The Aircraft Park deployed to France on the outbreak of war to provide support to the RFC in the field. It reached Boulogne on 18 August 1914, with 12 officers, 162 other ranks, four motorcycles and four aeroplanes in crates. On disembarkation the port landing officer sent an urgent wire to GHQ, ‘An unnumbered unit without any aeroplanes which calls itself an Aircraft Park has arrived. What are we to do with it?’
Despite this unpromising start, the Aircraft Park soon proved itself invaluable in the constant struggle to keep the RFC’s handful of aircraft available to support the rapidly moving armies. The Aircraft Park was a mobile unit consisting of a stores section and a workshop section. Essential parts of it could pack up and move off completely in twenty-four hours. During the confusion of the first months of the war, the Air Park found itself constantly testing its ability to do just this.
However, by the end of October 1914, after five changes in location, it arrived at St Omer where it has remained since. Since then it has become established as the primary supply depot for the RFC in France. It has grown in size and has become according to its commander, ‘a gigantic factory and emporium’. The shops are repairing aeroplanes, mechanical transport, wireless, armament, navigation and photographic equipment. The stores officers were daily issuing anything from complete aeroplanes to the smallest spare parts. The requisitions which they deal with include items such as special boxes of matches for setting on fire aeroplanes landing wrong side of the lines, and horserakes and lawnmowers for keeping aerodromes trim.
The Park had now become too unwieldy to cope with the increasing demands and so the RFC has opened second park at Candas some 60 miles south of St Omer, to serve the southern group of squadrons working with the 3rd Army. As part of the reorganisation, St Omer is now called No 1 Aircraft Park and Candas No 3 Aircraft Park (as it is working with the 3rd Army).