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