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It is important that we remember that 40 years ago Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory inhabited by people who had no intention of being ruled by Argentina. It’s also important we remember the immense challenge of the deployment of a task force sailing 8000 miles from the shores of the United Kingdom to liberate The Falklands and the sacrifices made by those who did so, including the sacrifices of those who lived on the islands. DropZone Brewery, endorsed by the South Atlantic Medal Association 82 (SAMA82), are proud to launch a limited-edition rum, whiskey, and gin to support veterans of the Falklands conflict with the aim of maintaining and promoting a sense of pride and comradeship among all involved in the South Atlantic campaign. The limited edition of whiskey, rum and gin will be restricted to 258 bottles of each; one for each person who lost their lives in the liberation of The Falkland’s.

DropZone are proud to announce that all profits of the sales will be donated to the SAMA82.

The Falklands War was a ten-week undeclared war between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982 over two British dependent territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and its territorial dependency, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

On 2 April 1982 an Argentinian Force of 3,000 men invaded the Falkland Islands taking the Islanders and the 80 Royal Marines stationed there by surprise, despite pressure from the United Nations to withdraw the Argentinians’ attempt to secure the whole of the Islands (778 in total). The British Government responded by creating a Naval Task Force to travel the 8,000 miles to retake the British Overseas Territory.

The retaking of the Falkland Islands was considered extremely difficult. The chances of a British counter-invasion succeeding were assessed by the US Navy, according to historian Arthur L. Herman, as “a military impossibility”. Firstly, the British were significantly constrained by the disparity in deployable air cover. Crucially, the British lacked airborne early warning and control (AEW) aircraft. Planning also considered the Argentine surface fleet and the threat posed by Exocet-equipped vessels. Let’s not forget the 8000 mile one way trip to get to the islands

While negotiations continued for a peaceful settlement of the conflict (for the United Kingdom a complete withdrawal from all Falkland Island territories of all Argentinian forces), ways were being explored by which the United Kingdom could project force in such way to send a message to Argentina and in doing so, deny use of the island’s main runway at Stanley (the capital). Due to the politics of the time, none of the South American countries, or the United States, would allow the British to use their air bases at the start of the conflict; so, the RAF had to make plans to fly only from British bases. However, the closest British airbase to the Falklands was on Ascension Island, also in the Atlantic, but still 3,900 miles from the Falklands.

The plan itself was simple. To stop the Argentinians from being able to bring large amounts of troops and supplies into the Falklands, the British had to make the main airport and runway on the Islands at Stanley unusable – this meant the mission would be to attack the runway from the air. The challenge was how to fly over 7,800 miles (3,900 miles there and 3,900 miles back again).
A Vulcan bomber from Ascension flew an 8,000-nautical-mile (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) round trip, dropping conventional bombs across the runway at Stanley. The mission required repeated refuelling aircraft operating in concert, including tanker-to-tanker refuelling. The runway was cratered by only one of the twenty-one bombs, but as a result, the Argentines realised that their mainland was vulnerable and fighter aircraft were redeployed from the theatre to bases further north.
Despite being a remote and localised war the fighting in parts was incredibly brutal. Naval vessels were destroyed, resulting in deaths and very serious injuries, and land battles were fought in very close quarters in difficult conditions.

The war raged throughout May through to mid-June. Notable battles took place with names that will be etched into the memories of many. On the night of 11 June, after several days of painstaking reconnaissance and logistic build-up, British forces launched a brigade-sized night attack against the heavily defended ring of high ground surrounding Stanley. Units of 3 Commando Brigade, supported by naval gunfire from several Royal Navy ships, simultaneously attacked in the Battle of Mount Harriet, Battle of Two Sisters, and Battle of Mount Longdon. At Two Sisters, the British faced both enemy resistance and friendly fire, but managed to capture their objectives. The toughest battle was at Mount Longdon. British forces were bogged down by rifle, mortar, machine gun, artillery and sniper fire, and ambushes. Despite this, the British continued their advance.

The second phase of attacks began on the night of 13 June, and the momentum of the initial assault was maintained. 2 Para, with light armour support from the Blues and Royals, captured Wireless Ridge, and the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards captured Mount Tumbledown. A simultaneous special forces raid by the SAS and SBS in fast boats to attack the oil tanks in Stanley Harbour was beaten off by anti-aircraft guns.

A ceasefire was declared on 14 June and Thatcher announced the commencement of surrender negotiations. The commander of the Argentine garrison in Stanley, Brigade General Mario Menéndez, surrendered to Major General Jeremy Moore the same day

The Falklands war resulted in the deaths of 255 British service personnel and three civilians. An estimated 300 servicemen were wounded. No official figures are available for Argentinian casualties, but it is estimated that at least 655 were killed.

