Wings: Fly­boy by Tom Palmer www.bar­ring­ton­stoke.co.uk £5.99 soft­back, 115 pages black and white il­lus­tra­tions

Pilot - - BOOKS & GEAR -

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

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