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Boom, the life of Viscount Trenchard - Father of the Royal Air Force

Russell Miller
It's not often that I pick up a book that reads well, no matter where you start. It may seem odd that I say that about a biography where you would expect to see, logically, that one starts at the beginning and reads on to the inevitable end. In this case, as I thought that I knew a little about Trenchard, I took the opportunity to try dipping into the lesser-known aspects of his life before the “headline“ aspects.

What a delight this book is. It has been extensively researched from the Trenchard family archive, as well as from other sources. The select bibliography references some sixty-three books. This means that each chapter of the twenty takes a broad theme and tries to convey how the complex character of Trenchard approached each phase of his life.

Of course, the book is chronological and takes us from his birth at Taunton on 3 February 1873, through his childhood at a number of locations, to his eventual joining the Royal Scots Fusiliers, being gazetted on 8 September 1893. He was posted to India, where he enjoyed polo. From there he went to the Boer War and was wounded. He sought rehabilitation in St Moritz and found that that he had an aptitude for the Cresta Run. He was sufficiently rehabilitated after three months to rejoin the Regiment in South Africa. His story continues through his own flying training and the central role he eventually had at the Central Flying School. Why Boom as a nickname? It was said Trenchard spoke two languages; English and louder English.

From here in the book, we see the more public side of Trenchard as the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) builds and he becomes pivotal in the RFC’s deployment in France. The rest, as they say, is history. In addition to the public face, Trenchard’s personal life is retold, and his later appointment as Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police. Wondered why the Metropolitan Police train recruits at Hendon? The answer is here.

I enjoyed this book. It gives a good insight into the man and his achievements based on really good research. It is easy to read and organised into logical chapters. For those seeking the early origins of air power, it is a very good resource.

402 pages including illustrations, index, notes and bibliography

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