At the outbreak of WWI, on 4 August 1914, the RFC consisted of seven front line squadrons and only one training facility: the Central Flying School (CFS). As the RFC expanded, it became apparent that the CFS had to be augmented to cater for the larger number of front line squadrons and the wastage caused by casualties. Reserve aeroplane squadrons were therefore created and new training aerodromes constructed in various parts of the country, including Sedgeford. These reserve aeroplane squadrons were placed under the control of home-based wings. The term reserve aeroplane squadron was later shortened to reserve squadron (1916) and then to training squadron (1917). In 1918, these were mostly amalgamated to become Training Depot Stations (TDS). A number of reserve or training squadrons were based at Sedgeford at various times: No. 53 Training Squadron was formed from an element of No. 64 Squadron in February 1917 but moved to Narborough in the following month; No. 65 Training Squadron arrived in May 1917, moving to Dover six months later; No. 9 Training Squadron moved to Sedgeford in January 1918, staying for seven months; and No. 7 Training Squadron was formed from No. 3 Fighting School in March 1919 but disbanded in October 1919.
In addition to training squadrons, operational or active service squadrons arrived at Sedgeford or were formed at Sedgeford to complete 'working up' periods prior to their assignments overseas. These were not strictly training squadrons, but were active service squadrons under training, equipped with training aircraft until their front-line aircraft arrived. Accordingly, these squadrons were not given the reserve or training prefix. Amongst the operational squadrons trained at Sedgeford were the following: No. 45 Squadron, who left for France in October 1916 equipped with Sopwith Strutters; No. 64 Squadron, who left for france one year later flying DH5s; No. 110 Squadron, who joined Trenchard's Independent Force in France in mid-1918 flying DH9As; and No. 72 Squadron, who served in Mesopotamia during 1919 flying a variety of aircraft types.
Training at Sedgeford included formation flying, cross-country navigation, and gunnery/bombing practice at nearby ranges on the Norfolk coast. Some squadrons, who were destined to perform specialist roles, were taught techniques such as air-to-ground communications and aerial photography. Training was rudimentary and many fatal accidents occured.
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© D. Jacklin 2017. This website is owned by the RAF Bircham Newton Memorial Project.