The House

The Few Who Flew

RAF National Service Pilots 1955-1957


By Michael Naseby Publisher Unicorn

National Service in the United Kingdom is a concept which is now consigned to the history books, but being one of the last men to take part, and being able to train as an RAF pilot, had a huge and lasting impact on Lord Naseby’s life.

He served between 1955 and 1957 and his book tells the story of the training and skills accumulate­d by those “few” who wished to fly, come what may. The author himself gained his Wings in April 1957 days before National Serviced ended.

Some 15 years previously, the renowned Battle of Britain pilots had received some of the best training in the world. For example, the civilians who had become pilots in

No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron were sent to RAF Hornchurch North East of London. Fourteen of these volunteers lost their lives but they and their colleagues shot down 57 enemy Luftwaffe aircraft – at least four times the losses they received.

When Naseby was doing his National Service he was aware of the need for excellent training. He and his fellow pilots had learnt that in the Battle of Britain those who had the height had the advantage; those who had the sun behind them had the element of surprise; and those who got in close shot down their ferocious enemies.

There is one chapter in the book intriguing­ly titled “Churchill’s Most Secret Airfield” which tells the story of Tempsford, which played an essential role during World War Two.

Living nearby, Naseby had become a regular visitor at St Mary’s Church, especially on Remembranc­e Day, and in November 2020, when the service was held outside because of Covid restrictio­ns, he was asked as a former RAF pilot, to lay a wreath.

The card read: “In memory of all those brave men and women who gave their lives in the service of their country and particular­ly the aircrew and agents who flew from Tempsford Airfield, never to return.”

After becoming an MP, and later deputy speaker in the House of Commons, Michael Naseby carried on his enthusiast­ic relationsh­ip with flying in many ways. Aged

85 at the time of writing, he describes himself as still being “enthralled with flying”. He had, and has, high praise for the Royal Air Force Associatio­n which provides support for RAF personnel and their families - both those currently serving and those who are retired. He writes that the associatio­n’s response to the pandemic showed that it can “move with the times while remaining committed to its original ideals and principles”. The book concludes with two stimulatin­g chapters on the future of aviation and “National Service Revisited,” which put forward his view that it is time to look again at the key concept of “service to one’s country.”

Looking to the future, he tackles such issues as the developmen­t of zero-emissions flight in the United Kingdom, and sustainabl­e aviation fuels. He concludes with confidence that “green technology is the key to long term prosperity for UK aerospace, the global aviation industry and the planet as a whole”.

In his foreword to the book, Marshal of The Royal Air Force Lord Stirrup, rightly writes that Naseby’s book poses some interestin­g questions about “the future of aviation in light of today’s ecological challenges”. He continues: “However, above all it is a personal story about military flying, and about the human qualities necessary for success in that endeavour; qualities that are just as relevant and just as important to a modern air force entering its second century as they had been to an embryo service, operating flimsy biplanes over war-torn France in 1918.”

“Aged 85 at the time of writing, he describes himself as still being ‘enthralled with flying’”

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 ?? ?? 1979 Lord Naseby
1979 Lord Naseby

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