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The Royal Air Force
The Great War
Born on the 1st April 1918 (a hint of things to come) by battering two dissimilar units together: The Army's Royal Flying Corps - whose pilots' mission in life was to survive the first six weeks of air combat in an aircraft designed by Blue Peter, using items from your gran's sewing basket - and the Royal Naval Air Service, who's pilots' mission in life was to survive the first six weeks etc, etc, plus with the added bonus of attempting to land on floating things - or rather ditching in the briny.
As the navy is the senior service they got to call a lot of the shots with the new toy, eg, rank was represented by rings on the sleeve. The Army had moved the pips off the sleeve early in the war as they were bullet magnets (but the old tradition of the platoon chipping in to buy the OC a police whistle to blow whilst going over the top was kept to the end of the war).
The blue uniform (cossack blue) was chosen because the government had stacks of the stuff after Lenin had had a 'major corporate restructure', which resulted in Russia not coming out to play the 2nd half.
At the intermission between the two big rammies, the RAF amused itself by bombing the shoite out of Afghan villages (oh, bit of deja vu there). Sure they did other things as well but nothing very important like what was happening elsewhere ... practising for shoeing Europe by stuffing the Spanish for example although winning the Schneider Trophy in a Spitfire with floats welded on for a laff was pretty nails.
After WW1 it was general muckabouts against people driving camels/elephants in the Middle East and anywhere else within the Empire, using aircraft designed by Blue Peter using a Meccano set. It's also worth noting that not only were the RAF tooling around the deserts of Iraq in armoured vehicles long before anyone else, they also pioneered the usage of poison gas against Kurdish rebels - long before Saddam Hussein cottoned on to it.
This state of play endured until their 'finest Hour' in 1940 - all 114 days of it. A most contentious subject even today, it did, however, show how brilliant teamwork, a few Spitfires & Hurricanes, brylcreem and flashing smiles can be when used correctly. Just don't mention the Defiant.
And then we have the bomber offensive. Ah... yes. The proverbial negro in the output of the cutting shed. Initially a total goat fuck - with more losses being incurred by us than the enemy due to the totally inadequete Whitleys, Hampdens, Blenheims and Battles - Crab Air were lucky if they could place a single 500lb bomb in the right country, never mind the target. I shit thee not: it happened.
An investigation mid-war, called the But Report (after its author), reckoned that two thirds of all bombers got within five miles of the target... over France! Over Germany the figure dropped to as low as one tenth over the Ruhr industrial area. The average figure for every hundred bombers sent to a target was that twenty bombed it and eighty didn't.
For these investigations, a radius of five miles was used as a target area. That is an area of over seventy-five square miles. Only Berlin covered an area of that size. Which sadly means that of the one hundred bombers sent to the target, only twenty reached and bombed it - most of the ordnance landing on cows in the surrounding countryside.
That was soon to change for the better... for us anyhow. Improved techniques, bomb sights and navigation aids made the crews' job significantly 'easier' (if that's word can be used in such context) than it was in the early years.
And in defence of the aircrews who were murdering chickens near Hamburg during 1941, whichever way one looks at it, at the time, plastering the fuck out of Deutschland with Wellingtons, Halifaxes, Stirlings, Lancasters and other assorted types, was the only way to get back at the boche. Unpleasant as it was... THEY STARTED IT! In any case, parts of the Reich were looking a little ropey and were in dire need of a bit of urban re-development, so Sir Arthur did them a favour in a roundabout way.
A lot of boys got temporary and permanent postings in Germany via Bomber Command, but received absolutely no credit for their efforts for many years after the war; so it's very fucking naughty having a pop at them and calling them baby murderers. Remember: nobody in London, Manchester, Liverpool or Coventry was too bothered about what nasty Bomber Command was doing to the poor Jerries night after night. C'est la guerre! Although even Winnie thought Bomber Harris was being a barsteward in firebombing civvies when the war was winding down. A sudden act of awareness that public opinion needed to be curried post war -- he was happy enough to encourage the bombing while Blighty had its back to the wall...
At sea, RAF Coastal Command provided top cover and other useful roles around the shores of this sceptic isle. Far out over the Atlantic, the Sunderlands, Catalinas and Liberators (amongst others) flew many a lonely, freezing patrol in the elusive search for Hitler's U-Boats - a menace that threatened the vital liflelines with the good ol' US of A. Hurrah!
Post-D Day saw the RAF pretty much go on a massive bender and shootfest: anything that moved got wasted (including the army), and this continued until the penny dropped with the boxheads.
After the North Africa business was over, we invaded Italy and managed to shoot down two Italians before they surrendered.
