The Queen's Flight Association
Edited by Sqn Ldr Brian Sowerby LVO MBE RAF(Ret;d)
ISBN 1-903953-32-4 226 pages copiously illustrated in Black and White
Published by Woodfield Publishing Bognor Regis West Sussex PO21 5EL.
The book is available from the publisher:
Hardback edition £25.00 plus p&p, Softback edition £15.00 plus p&p.
Certainly not a dry History Book but an essential specialist contribution to the history of flying in the United Kingdom. Despite the title the first chapter of the book gives the details of Royal Flying prior to the establishment of the King's Flight by King Edward VIII in 1936, from his first flight when Prince of Wales near the Western Front in July 1917. The fortunes of the flight over the next 60 years are then described. Included too are details of the flying training undertaken by members of the Royal Family between 1919 and 1988.
The editor has chosen to have chapters 2 to 9 describing the Flight, its tasks and its tribulations. A theme that comes through the story is the lack of enthusiasm in Whitehall for a Flight to provide adequate and proper aircraft for the Sovereign and the Royal Family. The final six chapters are centred on the period in office of the Six Senior Officers who were "Captain" of the Flight, and tells the story through the eyes of those who served at the time. Finally, four Appendices give the detail of the aircraft flown( Missing some detail on some aircraft), significant dates of travel outside the United Kingdom, the senior executives and finally those that carried out more than 500 Royal Flights (including two who achieved 2000).
Whilst the early chapters are obviously factual diaries of events probably taken from Unit records, the whole book is in-dispersed with the stories of individuals, told in their own words. Reminiscences of events of yesteryear, which bring the whole story alive. Inevitably with the human mind half a century later the emphasis differs at times between different personalities accounts, but that is part of the charm of a book of living history. Whilst those that have died are indicated by (D) as a reference book it would be better if the date was given.
The shame is that there are no colour photographs and whilst the printing of pictures in between the text has great advantages it does mean that with the use of matt paper the definition of some of the pictures is lacking. The odd name has fallen foul of a computer "word checker". For those who do not know of the workings of the Royal Flight a brief explanation of Kitty One, Two Three et al would have been helpful.
Overall a book that I would welcome in my Library. A worthy tribute to those who served the Royal Family in manning "Their Flight" for 60 years, and to a unit that was associated with the Guild for several years. The book will be of great interest to aviation historians and also of those curious enough to know what went on behind the scenes. It deserves a wide audience.
RWB June 2003