Many people claim they want to help support their colleagues, friends, employees or family members accessing the mental health support they need but don’t know how. One of the most effective ways is early signposting and offering support. Signposting is simply pointing someone in the right direction for help and not necessarily being able to state the specific help they need; leave that to the doctors. It does not require someone to be a psychotherapist to signpost; they simply need to be aware of where help and support can be found. This doesn’t always have to be clinical intervention either, it can be support via chat rooms, peer support groups or charities etc. We spend a lot of time at work so the workplace can be a good place to signpost people. The development of a mentally healthy workplace with a positive culture can also aid recovery of those with a mental health condition.

The main issue surrounding people accessing the appropriate mental health support appears to not be that help isn’t there, but more that people are reluctant to access it. Over 1/3 of people with a mental health condition say they do not seek help.

For many taking that first step to accessing help may feel like being at the bottom of a tall wall; there’s no way over the barrier it presents. But with support anything is possible. Stigma and negative perceptions surrounding mental health and accessing help may explain why many people are reluctant to approach others for help. Improving public awareness of the services and resources that are available is only part of the solution. Barriers to accessing help can include practical difficulties in accessing the support, concerns about confidentiality and trust, a preference for informal sources of help, and stigma.

With regards to stigma, 81% of people claim that ‘feeling embarrassed or ashamed’ prevented them from seeking help. A similar number stated a ‘dislike of talking about my feelings, emotions, or thoughts’ was the reason. Over 60% claimed ‘not being able to afford the financial costs involved in seeking professional help’ was the main barrier to doing so. Others expressed concerns about what family, friends, or professionals would think if they were to seek help or receive a mental health diagnosis. This fear of perception is particularly prevalent amongst veterans.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5033305/

Veterans’ mental health issues may be made worse or caused by post-service factors, such as the difficulty in making the transition to civilian life, marital problems or loss of family and social support networks. Younger veterans are at higher risk of suicide in the first two years after leaving service. Ex-service personnel are also vulnerable to social exclusion and homelessness, both of which are risk factors for mental ill health. Alcohol misuse is also high among the veteran community.

A great starting point for accessing help is the Veterans Gateway. Accessible 24/7 by chat, text, voice call, email or app it’s a first point of contact for all veteran welfare needs. From healthcare and housing to employability, finances, and more. They can refer you directly to trusted partners to get the help and support you need.

Mental wellbeing

If you or your organisation are interested in developing a mentally healthy workplace or receiving training to better understand the impact of stigma, gain more confidence to signpost and know more about mental health contact info@zero78training.co.uk

In the summer of 1944, Allied forces launched a daring airborne operation to secure the River Rhine crossings and advance into northern Germany. Although it ultimately failed to achieve its objectives, the determination and courage shown by the airborne troops and the units that assisted them made Operation Market Garden one of the Second World War’s most famous battles.

Operation Market Garden – the plan

In the summer of 1944, General Bernard Law Montgomery came up with an ambitious scheme to cross the River Rhine and advance deep into northern Germany and shorten the war.

Codenamed Operation Market Garden, the plan involved the seizure of key bridges in the Netherlands by the 101st and 82nd US Airborne Divisions, along with 1st British Airborne Division who would land by parachute and glider.

Map of the south-east Netherlands, 1944

The British XXX Corps (30 Corps) could then advance over the bridges and cross the Rhine and its tributaries. The bridges were at Eindhoven, around 13 miles from the start line; Nijmegen, 53 miles; and Arnhem, 62 miles away, as well as two smaller bridges at Veghel and Grave that were situated between Eindhoven and Nijmegen.

If successful, the plan would liberate the Netherlands, outflank Germany’s formidable frontier defences, the Siegfried Line, and make an armoured drive possible into the Ruhr, the industrial heartland of Germany.

Operation Market Garden
C-47 transport aircraft dropping parachutists and supply canisters, Arnhem, 17 September 1944
Lieutenant Timothy Hall was wounded by mortar fragments on landing at Arnhem. His smock still shows battle damage.

Operation Market Garden Landings

The airborne divisions landed on 17 September and all the bridges were eventually captured in what was one of the largest airborne operations in history.

The plan failed largely because of XXX Corps’ inability to reach the furthest bridge at Arnhem before German forces overwhelmed the British defenders. The presence of German tanks, including elements of two SS Panzer divisions, had not been detected by Allied intelligence.

Type X Mk II Parachute pack of the type used by British paratroops at Arnhem, c1944
Distinguished Flying Medal awarded to Sergeant George Stremes who landed a damaged glider full of troops, 1944

Arnhem

Around 10,000 men from Major-General Roy Urquhart’s 1st British Airborne Division and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade landed at Arnhem. However, their landing zones were seven miles from the bridge at Arnhem. Only one battalion reached the objective while the remaining soldiers were squeezed into a pocket at Oosterbeek to the west.

Apart from a few anti-tank guns and howitzers modified to fit inside gliders, the lightly armed airborne troops had few heavy weapons with which to resist tanks.

