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A Hundred Years of the RAF Air Display, 1920-2020

...from Fonthill Media

Title: A Hundred Years of the RAF Air Display, 1920-2020
Author: Ian Smith Watson
Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-843-0

This recent book from Fonthill Media tackles the story of the RAF involvement with Air Shows over the 100 years of the existence of the RAF, from just after the founding of the service in 1918. A 352-page book with interesting text and an equally interesting selection of archive images throughout the years.
After the end of WW1, what was to be done to promote the continued existence of the RAF as a separate service, keeping it apart from control by either the Army or the Royal Navy. With early displays at Hendon, supported by Lord Trenchard and then the Empire Air Days and the ever changing new types to be displayed to the public. After WW2, with withdrawal from Empire, the RAF opened up their many air bases to the local population with At Home Days, then the Battle of Britain commemorations in September. Over the years there have been so many elements to consider, included regular different views from service chiefs to politicians, as costs and the distraction from their usual jobs. The chapters take us through the chronological story, in blocks of years. So many changes, from post-war wind down, the withdrawal of Empire, training time and fuel costs, the display teams and, of course, the Red Arrows. At the end we have come down to a retraction in the number of available RAF flying stations, insurance and safety costs, let alone the courtesy shown to visitors from overseas and the growth in privately owned warbirds on the air show scene. At the end a short section of 'Memories', from those who have been involved over the years, and you must read the tale of the Belgian Diable Rouges visiting RAF Finningley in 1978.
This is a fascinating book, and I think it illustrates the changes in public interest in seeing RAF aircraft flying, what our taxes pay for that are usually hidden behind security fences. From the days when entry was free to the high costs of recent years. The Pandemic and terrorist threats have changed the picture again, but it will be interesting to see what the next 100 years may hold.
Thanks to Fonthill Media for the review copy.


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