Sir Walter Raleigh and the Air History: A Personal Recollection by Henry Albert Jones

Sir Walter Raleigh and the Air History: A Personal Recollection

byHenry Albert Jones

Kobo ebook | August 30, 2014

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Chapter I

At a meeting of a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence which met in the middle of July, 1918, to consider the question of the official history of the Air Force, Admiral Slade welcomed Sir Walter Raleigh as the prospective author of a history which would be both interesting and unique—unique in the sense that no history of the kind had ever been written before. “Almost too good a chance,” was the interjection of Sir Walter.

Sir Walter took up the history with enthusiasm. At Oxford throughout the war he had been chafing under the inactivity which was imposed on him by his age. Oxford was empty of men. There was not even a lot of lecturing to do. The Air History gave him just such an opportunity as he loved. It was an adventure, and he looked upon life itself as an adventure. He was possessed of a fine imagination, and the story of the air had for him a great appeal. He had the heart of a boy. In a fine passage on the temper of the Air Force he says in his book:

“The recruits of the air were young, some of them no more than boys. Their training lasted only a few months. They put their home life behind them, or kept it only as a fortifying memory, and threw themselves with fervour and abandon into the work to be done. Pride in their squadron became a part of their religion. The demands made upon them, which, it might reasonably have been believed, were greater than human nature can endure, were taken by them as a matter of course; they fulfilled them, and went beyond. They were not a melancholy company; they had something of the lightness of the element in which they moved. Indeed, it would be difficult to find, in the world’s history, any body of fighters who, for sheer gaiety and zest, could hold a candle to them. They have opened up a new vista for their country and for mankind. Their story, if it could ever be fully and truly written, is the Epic of Youth.”

Sir Walter had something of the lightness of the element of which he wrote, otherwise he could never have written such a passage. He had seen the Air Force at work on active service. His month in France was a source of inspiration which produced some of the finest passages in his book. He went to France at a time when the victorious Allied armies were driving the Germans back towards the Rhine. His journey lasted from August the 14th to September the 8th, 1918. He spent a great part of his time at the Royal Air Force Headquarters, but also visited many squadrons and was taken over the numerous parks which ministered to the wants of the service. He flew about the Ypres salient, and other parts of the line. The story is told of him that whilst staying with one squadron he was already dressed in flying kit and on the point of starting as a passenger on a night bombing raid. He was stopped in time. I do not know whether the story is wholly true, but certainly he wrote home:

“I had the opportunity of going in a Handley Page on a night bombing raid, but had not the General’s permission, and as the pleasure would have been mine and the responsibility for any mishap would probably have fallen on the pilot, I felt bound to refuse. But I want to say that I think it important that I should see one of these raids from the air, and if I revisit France, I trust I may have leave to go.”

During his tour he was living in a world of new wonders. He was put to school to the air. All the mysteries that go to the making of the efficient fighting or reconnaissance machine were explained to him.


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Title:Sir Walter Raleigh and the Air History: A Personal RecollectionFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:August 30, 2014Publisher:LONDON EDWARD ARNOLD & CO.Language:English

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