LOCAL schools have been urged to get involved in projects to help mark the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the RAF.

And one such project was recently launched in a Farsley school, where pupils helped research the life and death of one local RAF hero.

April marks the centenary of the founding of the Royal Air Force, and to commemorate the 4,805 air personnel from the First World War who are buried in the UK, a group called Big Ideas is inviting schools to take part in work to mark the occasion.

The aims of the project are to introduce young people to the history of the RAF during The Great War and to the significance of commemoration.

Children from Year 2 and Year 6 at Farsley Primary School, which is based on a former WW1 airfield, have been learning about local pilot Captain Charles Butler and visiting his grave in the churchyard near the school.

At the outbreak of World War One, aeroplanes were still a relatively recent invention. Many of the first planes were unreliable and as dangerous to the men who flew them as they were to the enemy.

Captain Butler is an example of this as he died in a test flight rather than in enemy combat.

Using the new Remember RAF100 resource pack for schools, pupils at the school took part in a number of activities before the Easter break, including discussing and decorating poems by children’s author Jim Eldridge, especially commissioned for the centenary, using helium balloons in the school hall to fly their paper planes and learning about Charles Butler and taking paper plane tributes to his grave.

It will also call for pupils to ‘name a plane’ after an air service person who lost their life during the war.

At the Event at Farsley Primary to mark the launch of the programme saw pupils decorate over 400 paper planes with the names of pilots they had researched before visiting the churchyard.

The remember RAF100 project is being run by Big Ideas and funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in England.

It allows schools to find the nearest RAF war graves so they are able to plan visits and research their local RAF heroes.

Kate Heap, the teacher at Farsley Farfield Primary School who led the project, said: "Farsley Farfield Primary School was delighted to launch the national Remember RAF100 schools project. Children from Years 2 and 6 were chosen to take part in this very special event. They learnt more about the role the RAF played in World War One and about the excitement of early flight. 

"Launching the 'Name Your Plane' initiative, the children heard the story of local pilot Captain Charles Butler who lost his life during a test flight. They created paper plane tributes to him and other local pilots. They then took part in a short service of remembrance at the grave of Captain Charles Butler at St John's Church in Farsely.

"It was a special day that the children will remember. I would encourage other schools to take part in the Remember RAF100 project. There is a fantastic free resource pack available and access to a nationwide database of RAF graves so that every school can do its own research. It's a great way to bring history to life and introduce children to the idea of commemoration."

Charles Butler was born in Farsley on November 22 1889, and grew up in New Street.

It is believed that sometime between 1911 and 1914 he began work as an engineer and also joined the local Territorial Force unit of the Royal Engineers.

It was this part time role that he was occupying when war was declared in August 1914, and he volunteered for ‘Imperial Service’ and began training for war with his unit almost immediately.

On August 27 1917 while flying over the village of Burton just a few miles from the airfield, an Airco DH4 aircraft carrying Butler and Cadet Officer J Baker suffered a catastrophic failure. Within moments, the aircraft went from normal flight to a complete collapse of one, and then both wings of the biplane.

With absolutely no control, and no parachutes, the plane plummeted to the ground, killing Charles and Baker instantly.

The resource pack is free for schools and community groups and small scale funding is available to support certain activities. Schools can email RAF100@big-ideas.org for more information.