Royal Aero Club - Blog

To enlarge the display, please change the zoom level in your Browser
(eg Ctrl+ or Ctrl- in Internet Explorer)
William Robinson Clarke
At the beginning of the First World War, the British Armed Forces maintained a “colour bar” that denied entry to African-Caribbean and Asian volunteers. However, as the Forces expanded and casualties rose, this restriction was relaxed and Black personnel joined the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), and – from 1 April 1918 – the Royal Air Force (RAF). Britain’s first Black pilot was William Robinson Clarke and today is the centenary of the day he was awarded his Aviator’s Certificate by the Royal Aero Club (RAeC) on 26 April 1917 – the first step in becoming a sergeant-pilot with No. 4 Squadron RFC. The RAeC Trust’s collection of Aviators’ Certificates can be searched online at, available free at the RAF Museum and some public libraries.