Author Guest Post: Phil Appleby
The RAF’s Armourers
As Tony Lamsdale mentioned in his blog article last week, I was somewhat surprised when he invited me to co-author a book on the RAF Armourers. But I was more than happy to say Yes; it sounded like fun, and since he asked me during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, I had plenty of time on my hands.
It was always going to be Tony’s job to write about what the Armourers did, and how they did it. Apart from anything else, and as my wife would testify, I’m completely useless when it comes to anything that involves practical skill; I can just about change a light bulb, but that’s as far as it goes. However, I was genuinely interested in finding out more. Like most people, when I see military aircraft flying overhead I feel a sense of excitement and wonder. I was born and brought up in north Northumberland, and low-flying jets were a regular, and hugely exciting, occurrence during my childhood.
So after we’d received our contract from Pen and Sword, I volunteered to write the first chapter, on the history of the Armourers. Researching was fascinating, particularly the early days. Could it really be true that pilots would drop home-made bombs from their open cockpits?! As I worked my way through the years – the two world wars, the Cold War and active conflicts such as the Falklands – I felt that I could start to understand what motivated the RAF personnel, both the pilots and the men on the ground.
Of course talking to former Armourers helped to consolidate these feelings. I loved the Zoom calls. I wouldn’t say much – Tony led the conversations and encouraged our contributors to tell their stories – but I took copious notes and would occasionally ask a dumb question, the kind of question that only a non-Armourer would ask. What came over most strongly on the Zoom calls was the passion and camaraderie of the people we talked to, and also the sense of humour. Sometimes, at the darkest times, humour is what keeps you going.
It was my job to write up the stories that people told us, and we were certainly told some great stories. A few were unpublishable (!), but we feel that those which have been included give a great insight into the life of the Armourers – the good, the bad, and the utterly bonkers.
Hopefully, those who read the book will enjoy the anecdotes just as much as we did.
The RAF’s Armourers is available to order here.