XXX Corps

Although units of XXX Corps captured Nijmegen bridge in conjunction with the US 82nd Airborne Division, they could not reach the furthest bridge at Arnhem. Much of its advance was along a single narrow causeway, which was vulnerable to traffic jams and German counterattacks.

In some places the advance was hindered by marshes that prevented off-road movement. The Germans also showed a remarkable ability to put together scratch battle groups, fighting to delay the armoured columns throughout the battle.

Operation Market Garden
A bogged-down tank from the Guards Armoured Division, September 1944
Infantry hitch a ride on a tank of 4th Armoured Brigade, September 1944

Problems

Operations were also hampered by a shortage of transport aircraft, meaning the airborne troops could not be transported into the Netherlands all together, instead flying in three separate lifts.

The wooded landscape in Arnhem severely restricted the range of wireless sets, so communication failures also reduced the chance of success. Thick fog in England and low clouds over the battle zone hampered both resupply and the air-lifting of reinforcements.

Signal from Major-General Roy Urquhart, 1st Airborne Division, requesting aid to remedy his grim situation, 24 September 1944
British airborne soldiers unwrap a parapack dropped on a resupply flight, 18 September 1944

Evacuation

On 24-25 September 1944, about 2,100 troops from 1st Airborne Division were ferried back across the Rhine. Another 7,500 were either dead or prisoners of war.

The crossing of the Rhine and the capture of Germany’s industrial heartland were delayed for six months. The Allies would therefore have to fight their way into the Reich on a broad front.

Operation Market Garden – Failure

Despite being a costly failure, Operation Market Garden remains a remarkable feat of arms. This is not due to its strategic ambition, but because of the determination and courage shown by Allied airborne troops and the units that tried to reach them.

It also led to the liberation of a large part of the Netherlands at a time when many Dutch people were close to starvation.

Having always been fascinated by all things military, Roy Kendall joined the Royal Engineers in 1976 at the age of 16. He followed in the military footsteps of his father, who left a protected trade aged 19, leaving his family to go to war for five years, help protect his nation and get out of the London Docks area.

His father left the Royal Army Service Corps after VE, moving back in with family into a house with no electricity, no running water (there was a hand pump in the back garden), just outside Reading. Roy was born into this household and despite the difficult circumstances, his father has never been out of work and owns his own house despite suffering from Asperger’s.

Roy spent time living in apartheid South Africa, before spending three years in Hameln, Germany with 35 Engineer Regiment RE as a combat engineer. He then went on to Denmark and a construction tour in Northern Ireland, where had his first contact as a 19-year-old.

Having been made redundant from the Territorial Army after three years, Roy set up a company called Service Sports (Wetherby) Ltd, becoming involved with UK Special Forces based in Hereford and Poole, as well as the German KSK (the first time the Germans were allowed a special forces unit since 1945) on the concept, design, manufacture and supply of covert and overt carrying systems and clothing.

After 18 months of work alongside some great manufacturers, end users and people in between, they had completed ranges for hot/dry, hot/wet, cold/dry and cold/wet conditions. However, the MoD ‘reverse engineered’ the whole system, which went on to be the design for all tri-services combat clothing.

Despite this setback, Roy’s company has since supplied a variety of people doing some amazing things, including a Mountain Rescue Team that topped out on Everest, and Peter Bray, formerly of the SAS, who kayaked from Canada to Ireland on a totally unsupported solo trip that lasted for three months. As well as selling their own branded range, Roy’s company is also the sole distributor for some big names such as Under Armour Tactical.

Roy Kendall now leads a small but mighty team of 12 consisting of five veterans (four Royal Engineers, one Parachute Regiment) and this year had their best ever 12-month period in terms of sales, turning over £2,000,000 and growing by more than 25%.

He’s now setting up a project called Legacy Leavers, engaging with all 436 councils across the country that have signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant, on a six-person self-build housing project for veterans. The project aims to take six veterans off the street in each council area, give them enough land so they’re able, if they’re willing, to grow their own food and cash crops. They would reside in a safe, low-impact house made from hemp and using solar power.

Having had a difficult upbringing, educated in the sixth-worst ranked school in England and Wales and no business background, Roy Kendall is a veteran success story and continues to help so many fellow former service people whether it be the customers he serves, the people he employs or those he’s looking to help through his Legacy Leavers project. This is what we love to see here at DropZone, and we wish him every success for the future.

Headlines like the below will undoubtedly cause dismay, disbelief and desperation amongst many veterans who have served in Afghanistan during the last 20 years. Already there is much discontent being shown on social media around the heavy human price the UK and other nations’ military have paid, and for what gains?

Red Mist - Afghanistan
This anger is a natural emotion that many will rightly display in these circumstances, but we must keep it under control to minimise the detrimental impact it can have on our physical and mental health.

Being angry is normal, it can even be a healthy response when we feel threatened, deceived, frustrated, or discriminated against. It helps motivate us and keeps us safe as an integral part of our body’s natural freeze, fight or flight response. But if uncontrolled or poorly managed, our anger can become harmful and be as much of a threat as those things that well-managed anger protects us against. This unmanaged anger can be harmful not only to ourselves, but also to those around us including those we care about.

