The Battle Above the Somme

The Battle Above the Somme

The First World War battle of the Somme continues, to this day, to fascinate and appal in equal measures. Much has been written about the ground war the first day of which saw the greatest number of British casualties than had occurred before in the entire history of the British Army… 19,240 were dead and 38,230 injured. The fighting over a 16 mile front lasted almost 5 months, after which the Allied troops had advanced about 6 miles. The butchers bill of casualties was horrendous. The combined Commonwealth countries number reached nearly 60,000 but was dwarfed by the United Kingdom’s casualty number of over 350,000. The battle opened on the 1st of July 1916 with a massed explosion that ranks amongst the largest non nuclear explosions in history and was then considered the loudest human made sound to date, audible beyond London 160 miles away.  It was witnessed by an 18 year old RFC pilot.



The mine under Hawthorn Ridge


Then the dust cleared and we saw the two white eyes of the craters


Going over the top


The la Boisselle mine crater now and then.


Pip’s landing


The Fokker Eindecker


Bristol Fighters


A dogfight


The battlefield



Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to British First World War Air Service Photo Section, Ernest Brooks, Henry Armytage Sanders, H. D. Girdwood, the RFC and the IWM.

Batman and Robin

Batman and Robin

Robin Olds was a hard drinking, hard working man who led from the front in a way that inspired his men to become a great fighting force. He only became frustrated when he saw mistakes being made by those above him who should have known better and he went out of his way to make his feelings known. He defined what it meant to be a fighter pilot, not only in the air but on the ground with the stunningly beautiful Hollywood actress, Ella Raines, the first of his 4 wives.

The court-martial of General William “Billy” Mitchell 1925



West Point students


A P-38 Lightning

A digital representation of SCAT II


A Bf109


Olds and his P51 Mustang SCAT VI


A P80 Shooting Star


The Gloster Meteor


An F86 Sabre of the 71st, Hat in the Ring Sqn


The F4 Phantom


Robin Olds completes his 100th combat mission


Robin Olds in Vietnam after his 4th Mig kill


Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to those images in the Public Domain, the Bundesarchive, the USAF, Digital Combat Simulator, Ruffneck88, USAF National Museum and RuthAS.

The Grade 2 Listed Centrifuge

The Grade 2 Listed Centrifuge

A recent news programme caught my eye when I realised it involved our great friends at the Farnborough Aviation Sciences Trust museum. It reminded me of the group of sadistic so-called doctors who populated the Institute of Aviation Medicine and tortured generations of unsuspecting and innocent RAF aircrew in machines such as the one the article featured, a centrifuge! This aforementioned device which resembles a vast witch’s ducking stool crossed with an iron maiden, first operated in 1955 but was decommissioned as recently as 2019 and has now received Grade 2 protection.


The Institute of Aviation Medicine


The Farnborough Centrifuge


The Cecil Hotel with it’s red and white ornate frontage


The august medical journal, the Lancet


Early versions of oxygen masks


An early mobile decompression chamber


Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to the RAF, FAST museum, The Library of Congress, those images within the Public Domain and the National Museum of Health & Medicine.


RAF Form 414, Vol. 17

RAF Form 414, Vol. 17

The story of my military flying career continues with the new challenge of flying the FA/18 Hornet round the beautiful skies of Australia.


The official crest of No 77 Sqn RAAF with its Grumpy Monkey


The 77 Sqn Mirages


The helmet fitting


An FA/18A cockpit





The Head Up Display


The location of RAAF Williamtown


Firing the gun


Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to Nick Anderson and Google Earth.