From Blue to Grey

RAF post-war
ISBN 1-903953-72-3
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Recollections of former members of 54 Entry, Royal Air Force College, Cranwell (1949-51)

Illustrated with a variety of historic photographs this book contains a wealth of information that could prove valuable to historians and researchers interested in the history of the RAF during the second half of the 20th century although there is plenty to be enjoyed by fellow RAF veterans and aviation enthusiasts.

This book contains the recollections of the surviving members of 54 Entry (1949) to Royal Air Force College, Cranwell. Of the 34 who became Flight Cadet Pilots in 1949, 31 graduated in 1951. Within two years, four had died flying with the RAF and a further two were killed on operations later.

This was a high peacetime casualty rate but was accepted as 'par for the course' for military pilot's at the time, but as one of the contributors expressed it: “We were young in those days. We did deeds and ventured new things. We lived under discipline, had authority and gave orders. We did not think much about getting old.”

By 2005 just 18 were still alive and kicking and in their recollections they look back on their lives and careers and discuss a reunion recently held at Cranwell and the nostalgic feelings generated by the Old Cranwellian Association.

Although primarily intended for families and friends, this book has a wider appeal as a small contribution to the history of the Royal Air Force and indeed the UK as a whole, both of which have changed beyond recognition over the years since 1949, reminding those of us of a certain age that the world has changed so greatly that many of the places and things we loved have gone forever and will not return.

Foreword by Lord Tebbitt

Before becoming a Member of Parliament I had made my life in aviation. Called up for National Service in 1949 I was lucky enough to be one of the few hundred selected for pilot training and gained my wings having flown Prentices and Harvards, then converting to Meteors.

On 604 Squadron R.Aux.A.F. I flew Vampires and Meteors, so I can appreciate Richard Robson’s ‘Remember the Meatbox’ and many other recollections of the graduates of No.54 Entry of Flight Cadets of the Royal Air Force College, who were my aviation contemporaries. Having become an Honorary Old Cranwellian in 2001 – the 50th anniversary of the graduation of No 54 Entry – I had no hesitation in writing this foreword.

Amongst its wonderfully humorous accounts of RAF life in their times are some serious or even sad. Of the 31 young men who graduated in 1951, six were killed flying in the RAF (four within two years) and another invalided out following serious injuries.

Today that would be a very high peacetime casualty rate, but not so in the 1950s. Such losses we all took in our stride just as casualties are accepted in the armed forces today, despite the “hype” of politicians and the emotional incontinence engendered by the media.

The RAF has changed in the last half century and change continues apace. So has the world and many of the stories in this book are of a world that will not return. Many of the bases at home and abroad (and the aircraft) are no more. But between them these men flew in every military role and pretty well every aircraft in service or development in those days. That width of experience was matched by the occupations they followed in civilian life, which is of itself a tribute to the preparation for life they received at Cranwell.

Originally this book was intended for families and friends, but I hope it will appeal to a wider audience. Certainly it should, for it is not just a good read but a serious contribution to the history of this Kingdom and its Royal Air Force.

Norman Tebbitt, 2006

details Softback binding / page size 170x250 mm / 276 pages text and photos