1.0     Introduction

This article provides an overview of the Royal Air Force School of Physical Training (RAFSofPT).

2.0     What is the RAF School of Physical Training?

The RAF School of Physical Training is the institution responsible for training the RAF’s exercise professionals who form part of the Physical Education (PEd) branch.

3.0     What is the Role of the RAF School of Physical Training?

The RAF School of Physical Training is responsible for the delivery of specialist trade training to:

  • Personnel Branch Officers; and
  • Physical Training Instructors (PTI’s).

This includes professional through-career training for all ranks across the physical training cadre, including trade management training.

It is also responsible for:

  • Course and syllabus design;
  • Accreditation and validation of learning; and
  • Providing ongoing through-life training support for PTI’s.

You can find further information on the selection and training of RAF PTI’s here.

3.1     Personnel Branch Officers

Personnel Branch officers with a Physical Education (PEd) competency are established at:

  • HQ 22 (Training) Group;
  • RAF stations and units;
  • The RAF School of Physical Training;
  • The Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC);
  • Force Development Training Centres (FDTC’s);
  • HQ 2 Group; and
  • Airborne Delivery Wing (ADW).

Where appropriate they are assisted by Physical Training Instructors (PTIs).

4.0     Where is the RAF School of Physical Training?

The RAF School of Physical Training is located at RAF Cosford, Albrighton, northwest of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands.

RAF Corford forms a major part of the Defence College of Technical Training (DCTT).

5.0     What are the Facilities at the RAF School of Physical Training?

Facilities at the RAF School of Physical Training include:

  • Athletics tracks (synthetic) (refurbished in 2005).
  • Swimming pool (built in 1948).
  • Sports halls (built in 1948 and refurbished in 1994 and 2008). Contains badminton courts, basketball courts, netball courts, and volleyball courts.
  • Health and fitness suite (built in 1995).
  • Gymnasium.
  • Artificial grass pitches (built in 1992, 1994 (refurbished in 2006) and 2000).
  • Grass pitches (for football, rugby and cricket).
  • Squash courts: normal and glass-backed (built in 1986).

6.0     Key Personalities

Key personalities within, or having an impact on, the PEd branch include:

  • Air Vice-Marshal (OF-7):
    • Air Officer Commanding 22 (Training) Group (known as RAF 22 Group from 2018). Also occupies the role of Chief of Staff Training (COS Training) for the RAF.
  • Air Commodores’ (OF-6):
    • Directorate of Ground Training (DGT).
    • o Directorate of Flying Training (DFT).
    • o Defence College of Technical Training (DCTT).
    • o Royal Air Force Cadets (RAFAC).
    • o Royal Air Force College (RAFC).
    • o Directorate of RAF Sport (DRS).
  • Group Captains’ (OF-5):
    • COS 22 (Training) Group.
  • Wing Commanders’ (OF-4):
    • Force Development and Adventurous Personal Development Training (FD & APDT).
    • SO1 Physical Education.
    • SO1 Pre and Post Deployment Training Wing.
    • SO1 Training Policy and Assurance.
  • Squadron Leaders’ (OF-3):
    • SO2 PEd Delivery.
    • Eagles Scheme.
    • FD & APDT.
    • Staff Officer Air Adventurous Training: retains a command relationship with the RAF School of Training and is responsible for the delivery of Human Factors training at RAF Cranwell.
    • SO2 SERE, HQ 22 (Training) Group.
  • Flight Lieutenants’ (OF-2):
    • Eagles Scheme.

7.0     What is the RAF Eagles Scheme?

Developed in 2012, the RAF Eagles scheme includes multiple APDT activities and experiences related to significant RAF historical events (RAF News, 2018). The scheme commemorates RAF history, celebrates the Service’s achievements and inspires commitment in RAF personnel. The RAF recognised that developing individual and team resilience has a positive impact on performance and the EAGLES scheme aims to combine aspects of physical and psychological wellbeing.

The RAF Eagles Scheme consists of (Squires, 2017):

  • Eagles Nest which is a five-day trip, with a one day staff ride followed by four days of adventurous training.
  • Comet Eagle.
  • Dambuster Eagle.
  • Snow Eagle which is a skiing/winter survival exercise.

The Eagles Scheme is delivered at various levels:

  • Level 1: Whole Force (Foundation Eagles). Low level activity that typically last between 0.5 and 3 days, and are generally run in relatively close proximity (within daily travel time) of the participants’ place of work.
  • Level 2: Eagles Programme. Designed to provide adventurous training on a large scale to all ranks in the RAF on a year-round basis and involve multi-activity programmes. They may also include the award of a qualification. The RAF Eagles Scheme consists of (Squires, 2017):
    • Eagles Nest which is a five-day trip, with a one day staff ride followed by four days of adventurous training.
    • Comet Eagle.
    • Dambuster Eagle.
    • Snow Eagle which is a skiing/winter survival exercise.
  • Level 3: Expeditions (RAF Eagles Advanced Series). The RAF advanced series of Eagles delivers packages which are aimed solely at military personnel. The RAF Eagles Advanced series includes:
    • Telemark Eagle which includes Nordic skiing and ice climbing.
    • Wilderness Eagles which includes canoeing and survival skills.
    • Winter Mountaineering Eagle which is to be confirmed.
    • Mountain Bike Eagle which is to be confirmed.

