1918-2018 RAF 100...

...The Official Story, Andre Deutsch Books

Title:  1918-2018 RAF 100 The Official Story

Author: James Holland

Publisher:  Andre Deutsch

ISBN:  978-0-233-00526-3

A special celebration year for the RAF and well known historian James Holland has prepared this official story to mark the anniversary. As James points out in the opening pages, the RAF was the first independent Air Force, formed just 14 years after the Wright Brothers first took their Wright Flyer into the air. There were about 100 service aircraft at the outbreak of war, with the RNAS and the RFC, and after the RAF was formed in 1918 it finished the war with some 23,000 aircraft.  This level of growth was an amazing achievement, and with the formation of airfields, the provision of uniforms, armament, fuel etc was in itself a huge task.  With the war over there was pressure on budgets and a need/desire to save money which meant reducing the size of the air force.  Inter-service rivalries with the Army and the Navy could have led to the disbandment of the independent air force.

Over a period as long as 100 years there are so many stories that could be told, and this book uses 10 chapters to give a well balanced account of the history of the RAF over that period.  With the use of separate call-outs inserted at appropriate points throughout the book it packs in lots of specific details amidst the overall story. The story start with The Genesis of the RAF and then the Early Years of the RAF before we get to The Build-up to the Second World War.  This in itself was a period of great technological change, in both fighter and bomber types.  It uses chapters 4 to 7 to cover the period of WW2, with The Development of Fighter Command, followed by The Second World War - Britain Under Trial and The Second World War - The Growth of British Air Power.  Chapter 7 rounds off the WW2 period with The Long Road to Victory.  Post war, we get to the Cold War 1945-57 and then The Cold War - The Age of Détente.  It is left to chapter 10 to bring us right up to date, with New Order, New Challenges.

The RAF have faced many challenges over the years, not just with new technologies but from the end of Empire, and a reduction in overseas responsibilities and after force reductions, face up to conflicts in far away places such as the Falklands and the Gulf War.  Throughout the book the text is accompanied by well chosen archive photographs, background on many of the personalities who contributed to the success of the RAF over the years, copies of some significant documents and of course coverage of so many of the famous aircraft which have served the RAF over the years.  Planes such as Spitfire and Hurricane through Hunter, Lightning and Harriers to the latest F-35.  For bombers, from the Lancaster through the V-Bombers to the Tornado.  The RAF has faced a mix of challenges from peace and war and no doubt has many more ahead.  As a commemorative book this is well worth adding to your bookshelf.  The one jolt to me personally was to put it on my bookshelf alongside the commemorative book for the 50th Anniversary which I bought back in 1968.

Distributed by the Carlton Publishing Group, who kindly provided my review copy.

Robin