News that the Taliban now control Afghanistan will make many veterans angry as they try to reconcile the loss in terms of friends, colleagues and time away from families. At the close of combat operations in Afghanistan in 2015 the MOD reported 454 British Forces personnel had lost their lives. On top of this there will have been countless Afghanistan veterans who have taken their own lives. Estimates suggest as many as 20 veterans a year would suicide between 2001-2005, with some sources citing as many as 80 a year by 2019. Whilst there is no accurate way to identify how many veterans take their own lives and not all will have served in Afghanistan, it is reasonable to suggest the number is high and many will have served there.

So why might the anger generated by the situation in Afghanistan lead to a deterioration in the mental health of some veterans? Veterans will often display their anger through destructive or harmful behaviour which can be both physically and emotionally damaging to themselves and others. This may include violence, hitting things or being verbally abusive. This can also cause veterans to end up within the judicial system which we know can have a detrimental impact on a person’s mental health. Anger is a strong emotion and when it is present it often blocks out or denies us the opportunity to feel other emotions. We can start to hate ourselves and become isolated as we try to reconcile what is going on; in this case, why did we go to Afghanistan? Was it worth the losses? Another equally dangerous trait of anger is isolation, cutting ourselves off from others and refusing to speak about our feelings and emotions.

If we start to feel the red mist descend and experience a tightness in the chest, churning stomach, hot flushes, tense muscles, headaches, dizziness and trembling, we must seek help.

If we feel guilt, shame, betrayal, resentment or humiliation, we must seek help.

This is easier said than done when the ‘red mist’ descends but try to recognise the early warning signs within yourself that your anger is becoming unhelpful. Try breathing exercises or grounding techniques to calm down and bring yourself back to the present. Talk to a trusted friend or someone who shares your experiences; peer support is proven to be an excellent way to get through times of crisis. The Samaritans 24-hour helpline can also provide an outlet for you to talk to someone by calling 116 123.

If you have a huge amount of energy built up and it is at risk of exploding in anger, try and channel it into another activity such as sport or exercise. If you feel you must be destructive then do so in a way that doesn’t harm yourself or others such as hitting a punch bag or pillow, smashing ice cubes or tearing up magazines or newspapers. As with many issues surrounding the managing of our emotions, try to avoid alcohol and substances, try and get sufficient sleep and try to have a healthy diet.

If you do need professional help then your anger may be the thing that stops you getting this, either by preventing you engaging with professional services or having healthcare professionals reluctant to work with you due to fear generated by your outward displays of anger. Your GP should be able to support you in accessing therapy or counselling if it is felt this is needed and some NHS trusts and the charity Mind offer anger management training courses.

There is no doubt the current news coming out of Afghanistan will cause upset and anger amongst many of those who have served there. We should all try to focus our efforts on what we can control and don’t waste energy and emotions such as anger on what is outside of our control.

Remember: if you start to feel the ‘red mist’ descend – call a friend.

We wanted to take a look at some of the work our Veterans undertake when leaving the Forces, so in this next series of blogs we will be recounting the journeys and tales of some of our Forces veterans, highlighting their journeys, struggles and achievements along the way….it is not always pretty, nor do we always have a fairy tale ending, but this is the real life of a veteran.

On leaving the British Army in 1997 after 20 years in uniform, Chris North moved into the Humanitarian Demining and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) sector, clearing Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). This was the start of what would become a long journey across many parts of the globe, working in troubled and hazardous conflict and post-conflict areas.

Initially in those early days, with Handicap International, Chris worked predominantly in Bosnia and Kosovo.

He had always written poetry – the reasons behind that hail from the aftermath of an incident that is written about in Chris’s writing under the heading ‘These Things I Keep Inside’. At that time (and to this day to some extent) Chris’s writing was a kind of therapy. He would write about an issue or incident, read it a couple of times then he would burn it to banish the demons, sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t, but this practice continued for many years as a kind of ‘self-therapy’.

After a series of events that resulted in one of Chris’s poems, ‘War Trade’, being seen by a small-time publisher (who incidentally had a past of writing screen-plays for early porno movies). Chris was persuaded to stop destroying his work and eventually to publish some poetry.

He did this in three short collections, ‘Risky Business’, ‘War Trade’ and ‘Victory’ (the contents of all these are included in Chris’s Book). A certain amount of publicity followed as the books were selling and raising money for mine-action charities and to his horror Chris soon inherited the pseudonym ‘The Poet Deminer’.

– HE HATED IT – 

Over the years, as age mellows most things, he has come to accept this tag and has now decided to “brave the public” and publish his writings.

In doing so, he made a promise to be honest and to hold nothing back, so you get to see the vulnerabilities, the fears, the loves and the general chaos that makes up not only Chris, but possibly many other EOD operators plying their trade on the international aid and post-conflict circuit.

