To trace the roots of the RAF Fire Service it is necessary to go back to the early days of Military Aviation. May 1912 saw the formation of the Royal Flying Corps and even in those early days it was necessary to provide some protection for the aircrews. At that time the only military fire service was the Army Fire Service, manned by Army Service Engineers and they were to provide fire cover for the RFC. The use of the Army personnel ceased in 1916 and the RFC took the fire fighting operations into their own hands. The necessary personnel were taken from many different trades, with fire fighting as their secondary task.
The RAF was officially formed on the 1st April 1918 and during its formative years the loss of aircraft and equipment due to fires caused a great deal of concern which eventually led to the provision of a fire vehicle at every permanent RAF Station. The training of personnel to operate them started in 1922 at RAF Cranwell where a small unit was established to train a trade known as Aircraft Handler / Fire fighter. The London Fire Brigade, who provided the instructors and devised the training methods and schedules, controlled the Unit.
"Regulars" had manned the RAF Fire Vehicles until 1939, this being a term for those who had volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces of their own choice. The threat of war in 1939 resulted in June of the Royal Assent of the Military Service (Conscription) Bill, which compelled every male of 20 years of age in the United Kingdom to register and serve in the Armed Services. With the uncertainty of which Service they would be sent to, many of that age volunteered to serve for "the duration of the war" in the RAF and some of them, together with those conscripted, were to be Fire-fighters.
In July 1940, after 18 years at Cranwell, the Fire Training Unit moved to RAF Weeton in Lancashire for 3 years, where RAF Personnel provided tuition at the Unit.
On the move to RAF Sutton-on-Hull in 1943, the Fire Training Unit became the RAF School of Fire Fighting. It was there that the Fire Service was to see immense changes in its structure and organisation some of that was necessary with the vast advancement of military aviation.
On 31st December 1943 it is thought that the RAF Fire Service came into being with the promulgation by Air Ministry Order of the Trade of Firefighter (later changed to Fireman). To command this new Trade, Fire and Anti-Gas Officers were appointed and the school was renamed for the remaining of the war to the RAF School of Firefighting and Anti-Gas.
At the same time the No. 2 RAF School of Firefighting was formed at RAF Ismalia in Egypt, this closed at the end of WW2. Little is known about the training that RAF Firemen underwent during WW2, but it was of considerable importance. Throughout those wartime years - they continued to provide a service to save life and fight fire involving numerous crashed aircraft.
After the war conscription, then known as National Service, was maintained until 1967, and young men of 18 years had to serve for 2 years. (For a short time there was a reduction to 18 Months.)
The uncertainty of their "doom" continued and many pre-empted the feared day and volunteered into the RAF at the age of 17½ and some 22.600 were attested in to the "Cream" between February 1946 and March 1947 which also included ex-services men who had already served their Country in other arms and fancied a spell in RAF Blue.
In the post war years, some 5,000 Regulars and National Service Conscripts were trained as Firemen at the only RAF School of Firefighting & Rescue based at RAF Sutton on Hull.