Patrick Bishop has emerged as the outstanding historian of the wartime RAF with such classics as Fighter Boys (2003) and Bomber Boys (2008) which, largely through first-hand testimony, examined the character, motivations and experiences of the airmen.

In Air Force Blue, the final work in the trilogy, he argues that the RAF played the pre-eminent role in Britain’s war, contributing more to Allied victory than the other services. He also presents the RAF’s more egalitarian outlook as major driver of social change, helping set the scene for post war Britain.

In his books, he writes of an egalitarian, albeit elite force, of men whose social mix within the force contributed towards the transformation of society after 1945. Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, and others had a large part to play in enhancing that contribution.

The Fighter Boys was of a force the size of a small battalion; that won this country’s finest hour. That force brought this country, survival.

The Bomber Boys has a back story, of courage and a dignity, so far untold widely. Bomber Command was ordered by Churchill, as Minister of War, to bomb Dresden. The Chiefs of the Air Staff demurred; they had transportation and oil targets of far greater importance in winning the war. Churchill wrote back an uncompromising and brisk memo ordering Dresden to be a target: without delay.

The memo is dated 31 January 1945 and the Yalta Conference was to be two weeks later. No doubt Churchill needed to impress Stalin and Roosevelt at Yalta. He had been a minister at the end of the First War and no doubt remembered the myth spread in Germany of its army “ being stabbed in the back”. Churchill was percipient to realise the German people should not be permitted a second bite of that toxic cherry. The RAF has been too gallant to let that truth be widely known. In March 1945, a regretful Churchill wrote a further memo, expressing revulsion for what had been done. That memo remained secret for a very long time.

April 2018 marks the centenary of the RAF.

Chairman – Savilian Arnold Rosen