNVR), surmounted by an eagle. (On 22 June 1917 a different Winged-O was introduced for Observers.) In addition, Flight Commanders and Flight Observers had their insignia surmounted by an eight-pointed star, while Squadron Commanders and Squadron Observers with less than eight years' seniority had their insignia surmounted by two such stars, one above the other.

From 1915, officers serving in units on the French coast were ordered to wear khaki clothing instead of dark blue. The uniform was similar to the Army Service Dress but with Naval rank shown in khaki braid. The eagle wings moved from the cuff to the left breast. In reality a hotchpotch of uniforms was worn.

It was some time before the formalisation of the RNAS. The arrangements were published in Admiralty Weekly Order No 1204/15 dated 29 July 1915. They came into effect on 1 August 1915.

RN Ranks RNAS Pilots RNAS Observers
Sub-Lieutenant Flight Sub-Lieutenant Observer Sub-Lieutenant
Lieutenant Flight Lieutenant Observer Lieutenant
Lieutenant Flight Commander Flight Observer
Lieutenant Squadron Commander (less than eight years' seniority) Squadron Observer (less than eight years' seniority)
Lieutenant-Commander Squadron Commander (over eight years' seniority) Squadron Observer (over eight years' seniority)
Commander Wing Commander Wing Observer
Captain Wing Captain  


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