The RAF: 1918 - 2018

Published: February 4th, 2018     
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Author: Julian Hale
Reviewed by: 
Bill Kluge, IPMS# 45849
Company: Shire Books (Bloomsbury Publishing)
ISBN #: 9781784422431
Price: $14.00

This small volume is a primer in every sense of the word. Nevertheless, author Julian Hale has managed to admirably condense the 100 year history of the Royal Air Force down to sixty-four short pages. The value of this volume lies in introducing the reader, who may be familiar enough with the RAF's participation in the Second World War or the RFC's struggles through WWI, with some of the lesser known highlights of the "World's Oldest Air Force".

The books main chapters include:

  • Formation (1911-1919)
  • A Silver Air Force (1919 - 1939)
  • To War (1939 - 1945)
  • Into the Jet Age (1945 - 1990)
  • A New World (1990 - 2018)

Some of the more interesting aspects of the RAF's history lie in its early, formative years. While the book doesn't go into details, it touches on such things as the very hostile environment within the British Army and the Royal Navy to the creation of a separate Air Service (the new Air Ministry having taken and merged the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service to do so, officially on April 1, 1918); the subsequent control of all aviation assets - including naval aircraft - by the RAF until 1937; and the use of the new RAF as a major player to control the more unruly members of Great Britain's far flung empire throughout the 1920s and 30s (primarily because it was less expensive than sending regiments of soldiers to do it). Some of the less well known elements of the RAF's history in the post-war years include the creation in the 1950s of Britain's nuclear V-bomber force (of Valiant, Victor and Vulcan aircraft) and its demise by the late 1960s, having turned the country's nuclear deterrent role over to the Navy's Polaris submarines, and rendered the RAF into a primarily tactical air force; overseas operations in such out-of-the-way places as Yemen, Borneo and Malaya; and the failure of the country's National Service program to to provide enough high quality conscripts to operate the RAF's increasingly complex equipment, the last inductees having left the Service by 1963.

This book may not give the reader everything he needs to know about the Royal Air Force, but it will serve to pique his interest in some of the very many facets of this historic organization. My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS for the opportunity to review this book.

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