In this week’s Spectator Books, I’m joined by the historian Richard Overy to talk about his new book The Birth of the RAF, 1918. 100 years ago this spring, the Royal Air Force took to the skies for the first time. Now, it’s one of the most important planks of our military power in the world, and we look back on its history through — if such a thing can be pictured — Battle-of-Britain-shaped spectacles.
Yet, as Richard argues, it was far from inevitable that a separate air-force would come into being, that having done so it would continue to exist beyond the end of the First World War, or even that the Royal Air Force would be Royal. He disentangles a forgotten history of political and public-relations manoeuvring and inter-service rivalry, before looking at the present and future of those who have inherited the mantle of The Few…
Listen to more episodes of Spectator Books and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.