Wings: Flyboy by Tom Palmer www.barringtonstoke.co.uk £5.99 softback, 115 pages black and white illustrations
A fascinating, if weighty, read A tempting adventure for children
Tom Palmer’s book the first in a series of three brings flying stories to life for children and encourages them to read. This first book is based on the real life exploits of the Indian Sikh pilot Hardit Sing Malik, who flew a Sopwith Camel in the first world war. It puts the book’s footballing young hero literally into the flying seat, catapulting him into the adventures and dangers of taking to the skies in wartime. Along the way, the experience teaches the young hero a lesson in seizing the moment, taking control and having confidence in his own abilities.
Children’s writer in residence at RAF Museums, Tom Palmer’s book will inspire children with its mix of present day challenges mixed with ghostly encounters and fantastic adventure. The second book, out in June, features a Spitfire adventure for a different hero, while the third, due in August, pitches two heroines into flying Typhoons. The books are aimed particularly at struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged eight and above. A bonus is that the inside cover of each book can be cut out and made into a model plane – with adult help! JA This book is big in many ways large in size, weight and price but it’s no coffee table tome to flick through. Inside you will find both historical and geographical facts intertwined with the burgeoning role of the newly formed RAF in trying to tame the truculent tribes of the title.
With reductions in defence spending at the end of WWI, the successful actions of the RAF in this region arguably demonstrated its value and secured its future, as well as giving valuable experience to key players in the second world war, notably Winston Churchill, Hugh Trenchard and Arthur Harris. The RAF was detailed to keep the peace and defend and promote Britain’s interests in an area which included Mesopotamia (roughly modern day Iraq and Kuwait), the whole of the Middle East, Egypt and East Africa. Some may find echoes of those skirmishes in modern day actions and an explanation of the origins of some of the ongoing ‘tribal’ conflicts from those times.
Pilots flew in extreme climates, often over perilous terrain, dealing with tribes that were frequently hostile, and struggling to keep inadequate aircraft operational. The more than 560 photographs and maps illustrating the book give an insight into men and the region, and the fragile but rapidly developing aircraft between the two world wars. It also covers the RAF’S support for the pioneering long distance flyers and early airline services. JA