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Stay the Distance (Hardback)

The Life and Times of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham

Aviation > Royal Air Force Colour Books Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: Aviation Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: WWII WWII

By Peter Jacobs
Frontline Books
Pages: 330
ISBN: 9781848325524
Published: 28th February 2011



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Sir Michael Beetham enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the Royal Air Force. He joined the RAF as a pilot in 1941 and was awarded the DFC whilst serving with Bomber Command during 1943/44. Remaining in the post-war RAF, a number of flying and staff appointments followed. Notably he drafted the first specification for the ill-fated TSR 2 and later joined the V-Force as commanding officer of 214 Sqn at Marham.

Beetham then served at the heart of Bomber Command's affairs when the V-Force was at the forefront of the Nation's defences. The most critical moment came with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. In 1964 he was given command of Khormaksar in Aden, the RAF's biggest overseas station. His arrival coincided with the start of a terrorist campaign against British forces in Aden.

More senior appointments followed, notably as Commander 2nd Tactical Air Force and Commander-in-Chief RAF Germany, but the big prize came in 1977 when Beetham was appointed Chief of the Air Staff. In 1982 came the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands; as acting Chief of the Defence Staff, he was involved in the decision to send the Task Force to battle. After victory in the Falklands, Sir Michael Beetham handed over as CAS and was appointed Marshal of the Royal Air Force.

Beetham stayed in the RAF after the Second World War and rose steadily through the ranks. This is an authorised biography, which means that the author had access to Sir Michael and his memories (and to his photo collection) we can be fairly sure they are accurate. The Author is an RAF officer himself, currently serving at the RAF Cranwell, so this is also an insiders biography, written by someone with an understanding of the RAF as an organisation. This is an interesting read, and should be of value to anyone with an interest in the development of the post-war RAF, Bomber Command, the Falklands War or the political pressures at the very top of the Armed Forces.

History of War

This biography provides a valuable and informative read. It provides a telling insight into the mixtures of qualities and attributes required to reach the very top as an air force officer. He [the author] is undoubtedly an important figure in the history of the Royal Air Force and this biography is worthy of its subject.
This book offers much more, however, than the mere chronological history of one man's supremely successful military career.

Military Modelling

Sir Michael Beetham, he continued to support his RAF associations and is currently President of the Bomber Command Association. His biography covers a wide spectrum of RAF activities in war and peace and makes this book a comprehensive account of his life and times. Recommended to anyone with an interest in RAF history.


A fascinating and well illustrated account of the career of Sir Michael Beetham.

Flypast, July 2011

On retirement after an extremely interesting life, Beetham was one of only four men holding the rank of Marshal of the RAF. His story is well worth reading.


Sir Michael Beetham's career spanned some 42 years. He rose from a pilot in 1941 to Marshal of the Royal Air Force when he retired in 1982, after five years as Chief of the Air Staff and his successful direction of the air campaign to recover the Falkland Islands.

This book will be required reading by anyone with an interest in the history of the Royal Air Force in the post-war world or the challenges of high command in the 20th century.

Military Times, Jonathan Eaton

Being the biography of this Society's long-serving President, this book is close to our hearts.

Sir Michael's RAF career began in 1941 and culminated in 1977 with his appointment as Chief of the Air Staff. The book chronicles his life throughout WWII and goes on to command of one of the first valiant squadrons. Then come chapters describing his time during the Cuba crisis and culminating in his tour as CinC RAF Germany and ultimately as CAS. In his research into these later appointments, Peter Jacobs has drawn on the experiences of most of Sir Michael's personal staff Officers to capture what it was like to be just outside the great man's office door.

The book, a 284-page hardback, is well illustrated throughout and concludes with descriptions of the many, mostly RAF-connected, activities and enthusiasms in which Sir Michael has involved himself since he handed over as CAS.

Peter Jacobs has done the remaining veterans a great service in describing the life of their inspirational leader so conscientiously and clearly.

Royal Airforce Historical Society

Peter Jacobs has crafted a fascinating and comprehensive biography of Sir Michael Beetham. This excellent narrative is written in a style that is easy to read and added with broad background strokes to the many events that Beetham not only witnessed but also experienced. This biography will appeal not only to those interested in the Second World War but to those with an interest in the post war RAF.


This is an excellent book...Peter Jacobs has written a taut book which is an excellent read...Buy the book and enjoy.

Richard N. Jones - Amazon Reviewer

The remaining veterans are nearly there with their final project and Peter Jacobs has done them a great service in describing the life of their inspirational leader so conscientiously and clearly.

AVM Nigel Baldwin - Reviewing for the RAF Historical Society
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