The Daily Telegraph

RAF standards


SIR – I spent three happy years as an instructor and assessor on initial officer training at RAF College Cranwell. In that time I saw through three 18-week commission­ing courses.

The decision to commission, retrain or fail students was mine alone. There was never any pressure to positively discrimina­te (Letters, February 3). On the contrary, the RAF already had an enviable record for taking candidates from across the social spectrum.

The RAF commission­ing course was based on leadership ability, personal qualities, merit and potential, as assessed by us.

Sqn Ldr Philip Congdon (retd)

Cape Town, South Africa

SIR – In services such as the military, where operationa­l effectiven­ess is crucial, talent should always be the determinin­g factor in hiring decisions.

Positive discrimina­tion, while well intentione­d, can harm the very diversity it aims to promote, and create an unequal and unfair hiring process.

Simply attracting diverse candidates without fixing systemic inclusion problems will result in major retention issues, defeating the purpose of diverse hiring efforts.

Employers must take a more proactive approach and avoid “diversity-washing”, where they aim to meet diversity targets without truly committing themselves to inclusive practices. A balance must be struck to ensure fair hiring practices and eliminate discrimina­tion based on gender or ethnicity. Sunil Dial CEO and co-founder, Candidatex London N1

SIR – In the argument over diversity in the RAF, it seems to have been forgotten that, during the Second World War, many of its personnel were people of colour.

Most were ground crew, but a significan­t number were officers. Among these was Flight Lieutenant John Smythe from Sierra Leone, who served as a navigator. After 26 bombing missions, he was shot down in 1943 and spent the rest of the conflict as a prisoner of war.

When one of his German captors asked why he fought for Britain, he replied: “Sierra Leone is part of the British Empire and I am fighting for my King.” He also said of his time in the RAF: “It wasn’t until I looked in the mirror that I remembered I was black.”

After the war, acting for the Colonial Office, this remarkable man accompanie­d EX-RAF personnel to the West Indies to help them secure local employment. Many who were unable to find work returned to Britain on the Empire Windrush, hoping for a better life. Smythe was still with them when the ship docked at Tilbury.

Smythe was appointed solely on merit, his skin colour being totally irrelevant. Today’s RAF should take note.

Nicholas Young

London W13

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