It seems incredible to think that our Royal Air Force is one hundred years old. It was back in 1918, on 1 April, when the Royal Air Force first formed as a separate service, independent of the British Army and the Royal Navy. In fact, it was the first time that any country had formed an entirely separate and independent air force.
We can find out more on the RAF100 dedicated website, which explains:
‘The ‘new’ RAF was the most powerful air force in the world with more than 290,000 personnel and nearly 23,000 aircraft, and fought effectively from April 1 1918 over the Western Front in support of ground forces. General Jan Christian Smuts said of Air Power: ‘There is absolutely no limit to the scale of its future independent war use.’
Of course, we now know that over the course of the next hundred years the RAF were instrumental in helping us to fight and win two world wars.
Of course, it wasn’t just men who risked their lives – the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was also created in 1918, and then in 1939 the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAR) was created. Service women were heavily involved in operating radar equipment, plotting, navigation and reconnaissance.
When the armistice was declared on November 11, 1918, everyone hoped they had seen the last of war. Sadly, it was not to be. By the time war was declared again in 1939 the RAF had such state-of-the-art planes as Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancasters and Lysanders.
And it was a Lysander that Hugh Furness flew in my novel, Lost Property. Hugh is an RAF pilot who also worked with the Special Operations Executive, flying agents into France to help the French resistance. Such brave folk. The inspiration for the story told in Lost Property came after my visit to Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, which is near to where I live. The site of the Museum was originally the air base, RAF Tangmere, famous for its role in the Battle of Britain. It was the Tangmere wing of Fighter Command that the famous Group Captain Douglas Bader commanded.
So, it was timely that when attending a local charity event, together with other indie authors (Chindi Authors) the Mayor of Chichester expressed interest in the story of Hugh Furness and bought a copy of Lost Property. The photo here shows Julia Dean, who had organised the event, with book in hand. Julia’s own novel And I Shall be Healed (writing as JL Dean) also focuses on brave servicemen, as she tells the story of a First World War young army chaplain who is haunted by an unhappy upbringing and a mistake for which he cannot forgive himself. He struggles to put the past behind him and support the men he has been called to serve.
Today then, when we see or hear the RAF100 parade and flypast, we have much to be grateful for. So many young men prepared to risk their lives to keep us safe.