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The First Helicopter Boys (ePub)

The Early Days of Helicopter Operations - The Malayan Emergency, 1947–1960

Aviation > Post-WWII Aviation Aviation > Royal Air Force Maritime > Naval > Royal Navy Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Cold War

By David Taylor
Imprint: Air World
File Size: 24.5 MB (.epub)
Illustrations: 100
ISBN: 9781526754141
Published: 26th June 2019


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The Indonesian Confrontation that raged from 1963 to 1966 stemmed from Indonesia’s opposition to the creation of Malaysia. Fighting in the challenging jungle terrain of Borneo and in the countryside straddling the Malaysia/Indonesia border, where there were few roads, posed significant logistical challenges to both sides. That the conflict was ultimately a victory for the Commonwealth forces was in due in no small part to the fact that they enjoyed the advantage of vastly superior helicopter resources and better trained crews – many of which were provided by British units.

During the Confrontation, many of these vital helicopter assets were flown by pilots and crews who had gained their knowledge and experience first-hand during the Malayan Emergency, one of the Cold War’s first flash-points which had begun in 1948.

Without doubt, the Malayan Emergency marked the formative years of the RAF’s and Royal Navy’s helicopter operations – the very early days in fact, when equipment and knowledge were much more basic. It was a time when operational procedures were still under development, even though the helicopters were already being flown on front line service.

Told in the main through their own words, by the RAF and Royal Navy air and ground crews involved, this is the story of how these ‘guinea pigs’ undertook many of Britain’s first rotary wing combat operations and, therefore, cemented their rightful place in the history of the helicopter.

The book is pleasant both for the light it sheds on the first helicopter operations, and for the use of the first, defective, pioneering but very useful helicopters, and for the stories of two wars, especially that of the forgotten and distant "Malayan Emergency". Two campaigns which were successful for the British Army and which greatly helped those populations. The book is thus a little gem full of amusing anecdotes, war stories and "aerial" camaraderie that cannot fail to amuse and entertain any reader.

Read the full Italian review here

On The Old Barbed Wire

A fascinating insight into the early days of helicopter development and its use in the challenging terrain of Malaysia/Indonesia. Through the words of personnel from the time and David’s superb writing, you get a real sense of the issues the early machines had, and the resourcefulness used in a Jungle situation.

I’m not sure some of the ways these machines were maintained in the Jungle would be allowed today. As an example, changing a wheel while the pilot maintains a steady hover!

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Vintage Airfix

The squadrons in Malaya were very much the pioneers of the helicopter in British service, and author David Taylor tells their fascinating tale very well.

Vulcan News, Spring 2020

This was a largely-forgotten conflict, during which rotary-wing aircraft matured from being of mostly novelty value to the essential adjunct to a huge variety of military operations. David Taylor has provided a splendid insight into those far-off times.

Reviewed by Malcolm Smith, Society of Friends of the Fleet Air Arm Museum

As featured by

The Naval Review

"A fascinating story, well told and illustrated."

As featured in

Aeroplane, February 2020

Taylor's book will be a valuable addition to my bookshelves. It is not, and does not claim to be, a cerebral thesis of political or military moment. It is an anecdotal, personal account and, as such, I recommend it because it fills a void in the publishing record.

RAF Historical Society

"All in all this is a valuable memoir and record of a particular time and place, which deserves to be appreciated and remembered, and is therefore well worth reading."

Ulster Aviation Society

All in all this is a valuable memoir and record of a particular time and place, which deserves to be appreciated and remembered, and is therefore well worth reading.

Read the full review here

Flying in Ireland

A very well written book.

Watch the full video review here

Scale Modelling Now

As featured in

IPMS Magazine

The book is an engaging read, studded with details such as – The rule of thumb for the S-55 (Whirlwind) was that on operations, it could carry “six Gurkhas, five British, or three Fijians.” There is a good selection of black and white photographs of the helicopters in operations and of the jungle forts, leaving the reader with a strong flavour of a forgotten conflict.

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Not Quite Mechanised, Chris Kemp

If found this book very interesting, as it features helicopters from Dragonfly and Sycamore through to Wessex and Whirlwind, and the experiences of men and their families who were dropped from mid-Century Britain into a completely alien environment (just as the tribesmen flown to hospital in Ipoh!)

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

One of the mysteries of the Cold War is why the Americans in Vietnam ignored the pioneering tactics earlier employed successfully by the British in securing victory against Communist aggression. The author has followed the pioneering tactics in relation to exploiting the potential of VTOL aircraft in counter-insurgency actions – Very Highly Recommended

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About David Taylor

Born in Yorkshire, where he still lives, DAVID TAYLOR left school at the age of fifteen. After a brief period as a motor mechanic, he joined the RAF and saw the world, literally. In his ten years of service – three of which were spent in Far East – he visited thirty-eight countries. Emigrating to America in 1964, he secured a job in the oil industry. It was to be a fleeting emigration, but a long period away from home – thirty years – during which he again travelled extensively. Ninety-two countries at the last count, some of which he knows very well, and which provide background locations for the adventure novels on which he is currently working.

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