A Hundred Years of the RAF Air Display


Ian Smith Watson

Starting at the end of the First World War, this book follows Sir Hugh Trenchard's attempt to fend off disparaging attacks by the other services on the RAF through the medium of public engagement. Demonstrations by military aircraft proved to be a great boon, resulting in the Royal Air Force's contribution to air displays.
Date Published :
December 2022
Publisher :
Fonthill Media
Illustration :
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781781558430
Pages : 352
Dimensions : 9.75 X 7.02 inches
Stock Status : In stock


For 100 years, the world’s oldest independent air force, the RAF, forged a distinguished record in military air operations from the First World War through to recent operations over Iraq and Syria. There is, however, a field of endeavor in which the Royal Air Force has excelled: selling its public image. Of the three armed services, the air force is the one perfectly placed to advertise its wares ‘at home’ with the facilities to accommodate large audiences, through scintillating flying displays with ever more impressive aircraft and large airfields with readily available facilities. Originally centered on the RAF station at Hendon in North London, the RAF held its first public ‘Air Pageant’ in 1920. A grand affair, it continued as an annual event until 1937 when it was succeeded by the wide spread ‘Empire Air Day’ held at several RAF stations until war intervened in 1939. The RAF came to true military prominence during the Second World War, particularly the ‘Battle of Britain’; this then became the focus of the celebration and commemoration. However, the Battle of Britain Displays constantly contracted, eventually to zero, but for much of their existence were the most impressive air shows around the globe.

About The Author

Ian Smith Watson was born in Irvine, Ayrhire, in 1960. He grew up in Scotland and Yorkshire and attended Shelley High School in Huddersfield before joining the RAF as a radar operator in 1977 until 1990. He later worked in Saudi Arabia, contracted to the Royal Saudi Air Force through the GENA (Ground Environment Navigational Aids) program. Watson has written four previous books: The RAF at Home for Pen & Sword and Fading Eagle, Northern ‘Q’: The History of RAF Leuchars, and History of the Gloster Javelin: The First All-Weather British Fighter with Fonthill Media.

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