8.0     Brief History

The RAF School of Physical Training was established on the same day as the fledging RAF, 01 April 1918, at the re-designated RAF College Cranwell, previously known Royal Naval Air Service Training Establishment. The School remains one of only two schools the same age as the RAF still in existence – the other being the Central Flying School.

Initially the School was based in the old Royal Navy swimming pool and gymnasium/station church (Houghton, 2017).

“In 1920, the School moved to RAF Uxbridge where it remained until the Second World War.” (Houghton, 2017, p.1).

RAF Cosford was opened in 1938 as a joint aircraft maintenance, storage and technical training unit. Building on the airfield started in August 1937. The training element designated Number 2 School of Technical Training with a planned strength of 4,000 personnel followed in February 1938. The first command officer was Group Captain W.J.Y. Guilfoyle OBE MC, arriving on 21 July 1938, with No. 1 Apprentice Wing commencing training on 04 August 1938 (Warfare, 2013).

Meanwhile, the Technical Training Unit was joined by other RAF training schools, including the School of Physical Training (from RAF Uxbridge), the School of Training Organisation and Development, the RAF Officer’s School, the Czechoslovak Depot and No. 15 Radio School; two Personnel Reception Centres (No’s. 106 and 108) were also set up.

No. 9 Maintenance Unit, functioning as an aircraft storage unit, started operating on 15 March 1939 and, on 04 September 1939, the syllabus for flight mechanics and flight riggers was introduced (Warfare, 2013).

At the very start of the war the RAF School of Physical Training was closed but, as it was realised the war would last slightly longer than Christmas, the RAF started employing civilian trained physical education teachers as PTI’s and physical fitness officers (Houghton, 2017).

PTI training was subsequently resumed when three newly established schools of physical training commenced training in 1941, which included:

  • No. 1 School of Physical Training at RAF St Athan;
  • No. 2 School of Physical Training at RAF Cosford; and
  • No. 3 School of Physical Training at Loughborough College.

The RAF Hospital was opened in 1940 and, in 1941, a Burns Unit (which was able to treat badly burnt airment) was added. During the war, the hospital treated approximately 42,000 patient.

During the late 1930s/early 1940s, PTI’s had to attend the RAF School of Drill prior to moving on to the RAF School of Physical Training (Roylance, 2004).

“In the early days P.T.Is. w[h]ere teaching foot drill, rifle drill, weapon training of rifles, sten guns, “Tommy” guns, hand grenades as well as assault course, unarmed combat, bayonet fighting and basic parachute training.” (Roylance, 2004).

This would change in 1942 when Roylance was given the:

“…wonderful news that a new unit was to be formed to take over all drill and weapon training as well as Airfield Guard duties leaving P.T.Is. free to concentrate on the physical training side. It was to be called the RAF Regiment and most will have seen the superb finished article at Remembrance Day Parades.” (Roylance, 2004).

The only occasion on which RAF Cosford was attacked was on 11th March, 1941, when a group of German bombers overshot their intended targets in Birmingham’s industrial zone due to poor weather and released their bomb loads (minimal damage was caused and no human casualties).

In September 1944 the School for Instructors for the Education and Vocational Training Scheme (EVT) was opened to train those instructors that the scheme required. These instructors provided vocational training for airmen being demobbed.

In February 1945, it was decided that all RAF repatriated prisoners-of-war (POW) should pass through No. 106 Personnel Reception Centre at RAF Cosford, with No. 106 Personnel Reception Squadron being established on 07 March 1945. The first 99 POW’s arrived on 10 April 1945. Towards the end of the war, No. 4 Medical Rehabilitation Unit opened housing and rehabilitating approximately 14,000 returning RAF POW’s from Europe and the Far East.

During the war the training technical training school delivered training to approximately 70,000 engine and airframe mechanics and armourers.

After the war, the RAF hospital as opened to the local population.

On 23 January 1946, No.2 and No.3 Wings amalgamated to become No.1 Wing training engine and airframe assistants. No.4 Wing was responsible for the School of Training Organisation and Method until 06 May 1948 when it became a separate unit on disbandment of No.4 Wing.

Officer training came to an end on 28 February 1948 when the Officer Training School (renamed the Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU) was relocated to RAF Spitalgate.

In March 1946, the RAF School of Physical Training became firmly established at RAF Cosford with the closure of the schools at Loughborough and St Athan (Warfare, 2013).

