Book Review: Royal Air Force Squadron Losses 1st January 1921-31st December 1930

Review by Geoff Simpson

Royal Air Force Squadron Losses 1st January 1921-31st December 1930

By W R Chorley & P J McMillan

Losses are a specialist subject for W R “Bill” Chorley. His series on those suffered by Bomber Command in the Second World War is much thumbed here. There are, I am confident, equally well used copies in many other collections.

Now he is the lead author in a series addressing squadron losses from earlier times, though if this large and packed book is typical. the scope extends well beyond the limitation of the title.

This publication is a trove and we still have the rest of the period up to the outbreak of the Second World War to be looked forward to and then devoured.

Indeed, a review in the Journal of the RAF Historical Society, written by its distinguished editor, Wing Commander “Jeff” Jefford, has already pointed out a difficulty. Look for a particular incident, reflected Jefford and, “you are likely to be distracted by an adjacent incident and an hour later you will still be browsing.”

There is, to take just one instance of, sadly, many, the account of the death, on 2 September 1928, of Pilot Officer George Herbert Aldridge of No 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron, AAF. He took off from Castle Bromwich in an Airco DH 9A. While attempting  a very sharp turn over the village of Great Glen, Leicestershire, he lost control and crashed in a field, the aircraft bursting into flames.

According to the Leicester Mail, one example of the enormous range of primary and secondary sources used by Chorley and McMillan in compiling their work, four or five people who were nearby attempted to rescue the pilot but were driven back by the fire.

The crash happened near Aldridge’s family home, leading the authors to speculate that his plan had been to pay a visit. There is also a hint of a possible girlfriend in the area.

Much more detail on the Great Glen tragedy is offered, as is the case for many similar happenings. I have certainly spent more time than I intended to on casual reading.

Appendices add to the treasure on offer, providing, for instance, squadron locations and COs, lists of officers granted short service commissions, lists of cadets graduating from RAF College, Cranwell. There are several rolls of honour.

Sometimes, for reasons I have not fathomed, a loss receives treatment in an appendix rather than in the main body. A tragedy that has come up in my research of late has been that on 7 April 1925 when a Vickers Virginia of No 9 Squadron, on a training flight from Manston, came down in the sea off Birchington, Kent, resulting in fatalities and injuries. The incident is documented in a number of other places, but does not seem to be in the chronological list in this book. I eventually found a limited appendix reference.

Inevitably, in a book of this size, there are some typos, spelling mistakes and  minor errors.

However, if you have an interest in the RAF of the period covered, I recommend purchase for both research and casual reading.

Published Mention the War 2022

ISBN: 9781911255581

466 pages, illustrated

Click to see full BMMHS event listing pages.

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