Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
Staid. Very staid. The first pages cover Trevor’s initial flying training at RAF Swinderby. And nothing much happens of note. There is not even the ‘shock of capture’ which young officer cadets experience when they start initial officer training. For Trevor is already an officer, indeed he is a Toeless Rock. One should explain: young Edwards, when clearly not in full possession of his faculties, decided he wanted to be an officer in the RAF Regiment, and so he became a ‘Rock Ape’. The Air Force treated these baby rocks so badly that Trevor lost his toes on an endurance exercise in Scotland. It was then he decided he really wanted to be a pilot. A Hallelujah moment, really. To my surprise, he passed the medicals, sans toes.
The young pilots (of which Trevor is the eldest on the course), do their best to break the Chipmunks, and, as countless RAF pilots before or since, fail. Once he finds his pace, Trevor’s writing style has the dry, ironic self-deprecation found in many of the best military flying autobiographies. He shares with us his extraordinary sartorial tastes (particularly on Thursday nights in the Mess). Plus fours, any one?! This puts into context the sadness that he is without a girlfriend for much of the book….
Much of these early chapters is familiar (but nonetheless entertaining for that): the arrogance of youth, extreme ingestion of alcohol, late-night kebabs, amnesia, etc. Rites of passage then as a trainee RAF pilot. Interest rises with the shift to learning on JPs at Linton, and the ability to self-harm, so to speak, rises in step. The ethos of work hard/play hard is laid bare – readers are left in no doubt that the RAF training system exerts constant pressure. Succeed or be chopped. Edwards lifts the lid on what happens at dining-in nights - which should not come as a total surprise to those with imagination (like taking the lid off a pressure cooker still in operation, mixed with testosterone).
In his own view it is near miraculous that he graduates from the JP to the Hawk at Valley. Here there are so many cancelled sorties due to appalling weather on that Godforsaken Welsh island, that it makes one wonder why the RAF hierarchy has decided to put all its fast jet training eggs in this dubious basket. At this stage one also wonders why Trevor has taken so long to produce this book. It is such ancient history that one of the QFIs at Valley is a certain Flt Lt Stu Atha, now a 2 star! (And Trevor himself is a BA captain, having left the RAF at his 12 year point).
He escapes Anglesey for the Jaguar fleet, and eloquently expresses the further pressure at the OCU. Like most pilots he is protective of the reputation of his steed (tradition had it that the Jag only became airborne due to the curvature of the Earth). Yet he describes sufficient episodes that underline that this was an airframe that could bite: single engine operations, carrying a full bomb load, or testing the limits of its fight envelope could all require the Martin Baker option. Indeed the book chronicles his attendance at wakes for several colleagues (although not just on Jags). Whilst not as deadly as the Meteor era for example, Edwards underlines that military flight training still carries mortal hazards. The book concludes with Edwards being passed as combat ready (he went on to become an A2 QFI on Jags).
The book lacks illustrations (it is self-published), but is very entertaining in places. Average, he is not.