“So that is the start of this journey through the feelings, thoughts, emotions, ramblings, fears and loves – of The Poet Deminer – all laid bare, warts and all…… be kind when judging, even the old emotions are still very raw and painful at times, it’s not all pain and sorrow though, stick with it, there is so much joy to be seen too”.

Chris’ book can be purchased through Amazon here.

Royal Air Force (RAF), youngest of the three British armed services, charged with the air defence of the United Kingdom and the fulfilment of international defence commitments. It is the world’s oldest independent air force.

Origins of the Royal Air Force

Military aviation in the United Kingdom dates from 1878, when a series of experiments with balloons was carried out at Woolwich Arsenal in London. On 1 April, 1911, an air battalion of the Royal Engineers was formed, consisting of one balloon and one airplane company. Its headquarters was at South Farnborough, Hampshire, where the balloon factory was located.

Meanwhile, in February 1911 the Admiralty had allowed four naval officers to take a course of flying instruction on airplanes at the Royal Aero Club grounds at Eastchurch, Kent, and in December of that year the first naval flying school was formed there. On 13 May, 1912, a combined Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed, with naval and military wings and a Central Flying School at Upavon on Salisbury Plain. The specialised aviation requirements of the Royal Navy made it appear, however, that a separate organisation was desirable, and on 1 July, 1914, the naval wing of the RFC became the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), with the land-based wing retaining the title Royal Flying Corps.

By this point, the balloon factory had been renamed the Royal Aircraft Factory, and it undertook the design and manufacture of airframes and engines. A series of aircraft with the general designation “BE” (Blériot Experimental) resulted and did excellent service in the earlier stages of World War I. A number of private British designers also entered the field, and most of the aircraft in use in the British and Empire Air Services in the latter half of the war were products of British factories.

World War I

Upon the outbreak of World War I, the RFC, possessing 179 airplanes and 1,244 officers and men, sent an aircraft park and four squadrons to France on 13 August, 1914. Air-to-ground wireless telegraphy allowed aircraft to be used for reconnaissance and spotting for artillery. Soon, however, specialised types of aircraft were produced for fighting, bombing, reconnaissance, and aerial photography. Speeds increased from 60 to 150 miles (97 to 241 km) per hour and engine power from 70 to more than 400 horsepower before the end of the war.

The growth and versatility of the air forces had demonstrated that air power had a separate and essential role to play in modern warfare, independent of, but in closest cooperation with, the older services. Practical recognition of this fact was given, shortly before the end of the war, by the creation of the Royal Air Force. On 1 April, 1918, the RNAS and RFC were absorbed into the RAF, which took its place beside the navy and army as a separate service with its own ministry under a secretary of state for air. The RAF carried out its first independent operations during the closing months of the war in a series of strategic bombardments of targets in France and Germany by a specialised force of heavy bombers. The strength of the RAF in November 1918 was nearly 291,000 officers and airmen. It possessed 200 operational squadrons and nearly the same number of training squadrons, a total of 22,647 aircraft.

The interwar years

The peacetime pattern for the RAF provided for 33 squadrons, of which 12 would be based in the United Kingdom and 21 overseas. Since the prospect of another European war was regarded as remote, the squadrons at home served as a strategic reserve for overseas reinforcement and as service training units for personnel prior to their posting to squadrons abroad. The preponderance in numbers of the overseas squadrons resulted largely from the system evolved by the air staff and adopted by the government of making use of air power as an economical method of maintaining order throughout the British Empire. During the 15 years from 1920 onward, relatively small air forces repeatedly crushed incipient uprisings in Somaliland, in the Aden protectorate, and on the northwest frontier of India. In Iraq, between 1920 and 1932, the RAF exercised military control of the country with a force of eight squadrons of aircraft and two or three companies of armoured cars.

To train permanent officers for the flying branch of the service, a cadet college was established at Cranwell, Lincolnshire, in 1920. The RAF staff college was opened in 1922 at Andover, Hampshire. The need for trained mechanics possessing the various skills particular to a military aviation service, was met by the School of Technical Training at Halton, Buckinghamshire, where boys 15 years of age were received as apprentices for a three-year course in their chosen trade. In order to ensure a constant supply of pilots and to build up a reserve, a short-service commission scheme was introduced in 1919. Young men were commissioned for four years (subsequently increased to six), of which the first year was spent in training, followed by service in active squadrons. At the conclusion of their engagement, they passed to the reserve of air force officers for a further period of four years. Some years later a medium-service scheme, with 10 years’ regular service followed by a period in the reserve, was introduced as an alternative. In 1925 an organisation known as the Auxiliary Air Force was formed. Its members gave part-time service, undergoing flying and technical training on weekends and during holiday periods. By the outbreak of World War II, this force possessed a number of highly trained fighter squadrons, which did such good service throughout the war that the prefix “royal” was added to its title at the end of hostilities.