The Far East
The RAF's initial efforts agains the Sons of Nippon in the Far East amounted to a succession of drubbings... on our part. Hardly surprising really when one considers the slanty-eyed foreign swines had been gearing up for a scrap for several years whilst we played bridge and polo and attended several dinner parties at Raffles Hotel. It goes without saying that our non-investment in modern kit showed up the obsolete stuff in fine style against the far superior Imperial Japanese army and navy.
Nevertheless, after we'd dusted ourselves off a little and purchased some modern kites off the spams - and accompanied by the gallant fliers (and associated pan trash) of the Indian Air Force and other colonial types - we returned to the Far East with a vengeance... several squadrons of them to be exact.
Dirty, dusty, hot and hard graft, the war fought by the Desert Air Force is largely forgotten. They did however, give Rommell one up the hoop and prevented his Afrika Korps from ruining the party. Many lessons were learned that came in very handy for the mobile operations conducted by 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force after D Day.
More Imperial 'peacekeeping' against people driving camels/elephants but this time using jets: Malaya, Kenya, Borneo, Aden etc. Largely ignored during the Korean War - those pesky yanks and Commonwealth types stealing our thunder.
Crab Air played a bit of a low profile in the Falklands War as air assets do not generally work under water. Sea Harriers did most of the business and got the glory, though the RAF's Harrier GR3s did their bit in battering Stanley. RAF Vulcans did fly from the UK and bomb things, most notably the single 1,000kg bomb on the runway at Stanley, turning it into two C130- capable runways. But it was the Shrike SEAD missions against Argie radar that had better effect.
Next shooting match was the Gulf War, remembered for Tornadoes loaded with JP223 airfield denial munitions, and later on, loaded with more airfield denial munitions for the same target and thus, an intimate meeting with SAM. This resulted in aircrew - notably Nicol and Peters - on TV looking like they'd spent the weekend pissed in Newcastle singing Sunderland's praises.
The Iraq War finished off what was left of Saddam's air assets and Crab Air was pretty much relegated to ferrying the Green Machine around the 'battle space' in Chinooks and the few remaining Pumas. It has since got a new toy: Merlin... which is nice.
Currently doing a spiffing job in Afghanistan.
The latest addition to the RAF is the Eurofighter Typhoon, so technologically advanced it is just what you need if you intended to attack the US, but far too expensive to use against people driving camels/elephants.
A commonly believed 'fact' is that the RAF has more officers of 'Air' rank (that's 1, 2, 3 & 4 star) than aircraft - this is clearly bollocks, as it has around 110 Air Officers and over 1100 aircraft. It has around three officers to each OR. No worries really, as the RAF will soon disappear up its own arrse and become entirely farmed out to civvy contractors. It will cease to exist at 23:59 31st March 2018, thus denying it its 'century' by sixty fucking seconds!
Some say the RAF once achieved something. Read the above and be the fucking judge. (But to be fair, they can distinguish between Blue and Orange, unlike their American counterparts).
They also claim that their motto (Per Ardua Ad Astra) means "through hardship to the stars". Which it might, to an Oxbridge classics graduate (although ardua can be considered to be "difficulties" and the only crab to get anywhere near the stars is Cancer. Timothy Peake, Britain's first astronaut is, quite appropriately, an Army pilot!) However, RAF station cinemas were all called "Astra", so it's not hard to work out that the real meaning is "it's a hard walk to the cinema".
A strange organisation with delusions of militarism. Very good at getting money out of government - until recently when they got stung for 7000 redundancies. As a service the RAF closely matches banks, since they are never available after 16:30hrs or at weekends. In fact working on a Wednesday is generally accepted as a no-no because it buggers up both weekends.
Despite all that they seem to be quite good at the flying thing - well, better than a lot of Johnny Foreigner's Air Forces anyway. Except for movers; although whilst even the rest of the RAF have nothing nice to say about movers, the most hated group within the RAF are the RAF Police, closely followed by movers and Rockapes.
Their most impressive recent feat has been to persuade HMG to stump up the cash for about 10,000 Eurofighter Typhoons - an aircraft allegedly designed to replace the Barrage Balloon as the ultimate weapon against Hitler's mighty Luftwaffe, and thus completely bankrupting the MoD to the extent that the rest of us will only be allowed to shout 'Bang' once a year in case we get sore throats.
It was thought, that since it no longer has an independent strategic mission, the continuing separate existence of the RAF cannot be justified and that it should stand down, its assets being handed over to the Army and the Andrew. However, this is no longer the case since the navy have had all their pointy aeroplanes taken away and it was found that Teeny Weeny Airways was incapable of even servicing correctly, the one grown up airframe (Apache) that they were allowed to play with.
