The original score was completed by Walford Davies in 1918 for the new RAF. It combined the rhythm of the bugle call of the Royal Flying Corps with that of the Royal Naval Air Service. The call appears in both the introduction and the coda. It was originally known as the Adastral I (in reference to the RAF's motto). The second part of the march past, the trio, was composed by Sir George Dyson.
The march can be played both as a slow march and a quick march, and has been used as both when the Queen's Colour Squadron and RAF bands perform public duties such as mounting the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Authority was granted in February 1943 by His Majesty's Stationery Office to publish the "RAF March Past" piece in Canada under the title "RCAF March Past". It was the official march of the Royal Canadian Air Force until the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1968. It continued to be the authorized march of Air Command and the Air Operations Branch of the Canadian Forces from 1968-2011. In 2011 Air Command reverted its name to Royal Canadian Air Force and the RCAF March Past continues as the official march of the RCAF. It is also the official march of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and the Air Force Association of Canada.
The following are the lyrics to be sung to the Trio section of the march (composed by George Dyson). It references the motto of the RAF, "Per Ardua Ad Astra" (Latin, "Through adversity to the stars").