By 1923 the prospects of permanent peace in Europe appeared less certain, and a substantial increase in air defence expenditure was decided upon. The first steps toward implementing this decision were taken in 1925, when a new command, the Air Defence of Great Britain, was set up, with a proposed ultimate strength of 52 squadrons of fighters and bombers stationed in the United Kingdom. There were, however, delays in the build-up of the force, and eight years later, when Adolf Hitler attained power in Germany, the RAF possessed only 87 squadrons, regular and auxiliary, at home and overseas. With the rapid deterioration of the international outlook in Europe, expansion was greatly increased and accelerated. From 1936 onward the aircraft industry received powerful financial aid from the government to enable additional factories to be built to increase production, while many automobile firms turned their work over to the construction of complete aircraft or their components. To provide the crews for the additional aircraft, the RAF Volunteer Reserve and the Civil Air Guard were formed to give training at civilian schools and flying clubs. University air squadrons, the first of which had been formed soon after World War I to teach undergraduates to fly and to encourage them to join the RAF as regular officers, greatly expanded their activities. The Auxiliary Air Force, meanwhile, formed captive balloon units to provide protective barrages for heavily populated areas and especially vulnerable points. A part-time Observer Corps (later the Royal Observer Corps) had been formed some years earlier to give warning of impending attack by enemy aircraft and was now considerably expanded.

The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), a re-creation of the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) of World War I, came into being as a separate service in June 1939, out of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, an army-sponsored organisation which had been formed a year earlier and had recruited special air force companies. (In 1949 the WAAF became the WRAF once more.) Finally, though this did not occur until 1941, the Air Training Corps (ATC) replaced the air defence cadet units and the school air cadet corps of the immediate pre-war years. In the ATC, boys received some preliminary air force training with a view to their eventual entry into the RAF.

At the outbreak of war on 3 September, 1939, the first-line strength of the RAF in the United Kingdom was about 2,000 aircraft. These were grouped as follows: Fighter Command, concerned with home defence, with a small component detached to the expeditionary force in France until that country was overrun in June 1940; Bomber Command, for offensive action in Europe; and Coastal Command, for the protection of maritime routes, under the operational direction of the navy. There were also Balloon, Maintenance, Reserve, and Training commands. Army Cooperation Command was created in 1940 and Ferry Command (subsequently expanded into Transport Command) in 1941.

In order to provide the numbers required to crew the rapidly expanding front line strength and to compensate for the heavy casualties suffered, training programs were undertaken in many parts of the Commonwealth early in the war. Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined to operate the Empire Air Training Scheme, under which each of them recruited and trained pilots, navigators and radio operators for service with the RAF. In addition, since the United Kingdom was the main base for operations against the Axis forces and was itself under constant threat of air attack, flying training became virtually impossible there, and great numbers of aircrew pupils were sent to Canada, South Africa, and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to receive their training at schools specially established for the purpose. From June 1941 (six months before the United States entered the war) until the end of hostilities, British aircrew were also trained at civilian-operated schools in the United States.

Over the course of the war, techniques were developed for landing individuals or bodies of troops behind enemy lines by means of parachutes or gliders. The RAF cooperated with the army in the training and transport of parachutists and in towing troop-carrying gliders, whose soldier-pilots flew and landed them in the selected area when cast off by the towing aircraft. One other innovation was the formation of the RAF regiment for the protection of aerodromes against enemy attack. Armed with light antiaircraft weapons as well as with the ordinary infantry armament, they were trained on commando lines. They normally served under the orders of the local air force commander but were so organised that they could fit smoothly into the army command structure in the face of a widespread enemy threat.

The Royal Air Force would conduct operations around the globe throughout World War II, but nowhere was its role more conspicuous than during the Battle of Britain. On 10 July, 1940, the German air campaign began when the Luftwaffe attempted to clear the English Channel of British convoys. In this they were partially successful because their low-flying aircraft could not be detected on British radar. On 8 August the Germans expanded their attacks to British fighter airfields in southern Britain, and by the end of August night raids were being carried out throughout the kingdom. On 25 August the Germans accidentally bombed London, and the British at once retaliated with a token attack on Berlin. Hitler and Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring then decided to break the morale of Londoners as they had done to the citizens of Warsaw, Poland, and Rotterdam, Netherlands. On 7 September, 1940, the Germans began a series of raids on the capital city that Luftwaffe commanders believed would see the end of the RAF, for they hoped that British Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding would send all his available forces to defend London. Instead, Dowding utilised Chain Home, the most advanced early-warning radar system in the world, to dispatch his limited resources to meet threats as they appeared. At the end of September, Göring, having already lost more than 1,650 aircraft, was forced to change to high-altitude night raids that had limited strategic value. Not only had the RAF won the battle over Britain, but it had also defeated a project to invade Britain by sea by destroying the barges and landing craft that the Germans had been assembling. Above all, Dowding proved that an air force could, contrary to accepted military doctrine, fight a successful defensive battle. Of the RAF’s conduct in the Battle of Britain, Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