The RAF may be onto something though. In the Army it is generally the commissioned officers who send the chaps to do most of the dirty work. In the navy the officers and the chaps have to do it together on a large floating Exocet target. The RAF is unique in that the chaps stay safe and dry in a nice, cosy bomb-proof hangar while the commissioned officers are shot down and given a ferocious beasting on Al Jazeera TV. Consequently, in order to maintain morale, many RAF officers' messes are equipped with miniature pool tables and Fruit Machines. Classy eh?
This seems only right and proper since the ground crew and engineers, by necessity, need to be educated and intelligent people whilst the prime qualifications for aircrew (apart from lightning reflexes and a good memory) are the ability to talk self-opinionated, noisy bollocks while nursing a half pint of piss-weak lager at the mess bar.
Fair's fair though. If you're going to pay a guy to drive a machine with more brake horsepower than a 100 Ferraris and the destructive capabilities of an armoured battalion while looking down the gun-sight at a Mounted Camel Squadron of the Taliban's finest you don't really need a vegetarian Buddhist who'll immediately carry out a risk assessment survey, probe his conscience and do a cost/benefit analysis. Unfortunately, recent experience in Afghanistan suggests that this is exactly what a certain female Harrier pilot did. Fuckwit! Safety distances my arse.
Some unkind souls consider the RAF a barely-military bunch of chav mincers, who labour under the illusion that they are a fine group of men, who work really hard to ensure that the British Army's enemies are bombed back to the Stone Age so that when the Squaddies ride in to battle on the nice comfortable Merlin helicopter there's nothing much for them to do. They may also have a good point.
To be on the safe side just make sure that you don't ask them to help out at weekends or after 16:30hrs on weekdays. That, of course, assumes you can find them in the first place. They will invariably be in the nearest watering hole getting merrily bladdered and copping off with all the decent fanny.
- Harrier GR7
- Harrier GR9
- Panavia Tornado
- Triumph Stag
- Farah Slacks
- White Socks
- Flying Suits
- Bouncing Bollock
Origins of 'Crab'
While some of the explanations below are derived from or purported to be the "official" version the RAF have been named "crabs" due to the fact that they have no limit to the number of sideways paces they can do as a drill movement. While army and navy have a fixed limit of sideways paces the RAF can actually march the entire width of a parade ground sideways.
Once upon a time, the RAF flew Spitfires with tail wheels near the tail and huge Merlin engines at the front. This meant that during taxiing, all they could see to the front was an enormous engine. In order to see what was in front of them, they had to look over the side and zigzag, thus they'd be moving sideways. On landing, they would sideslip to lose height.
Because of airfield security, the only time land-locked mortals got to see the RAF anywhere near close up was during landing, take-off and taxiing, when they were moving sideways. Since only crabs walk sideways, clearly the RAF was staffed by crabs.
Coupled with the fact that the Fleet Air Arm attracted all the best pilots and the Army always won inter-service regattas, a once popular forces T-shirt logo read: 'Fly Navy.Sail Army. Walk Sideways!'
Another more plausible explanation as to why the RN refer to the RAF as 'crabs' goes back to the days of rum, sodomy and the lash (about last week in fact). One of the more unsavoury aspects of the average matelot was his unfortunate habit of contracting pubic lice or "crabs" during his shore leave. The treatment for this condition was to get a chum or shipmate to apply a liberal application of a greasy blue/grey ointment (known affectionately as "crab fat") to the affected area. The proper name for the ointment was Blue Unction.
With the RN's usual powers of wit and sophistication the RAF were thereafter referred to as 'crab fats' (or crabs for short) as their blue/grey uniform was exactly the same colour as the stuff that the filthy little ratings rubbed on their swollen and lice-ravaged goolies. The RAF by contrast affectionately refer to the Royal Navy as Bum Boys or Fish Heads. The Army are Pongos, Brown Jobs or Grunts.
Royal Auxiliary Air Force
The most contentious part of the reserve forces. Fitness is an absolute no-no is some units, and going anywhere near anything green, military or vaguely resembling hard work is avoided, again, in some units.
600 (City of London) Squadron - Originally the Gentlemen's flying club in London, having the late Queen Mother as Honourary Air Commodore. Very steeped in history as the only unit with 2 badges, and having somehow 'acquired' a standard even before the real RAF did.
Terms of Endearment
- Crab Air
- Rural Hair Farce
- Oggies (RAuxAF)