The main runway on the aerodrome at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, Hampshire, occupies land that at the turn of the century was always known as Laffan's Plain.
From this plain in 1908, S. F. Cody had made the first aeroplane flight in the British Isles. Four years later two subalterns of the Royal Flying Corps, a Corps that had been fathered by the Corps of Royal Engineers, were walking across this same land. As they walked, the officers discussed the choice of a motto for the Royal Flying Corps, for its Commanding Officer had sent out a general call for proposals. One of the subalterns, J. S. Yule, proposed a Latin tag that had been used by Sir Rider Haggard in his book People of the Mist. That proposal was, ‘Per Ardua ad Astra’, the motto of the Royal Flying Corps and later of the Royal Air Force. It has a supreme advantage among mottoes that all Latinists seem to agree that it cannot be translated! But at least most interpret it as ‘Through struggles to the stars’; and that is the theme of this paper.