In the meantime, great air forces were built up in North Africa, Italy, Burma (now Myanmar) and elsewhere. In the seesaw battles in North Africa, the British learned a great deal about highly mobile air warfare. Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder developed not only a mobile logistical system but also the technique of leapfrogging squadrons from airfield to airfield so that he always had operational units while others were redeploying. Beginning in March 1940, the RAF began to bomb targets in Germany, and the British strategic bombing campaign against German cities, industry, and infrastructure would continue throughout the war. With the conclusion of the battle for North Africa, the RAF Desert Air Force transitioned to support the Allied campaign in Italy, and the RAF was instrumental in the success of the Allied invasion of Normandy. Transport aircraft were widely used in campaigns all over Asia to convey vast quantities of food, ammunition, and even vehicles and guns. Isolated bodies of troops in difficult terrain were supplied for protracted periods entirely by parachute. It was mainly by means of the airlift that the Burma campaign was carried to a successful conclusion. These monumental undertakings were reflected by an equally dramatic expansion in numerical strength. By the time the war ended, RAF personnel numbered 963,000, with 153,000 women in the WAAF.

Post-World War II developments

When the wartime forces were demobilised in 1945, the total strength of the RAF was reduced to about 150,000. The subsequent deterioration in the international outlook led to a fresh expansion in 1951. By 1956 the total strength was up to 257,000, but by the early 1960s it had again retracted to about 150,000 (including 6,000 women in the WRAF), the majority of whom were stationed in the U.K. or in Europe as part of NATO forces. The RAF regiment remained after the war as a regular arm of the service, tasked with securing airfields and providing forward air control personnel to British army and Royal Marine ground forces. The WRAF became a regular service in 1949, and in April 1994 it was merged with the RAF.

RAF troop strength had declined significantly by the second decade of the 21st century as part of an overall force-reduction strategy implemented by the British military. With some 35,000 troops and fewer than 150 fixed-wing combat aircraft, the RAF was a smaller, more-focused force than it had been in previous years. Despite its reduced size, the RAF remained a potent instrument for projecting British influence across the globe, as demonstrated in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The RAF also participated in the 2011 NATO air campaign in Libya and conducted operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Aircraft and equipment of the Royal Air Force

Though most of World War II was fought in the air with aircraft powered by piston engines, the last year of hostilities witnessed the entry on both sides of the newly developed jet engine, which by the early 1960s had almost entirely ousted the piston engine in the RAF. The great increase in speed and climb conferred by jet engines pointed to their value in fighters, and it was in this field that re-equipment first took place, the early Meteors and Vampires leading on to the Vulcans, Lightnings, and V/STOL (vertical/short take-off and landing) Hawker Harriers of the mid-1960s. The bomber force was built up as the strategic deterrent, and by 1966 its main armament consisted of Handley Page Victor B.2 and Vulcan B.2 medium bombers, of which a number were armed with Blue Steel air-to-surface nuclear standoff missiles. Over time, the RAF phased out its strategic bomber force entirely, and in 1969 its nuclear deterrence mission passed to the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet.

The re-equipment of the bomber force led to fierce controversy over the respective merits of the British TSR 2 and the U.S. swing-wing F-111A; the government decided on the latter, but its order was later withdrawn for economic reasons, and no major re-equipment then took place. The Panavia Tornado, a multirole sweep-wing combat aircraft, entered service in 1979 and would serve as the backbone of British air power for the next 40 years. In addition to the Tornado, the RAF fielded the Eurofighter Typhoon, a delta-wing multirole aircraft that entered service in 2003. The Tornado was retired in 2019 and replaced with the F-35 Lightning, a multirole aircraft also known as the Joint Strike Fighter.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Britain’s strategic transport force consisted of Britannia’s, Belfast long-range freighters, and VC-10 troop transports, each of the last-named capable of carrying 150 men or a number of armoured vehicles. As these aircraft were retired, there were no obvious successors, and during the Falkland Islands War the British military was forced to rely on civilian aircraft for its transport needs. In time this shortfall was addressed with the addition of such planes as the C-17 Globemaster and the C-130 Hercules.

Increasing use was made of helicopters, especially for tactical support of the army. In 1999 the British military’s battlefield rotary-wing aircraft were gathered under the umbrella of the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC). This inter-service command was created to better coordinate the attack, rescue, and support capabilities of British helicopter forces.

 

 

Link to source of production:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Royal-Air-Force

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Royal Air Force”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 Feb. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Royal-Air-Force. Accessed 18 May 2021.

There are many things we can be certain of in life and one of those is that some blokes like to have a chat over a beer. It’s also fair to say that life can throw as much misfortune at us as it does fortune. But in this day and age when it is well documented that most men will not talk about their mental health, is having a pint part of the problem, or can it be part of the solution?

