Phonetic alphabets were used in phrases to emphasize or spell out an aircraft identification letter, e.g. "H-Harry", "G for George".

In the RAF, each aircraft in a squadron was identified by a single letter.  The individual aircraft identification letter was painted on the side of the aircraft in large letters following a two letter squadron designation code and the RAF roundel.This system uniquely identified an aircraft, because no squadron had more than 26 aircraft at the time.

The first spelling alphabet owes a lot to World War I Western Front "signalese" - the phonetic spelling used by signallers. Only "Ack", "Gee", "Emma", and "Esses" changed when the RAF radiotelephony spelling alphabet was adopted internationally. Possibly these were changed because the RAF radiotelephony spelling in phrases such as Ack-Ack: AA, anti-aircraft (fire), "ack emma" for AM, and "pip emma" for PM, had become common. New, unambiguous means of verbally communicating individual letters may have been sought. The original Royal Navy of World War I spelling alphabet differed more from the later NATO phonetic alphabet than the RAF radiotelephony spelling alphabet, with its use of the words "Apples" for "A", "Butter" for "B", "Duff" for "D", "Pudding" for "P", "Queenie" for "Q", "Tommy" for "T", "Vinegar" for "V", "Willie" for "W", "Xerxes" for "X", and "Yellow" for "Y"

The intention of course was to minimise confusion and misinterpretation over the radio telephony systems which were  difficult under normal conditions without the extra factors of combat. Standardisation was difficult and even individual stations would adopt there own informal phonetic words or even humorous replacements such P (pee for relief.) The Modern International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)  Aircraft Code Identifiers have hopefully standardised this worldwide.

 

    RAF WW2 Modern ICAO  
  A Able Apple Alpha al-fah
  B Baker   Bravo brah-voh
  C Charlie   Charlie char-lee
  D Dog   Delta dell-tah
  E Easy Edward Echo eck-oh
  F Fox Freddie Foxtrot foks-trot
  G George   Golf golf
  H How Harry Hotel hoh-tel
  I Item India India in-dee-ah
  J Jig   Juliet jew[lee-et
  K King   Kilo key-loh
  L Love London Lima lee-mah
  M Mother Mike Mike mike
  M Nan Nuts November no-vem-bah
  O Oboe   Oscar oss-car
  P Peter Popsie Papa pah-pah
  Q Queenie Quebec Quebec kew-becck
  R Roger Robert Romeo roh-me-oh
  S Sugar   Sierra see-air-rah
  T Tare Tommy Tango tang-go
  U Uncle   Uniform you-nee-form
  V Victor   Victor vik-tah
  W Willie Whiskey Whiskey wiss-key
  X X-ray   X-ray ecks-ray
  Y Yoke   Yankee yang-key
  Z Zebra   Zulu zoo-loo
  1     one wun
  2     two too
  3     three tree
  4     four fow-er
  5     five fife
  6     six six
  7     seven sev-en
  8     eight ait
  9     nine nin-er
  0     zero zee-ro

 

Military alphabets before 1956
Flag of the United Kingdom Flag of the United States
Royal Navy Western Front slang
or "signalese"
Royal Air Force United States
19141918 (WWI) 19241942 19431956 19411956
Apples
Butter
Charlie
Duff
Edward
Freddy
George
Harry
Ink
Johnnie
King
London
Monkey
Nuts
Orange
Pudding
Queenie
Robert
Sugar
Tommy
Uncle
Vinegar
Willie
Xerxes
Yellow
Zebra
Ack
Beer
Charlie
Don
Edward
Freddie
Gee
Harry
Ink
Johnnie
King
London
Emma
Nuts
Oranges
Pip
Queen
Robert
Esses
Toc
Uncle
Vic
William
X-ray
Yorker
Zebra
Ace
Beer
Charlie
Don
Edward
Freddie
George
Harry
Ink
Johnnie
King
London
Monkey
Nuts
Orange
Pip
Queen
Robert
Sugar
Toc
Uncle
Vic
William
X-ray
Yorker
Zebra
Able/Affirm
Baker
Charlie
Dog
Easy
Fox
George
How
Item/Interrogatory
Jig/Johnny
King
Love
Mike
Nan/Negat
Oboe
Peter/Prep
Queen
Roger
Sugar
Tare
Uncle
Victor
William
X-ray
Yoke
Zebra
Able
Baker
Charlie
Dog
Easy
Fox
George
How
Item
Jig
King
Love
Mike
Nan
Oboe
Peter
Queen
Roger
Sugar
Tare
Uncle
Victor
William
X-ray
Yoke
Zebra

 

 

 

The Q code is a standardized collection of three-letter message encodings, all of which start with the letter "Q". Initially developed for commercial radiotelegraph  communication, and later adopted by other radio services, especially amateur radio

Although Q codes were created when radio used morse code exclusively, they continued to be employed after the introduction of voice transmissions.

Modern day usage of the few remnants of it still left  is taken for granted without any knowledge of the ancestry of the Q Codes in 1909. For example, QNH is used everyday by pilots to refer to the altimeter pressure setting that would show elevation above a regional sea level if the aircraft were on the ground at that location.

Some selected examples of Q code groups are given below to illustrate the breadth of the contingencies covered by the code. Frankly, the mind boggles in an attempt to imagine situations where some of these groups would find a use

For example, QAA is the first code group in the aeronautical section, QNZ the last. As a question from the ground station to the aircraft, QAA means "At what time do you expect to arrive?" As an answer, or as a statement of intention from the aircraft to the ground station, QAA means "I expect to arrive at...".
 

QAK - is there any risk of collision?
QAL - are you going to /have you landed at ...
QBA - what is the horizontal visibility at ... ?
QDM - magnetic bearing to a DF station...request what is..
QDR - magnetic bearing from a DF station...request ...what is ..
QFE - atmospheric pressure at aerodrome elevation.....notified and set on the altimeter
QFO - may I land immediately?
QFR - does my landing gear appear damaged?
QFT - between what heights above ... (datum) has ice formation been observed [at ... (position or zone)]?
QGH - controlled descent through cloud
QGO - airfield closed due to weather
QGV - do you see me? or can you see the aerodrome? or can you see ... (aircraft)?
QGX - May I land using the ZZ procedure

QNH - atmospheric pressure at sea level
QSY - change frequency
QTH - my position is ...
QTR - what's the time?

finally

QNZ - Unassigned, but adopted by the amateur radio, for use only in CW nets, as meaning "Zero beat your signal with mine"