The two Royal Flying Corps training aerodromes at Yatesbury were originally built in 1916, to house two reserve (training) squadrons at each station. At this time, Netheravon (which replaced Larkhill as an RFC school in June 1913) and Upavon were the only other RFC training aerodromes within Wiltshire. In the training role, both sites at Yatesbury performed a vitally important function, not only in supplying pilots for the RFC WW1 campaign in France, but also Russian Army cadet pilots and personnel as well. Perhaps one of the most successful squadrons operating in Europe, 28 Squadron, had trained here during September and October 1917 when re-equipping with the Sopwith Camel. W.G Barker (1894-1930) had been carrying out corps reconnaissance training at Yatesbury and joined this squadron on the day it left Yatesbury for France. He soon won the Military Cross and the DSO and only one year later while on a refresher course for the Sopwith Snipe with 201 Squadron, he was awarded the Victoria Cross .
From 1935 as part of the Government initiated Air Training Scheme, the Bristol Aeroplane Company Ltd., were awarded an Air Ministry contract to train pilots for a career in the Royal Air Force. The former WW1 western aerodrome at Yatesbury was redeveloped to house the school (No. 10 Elementary Reserve & Flying Training School). The design of the new buildings was of a high standard and were described in the 19 November 1936 issue of 'Flight' magazine as 'they (the Bristol Aeroplane Company Ltd) have unhesitatingly made at Yatesbury, a model school whose pattern few will equal and none will better' .
As the training of RAF pilots gathered momentum during 1937, the school was further expanded with the construction of additional accommodation funded by the Bristol Aeroplane Company. With the approach of war during 1939, responsibility for new buildings changed to that of the Air Ministry to bring the establishment up to a wartime standard.
During 1938/39, RAF Training Command had built a major wireless training school on the former WW1 eastern aerodrome and, as a result the Bristol Wireless Flight commenced airborne-instruction using de Havilland Dragon Rapides as 'flying classrooms'. With the increase of flying activity for the wireless school during 1940, No. 10 Elementary Flying Training School (as it became on the outbreak of WW2) transferred its operations to Weston-super-Mare, having passed 627 pupils at Yatesbury.
Two other sites consisting of a searchlight site and a satellite landing ground, both north of Yatesbury village were used in conjunction with the main aerodrome.
The second Victoria Cross won by an airman trained at Yatesbury went to Sergeant John Hannah (1921-1947). He was a trainee wireless operator at No. 2 Electrical & Wireless School during September 1939, and was posted to 83 Squadron as a wireless operator/air gunner on Handley Page Hampdens. The squadron took part on a raid on invasion barges at Antwerp on the night of 15/16 September 1940. Hannah’s aircraft was damaged by flak and although badly burnt he extinguished a fire and helped the pilot regain control of the aircraft.
Perhaps the most famous pilot to have had elementary training at Yatesbury was Guy Gibson (1918-1944) of 617 Squadron, who won the Victoria Cross in 1943 for his part in leading the raid on the Mohne and Eder dams.
A total of 18,500 wireless operators were given air training at Yatesbury, but within eight weeks of VE Day the air section had closed down. Its place was taken by No.2 EFTS which operated from here until 1947 when this unit left and flying ceased at Yatesbury.
The wireless school in various forms continued until 1965 when it finally moved to Cosford, bringing to a close an aviation related history at Yatesbury lasting a combined total of nearly 34 years.
Today there are strong aviation links with Yatesbury village. An important aspect of the history of Yatesbury can be found in the churchyard of All Saints Church where there are several graves of men killed while stationed at here. These include personnel from the RFC, RAF, and foreign forces such as those of Australia, Russia and Poland.