On 23 August 1948, both Personnel Receptions Centres were closed.

In 1963, the RAF School of Photography was relocated to RAF Cosford.

The RAF School of Physical Training was to stay at RAF Cosford until 1954 when it moved St Athan. The RAF School of Physical Training remained at RAF St Athan for 23 years before returning again to RAF Cosford in 1977, where it remains today (Warfare, 2013). No. 65 Basic PTI Course was the first to graduate here. In November 1977, course numbers were zeroed and No.1 Basic PTI Course commenced training (Houghton, 2017).

On 31 December 1977, the RAF hospital was closed and demolished in 1980. Each summer, between 1978 and 1980, the empty hospital formed the venue for annual training camps for the Royal Observer Corps, with wards and theatres converted into barrack accommodation and training rooms.

Between 1977 and 1988, 88 courses graduated, including five female only courses.

In 1984, the small onsite museum was expanded to become the Cosfor Aerospace Museum.

The first combined (male and female) course was No.29 Basic PTI Course which commenced training in August 1988 (Houghton, 2017).

1994 saw the completion of the move of aircraft engineering training from RAF Halton, which also brought about a change of unit title from Number 2 School to Number 1 School of Technical Training and the guardianship of the Queen’s Colour which was bestowed on the Number 1 School. The Colour is one of only seven current Colours personally presented by the Sovereign to the RAF in recognition of Service achievement.

RAF Cosford became part of the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE), which was formed on 01 April 2004.

In early 2009 there was a strong chance that the DCAE would relocate to RAF St Athan and therefore a decision was given to rename the base RAF Cosford.

RAF Cosford, currently led by a Group Captain (OF-5), is also home to the RAF Museum and the Cosford Airshow.

“As of May 2016, the School had graduated over 1,000 PTIs, had 19 Officers Commanding SofPT and 15 School Warrant Officers.” (Houghton, 2017, p.2).

In October 2018, the RAF School of Physical Training joined the Chartered Institute for Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) as a skills development partner, aligning its physical training to CIMSPA professional standards (CIMSPA, 2018).

9.0     RAF PTI Association

The RAF PTI Association was established in February 1994, building on “the success of ‘The Badge’ magazine and the setting up of the RAF PTI Museum at the School of Physical Training.” (RAT PTI Association, 2018).

The magazine was replaced by a newsletter in August 2012.

10.0     Motto and Symbol

The School’s motto ‘Viribus Audax’ which means ‘Bold In Strength’ is symbolised by a Roe Buck on the School Crest.

The Roe Buck was chosen because of its extraordinary alertness, energy and physical fitness..

11.0     Useful Publications

  • Queen’s Regulations for the Royal Air Force. Chapter 9 – Training. Section 7 – Physical Education and Parachute Training. Amendment 35, June 2014.
  • Air Publications (AP):
    • AP 3342:
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 402.
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 503.
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 801.
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 802.
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 803.
  • Basic Physical Training Instructor Course Information Handbook 2009 (obsolete).

12.0 Useful Links

 RAF PTI Recruitment: https://www.raf.mod.uk/recruitment/roles/roles-finder/personnel-support/physical-training-instructor/.
 RAF Cosford: https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/stations/raf-cosford/.
 RAF SofPT on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RAF_SofPT.
 RAF PTI Association: https://rafptiassociationsite.com/.

13.0     References

CIMSPA (Chartered Institute for Management of Sport and Physical Activity). (2018) Royal Air Force School of Physical Training Partners with CIMSPA. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.cimspa.co.uk/article.php?group_id=4838. [Accessed: 12 December, 2018].

Houghton, R. (ed) (2017) History of the RAF School of Physical Training. The Badge. Newsletter Edition No.15. Available from World Wide Web: https://rafptiassociationsite.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/the-badge-newsletter-15.pdf. [Accessed: 17 December, 2018].

RAF Careers. (2016) RAF Careers – Sport & Fitness. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/raf-careers/raf-careers-sport-fitness/. [Accessed: 17 December, 2018].

RAF News. (2018) Royal Recognition for Royal Air Force Resilience Training. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.raf.mod.uk/news/articles/royal-recognition-for-royal-air-force-resilience-training/. [Accessed: 18 December, 2018].

RAF PTI Association. (2018) History. Available from World Wide Web: https://rafptiassociation.wordpress.com/history/. [Accessed: 17 December, 2018].

Roylance, G. (2004) A Physical Training Instructor in the RAF by Godfrey Roylance. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/34/a2665334.shtml. [Accessed: 17 December, 2018].

Squires, G. (2017) Ex EAGLES NEST. Active (A Magazine of the RAF). Issue 74, December 2017, pp.22-24.

Warfare. (2013) RAF Cosford’s 75th Anniversary Air Show. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.warfaremagazine.co.uk/articles/RAF-Cosfords-75th-Anniversary-Air-Show/104. [Accessed: 17 December, 2018].