There is so much in the media and many academic studies published about how consumption of alcohol is detrimental to our health and in particular our mental health. There are however some studies out there that suggest a moderate amount of certain types of alcohol such as red wine may be beneficial at times. This causes a dilemma in that, am I better to ask a mate to have a beer if I think he’ll open up and talk about what’s distressing him or do I totally avoid the alcohol permissive situation but acknowledge he may end up bottling up his issues (no pun intended). If I can’t stop him from drinking alcohol, should I offer to go for a beer and a chat rather than let him sit drinking on his own, dwelling about the difficulties he’s experiencing?

This debate will be a heavyweight contest with very strong views on both sides, but in the blue corner we have the argument for abstaining completely and supporting the view that alcohol and mental health should never mix. Some of the most common conditions that occur with excessive alcohol consumption include depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Alcohol is often used to self-medicate and improve the mood but is very habit forming and people can start to need more alcohol to maintain the ‘happier feeling’. In 2018 the Lancet published two studies showing the best option for our health was an intake of zero levels of alcohol. Heavy alcohol use directly affects brain function and alters various brain chemical (i.e., neurotransmitter) and hormonal systems known to be involved in the development of many common mental disorders so avoiding alcohol will surely prevent this being a factor in developing mental health conditions.

In the Red-On corner we feel drinking responsibly and in moderation is OK. We see it as part of an existing social culture that has existed for many years and will likely remain for many more. Research shows that excessive alcohol consumption in itself does not produce behavioural conditions but acknowledges it can exacerbate mental illness where it already exists. We don’t suggest consuming alcohol to improve health, but rather that in moderation, the disadvantages are balanced against the benefits of the social interaction associated with it. Every time we get in a car we are at risk, but we don’t advocate no driving at all; so why do we do the same with alcohol? In the same year the Lancet published the blue corner’s two reports saying we shouldn’t drink alcohol, the PLOS Medicine journal published a report claiming light drinking was better than zero consumption of alcohol. A further study in 2017 by Oxford University suggested that going for a beer increased our feelings of social connection and subsequently improved our wellbeing.

People who develop both a mental health condition and alcohol dependency have what is termed a dual diagnosis. The signs and symptoms can include social isolation, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, loss of energy and motivation, trouble concentrating and neglecting personal and professional responsibilities. Treatment will need to be a blend of detoxification and rehabilitation providing the person is accepting of their situation and isn’t held back because of stigma and discrimination.

In the same way we will all have individual, unique mental health, we will all respond to the effects of alcohol in an individual way. So, two beers or not two beers remains a very complex question in particular when faced with the dilemma: is having a beer and a chat likely to help or not?

You may remember as far back as May, yes, last month.

We ran a competition to find out who you considered to be the Heroes/Heroines in your lives.

The feedback we received was remarkable, it was very heart-warming and humbling to read the nominations put forward.

What is a hero/heroine? Well, the Cambridge dictionary puts it simplest of all: a person who is admired for having done something very brave or having achieved something great. And that’s exactly who the four selected nominees are.

Our first competition winner was Bradley Godkin, a member of the United States Airforce. His family really got behind him with this nomination, so much so that it would’ve been hard to ignore the Cambridge dictionary definition of being a hero.

The second is Tim MacDonald, formerly of the Royal Air Force and Standard Bearer for the RAF in Norwich. Tim was nominated by his good friend Alan, who had nothing but good words to say about him. Tim, thank you for your continued service and good work in the veteran community, you are indeed a hero.

Lee Rulton was our third nominated winner. Lee is a former Royal Engineer, having served with 59 Independent Commando Squadron RE. Lee recently embarked on a fundraising event to raise money and awareness for PROMPT Maternity Foundation, whose training undoubtedly saved the lives of his wife, Hannah, and their baby during childbirth. Lee walked the entire Southwest coast, covering 630+ miles in just 19 days and managed to raise a whopping £14,880 (correct at the time of writing this). A selfless and giving hero indeed.

Ben Parkinson MBE was our fourth and final nominated winner for the month of May. Ben Parkinson MBE is a former British paratrooper, veterans’ campaigner and author. He is the most severely wounded soldier to survive the War in Afghanistan. Both his legs were amputated, he broke his back and suffered lasting brain damage when the Land Rover he was travelling in struck a landmine in 2006. He defied his doctors’ expectations by learning to walk and talk again and regularly raises money for veterans’ charities. His case forced the Ministry of Defence to significantly increase compensation pay-outs to wounded British soldiers. Ben, you are indeed an inspiration to us all and we salute you.

We think you’ll agree that the four nominated winners should indeed be considered to be heroes by the very definition of the word, including our own perceptions of what a hero might be.

We thank you all for your selfless commitment, and sacrifices, and wish you all the best for the future. Our only hope is that the beer you will all receive from DropZone Brewery is worthy.

Due to the overwhelming popularity of this competition, and the fact there are so many who we feel deserve all our appreciation, we will be running another competition, so watch out for announcements on our social media channels.