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Posted 2/10/2012 Printable Fact Sheet
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World War II: Airmen in a World at War
DAYTON, Ohio - The Royal Air Force portion of the WWII: Airmen in a World at War exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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At the beginning of World War II in 1939, most pilots serving in the Royal Air Force (RAF) were British-born. As the war continued, airmen came from many different countries. Foreign-born RAF pilots sometimes flew as independent units and other times they were mixed in with British-born aircrews. They included members of the British Commonwealth, such as Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, along with volunteers from the United States and occupied countries such as Norway, Poland and Czechoslovakia. 

RAF Group Captain's Service Uniform
This officer is wearing the standard service uniform for an RAF pilot. The stripes on his lower sleeves identify him as a group commander. 

RAF Flying Uniform
Flying clothing worn by RAF aircrews varied to a great degree depending on the mission and the personal preference of the individual. Fighter pilots often wore a prized Irvin jacket over their service uniform, like the mannequin on display. Worn over the flying clothing is an inflatable life vest should he go down over water. 

RAF Emergency Whistle
Attached to the life vest, this whistle could be used to signal nearby rescuers or other airmen in the water. 

RAF Life Vest Light
This emergency light was attached to the life vest with a clip. Its battery provided about 12 hours of light to help searchers find a downed airman. 

Eight-Day Clock
This eight-day clock was used in the Spitfire fighter. When fully wound, it operated for up to eight days without rewinding. 

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