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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


RAF 100:      The Official Story


James HollandAndré Deutsch (Carlton Books), 5 April 2018

The de Havilland Mosquito

There has of course been a plethora of books to coincide with the RAF reaching 100 not out. I have already reviewed Graham Pitchfork’s RAF Day by Day 1918-2018 (see here). In my view the layout of Holland’s book – a simple chronological timeline – is more user-friendly than Pitchfork’s version.


The Official Story is well produced (with the caveat below) – good layout, and reasonable quality printing. The extensive illustrations include some that, inevitably, are familiar, but many that will be new for most readers. The Service’s troubled gestation, and the skill of its creators and saviours, is well set out. This is an enjoyable read.


However there are two flaws. Firstly the book betrays skimpy editing: despite the fact that there were 99 years to prepare for its publication, it looks rushed in places. One photo caption is simply wrong, another describes ATA girls as WAAFs, another describes a (beautiful) shot of Meteors in the vertical part of a loop  as being in “combat formation” – I don’t think so! (Neville) Chamberlain’s surname is spelled differently twice on the same page.


Secondly, space in such a book is clearly at a premium – there is much to squeeze into 224 pages. The period up to the end of WW2 is covered in some detail. The development of the jet engine and associated early aircraft is also given extensive coverage – despite the fact that this is not a direct part of the RAF’s history. Yet the post WW2 era is covered rather sparsely – Cold War and later warriors may feel they have been dealt with a little brusquely.  This book would have been an ideal volume in which to give due acknowledgement to the service’s recent efforts. The intensity of operations on Op Shader, for example, has been extreme, and the amount of ordnance dropped since GW1 has been large (relative to say WW2).


Clearly in writing a book like this there is little need for original research for the first 80 years of the RAF’s history; one senses Holland has shied away from digging much into recent action. There is certainly no sense in this (understandably) celebratory volume, of the stresses facing the Air Force now and in the early part of its next century.

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