Dr Harold Roxbee Cox (later Lord Kings Norton), RAeS President 1947 to 1949, at a dinner at No.4 Hamilton Place in 1949 to celebrate the granting of the Society's Royal Charter dated 22 December 1948. RAeS (NAL).

The years after the war were busy ones in every way; the number of members had grown to some 5,000 by 1945 and there were 24 Branches. To each of the three Vice-Presidents of the Society was allocated a special sphere of influence; to one, a revision of the rules, problems affecting membership and general policy; to another the technical work and to the third, co-ordination of the Branches and their welfare. The By-Laws were revised preparatory to the application for a Royal Charter, which was granted by His Majesty King George VI, Patron of the Society.

For the first time since 1927 the subscriptions of members were raised. A President’s Badge of Office was designed and was presented to the Society by Sir Frederick Handley Page, the President at that time; in 1947, he also bought and presented to the Society the Cuthbert-Hodgson Collection of aeronautical prints, books and relics covering the history of flight. This collection, begun some time before 1820 by John Cuthbert, and added to over the years by other people, came up for sale during the 1914-18 war and was bought by J E Hodgson, the Honorary Librarian of the Society. Although he received many tempting offers from America and elsewhere, he had always hoped that, finally, the collection would come to the Society.


In 1948 the Council decided to hold at least one main lecture of the Society each year at a Branch. The first was given at Birmingham in October 1948, with the President in the chair. Each President has been so encouraged by the attendance and enthusiasm shown on these occasions that the number of main lectures given at Branches during the year rose from one in 1948 to nine in 1965.

HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh KG HonFRAeS, RAeS Honorary President 1966, accepts his Honorary Fellowship scroll from Sir Sydney Camm CBE FRAeS, right, RAeS President 1954-1955, at the Assembly Hall, Church House, Westminster, 16 December 1954. RAeS (NAL).

Branches of the Society had not been confined to the UK. On the amalgamation of the Institution of Aeronautical Engineers in 1927 the Branch of the Institution in Australia became the first overseas Branch of the Society. Subsequently, Branches had been formed in Montreal and Ottawa, in 1930, and in New Zealand and South Africa after WW2. These overseas activities were encouraged by the founding of the British Empire Lecture – the second ‘named’ lecture to be established by the Society and first given in November 1945. This series of lectures, later known as the British Commonwealth lectures, was given annually, one year the lecturer being from one of the Commonwealth countries and the next from the UK. Lecturers were drawn from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India and Central Africa. Home lecturers have included HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who honoured the Society by delivering the tenth lecture before an audience of about 800 members and friends in Church House, Westminster, in December 1954. On this same occasion His Royal Highness accepted Honorary Fellowship of the Society.


In 1948 the overseas Branches were given greater autonomy by the creation of Divisions of the Society in Australia, New Zealand and Southern Africa – and later in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

The Divisions were empowered to found Branches under the jurisdiction of the Division. Today there are Branches in Australia at Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland (formerly called Brisbane), Perth and Adelaide; in New Zealand at Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Blenheim and Christchurch and in Southern Africa at Johannesburg and Pretoria. Each Division is self-governing, holds its own memorial lectures and awards its own medals. Since 1959 the President of each Division has been a member of Council of the Society. A Branch was established in Pakistan in 1984 which was upgraded to a Division in 1992.

The position of the overseas Branches in Canada was entirely different. There was a multiplicity of institutions in Canada, all trying to serve the aeronautical engineer. There were Branches of the Society but in name only for they were moribund; there were Sections of the American Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences and there was the Engineering Institute of Canada which had an Aeronautical Division. With the encouragement of the Society and much assistance from the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, the Canadian Aeronautical Institute was formed in 1954. It is now the Canadian Aeronautics & Space Institute (CASI).


Liaison between the Society and the American Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences (the IAS merged with the American Rocket Society (ARS) in 1963 to form the AIAA) had always been close because the Society played a leading part in the founding of the Institute in 1932. Pritchard visited America to advise there and the Institute was even modelled, in essentials, after the Society.

Delegates from the first Anglo-American Conference visit the SBAC Show at Radlett. The group includes: Capt J L Pritchard, Sir Roy Fedden, Dr Theodore von Kármán, N E Rowe, Sir Frederick and Lady Handley Page, Peter Masefield, Harold Roxbee Cox (RAeS President) and F R Banks. RAeS (NAL).

After the war it was decided that joint meetings should be held and in 1947 the first Anglo-American Aeronautical Conference was held in London, convened jointly by the Society and the IAS. This Conference set the pattern for succeeding ones and consisted of lecture sessions and discussions for most of a week, preceded by visits to firms in the aircraft industry and to government establishments. So successful was the first Conference that they were held every two years, alternately in the UK and in North America. In addition to the interchange of technical information, the goodwill, understanding and technical co-operation and the friendships that were established over the years did much to strengthen the collaboration between the countries. From 1959 the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute participated as a full member.

The Conferences were held as follows: 1947, London; 1949, New York; 1951, Brighton; 1953, London: 1955, Los Angeles; 1957, Folkestone; 1959, New York and Toronto; 1961, London; 1963, Cambridge, Mass and Montreal; 1967, Los Angeles; 1969, London; 1971, Calgary; 1973, London; 1975, Los Angeles; 1977, London and 1978, London (the last to be held).

This sequence was broken in 1965 because the Society planned an International Congress as part of its centenary celebrations in 1966. The International Council for the Aeronautical Sciences (ICAS), which was formed in January 1957, held its fifth congress in London in 1966, with the Society as the organising body. The Society is represented on the Council and Committees of ICAS.


The Society has always maintained close collaboration with aeronautical bodies in other countries. At the very beginning the first Council entered into ‘cordial relations’ with the Société Aerostatique et Meteorological de France which had been founded in 1865 but which, unlike the Society, did not survive. In 1948, with the establishment of the Louis Blériot Lecture, close association was maintained with AFITAE – Association Française des Ingenieurs et Techniciens Aéronautique et I’Espace (in 1971 AFITAE merged with the Société Française d’Astronautique (SFA) to form the AAAF). The Blériot Lecture was held jointly with the AFITAE and was given in Paris one year by a member of the Society and in the succeeding year by a Frenchman in London and commemorated Blériot’s flight across the English Channel in 1909.

In addition to these ‘named’ lectures commemorating the great pioneers, the Society has inaugurated others in memory of British pioneers – the Lanchester Lecture in 1957 (in memory of F W Lanchester whose insight into aerodynamic problems as early as 1907 was so much in advance and so little understood by most people); the Cierva Lecture of the Rotorcraft Section, first given in 1961, and the Handley Page Lecture in conjunction with the Cranfield Society. The first lecture in this latter series was given by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1963. More recent named lectures include: Beaumont (an Air Law Group lecture), Ballantyne (for young people), Brabazon, Sir Sydney Camm (biennial alternately with the RAF), Sopwith and Stewart (Aerospace Medicine Group lecture).

The Branches, too, have their named lectures commemorating great names in aeronautics including: Sir George Cayley, Sir Henry Royce, Trenchard, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, Templer, Sir Arthur Marshall and Willy Messerschmitt.


7 June 2016