In 1938 Air Commodore J A Chamier set up an organisation called the Air Defence Cadet Corps. The idea was to encourage young men to join the Royal Air Force, and to prepare them so that they would find their basic training much easier. Throughout the Second World War the Cadets of the ADCC helped with the UK's war effort, helping to handle aircraft on the ground, filling thousands of sandbags and loading miles of ammunition. Many Cadets went on to careers in the RAF, but as the end of the war approached the Allies did not lose as many pilots as expected (especially in the Battle of Britain), and many potential RAF personnel were disappointed.

Air Commodore Chamier, considered as the father of the Air Cadet movement, was concerned what would happen to his Cadet Force as the War drew to a close. Fortunately, his fears were unfounded as the government recognised the important contribution the ADCC made - the decision was taken to radically change the way that the Air Cadet organisation was run. In February 1944, the ATC, or Air Training Corps, was formed by Royal Warrant to replace the ADCC. It was a phenomenal success, and in a month the 400 Squadrons of the ADCC had doubled to 800 ATC Squadrons.

The number of new ideas introduced over the next 25 years was staggering. Special Gliding Schools were set up to introduce Cadets to flying before Powered flying Squadrons were put alongside them to increase the number and variety of flights available. In 1956 the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme was tried in the ATC, and has continued ever since. Also, the IACE (International Air Cadet Exchange) has been running ever since a group of staff and Cadets visited a Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron for a week in the 1960s.