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All Posts, Aviation, Military History

Author Guest Post: Tony Lamsdale

The RAF’s Armourers 

Writing a book has long been an ambition of mine, but the big question was the subject. In late 2019 I was on Facebook and reading yet another post about an Armourer joining St Barbara; Armourers have their own patron saint, so when one of us departs this life we naturally assume we join St Babs (as we affectionately know her) at the great beer call in the sky. It struck me that all the stories and experience leaves on that final flight with the individual, and that was a shame.

A bit of thinking, a few chats with friends, and persuading Phil Appleby to join me in the venture was all that was needed to start the journey. Phil’s first reaction was, “but I have never been an Armourer so what can I bring?”. Well, Phil is a professional editor and author so his experience was vital; someone needed to keep my feet firmly planted, and his skill has greatly contributed to the final version of the book. Phil and I agreed early on that the story must be told through the eyes of those who served (or serve), so we had to interview people to hear their stories.

The other big question was publishing; who would take this on, or would we publish the book ourselves? We decided to approach Pen and Sword because shy bairns get nowt, and within a few weeks we had a contract. The contract was offered on the 21st July 2020 which was the anniversary of me joining the RAF in 1987, an omen if ever there was one.

The process of research and gluing everything together put us in contact with many wonderful people who were only too happy to share their experiences. Old friendships were renewed and new ones forged. Armourers don’t need an excuse to talk about the job so many a sandbag was pulled up and laughs were had along the way. Some of the stories broached difficult subjects, and I had to revisit some difficult times from my own experience. The big thing about being an Armourer is that you are part of a family; from the moment you join up to your last minute on earth you belong and are never alone.

As we approached the finish line one of our contributors, Mike Steel, passed away. It was a complete shock and underlined just how important it is to gather the stories; Mike’s teapot and his tale of bomb disposal in Belize could have been lost forever, and that would have been a real shame because they sum up life as an Armourer perfectly. You’ll have to read the book to find out what I mean!

In June 2022 we passed the manuscript to Pen and Sword to start the editing process, so the last 12 months has been a flurry of reviews, corrections and emails. Now we are on the verge of publishing and the excitement is mixed with nerves. Armourers are wonderful people and can always be relied upon to tell the truth, so our critics will soon be able to air and share their views.

The most important thing is that the stories are gathered so they can never be lost!

The RAF’s Armourers is available to preorder here.