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The FlyerBritish Culture and the Royal Air Force 1939–1945$
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Martin Francis

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199277483

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199277483.001.0001

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The Allure of the Flyer

The Allure of the Flyer

(p.14) 1 The Allure of the Flyer
The Flyer

Martin Francis

Oxford University Press

This chapter opens with a discussion of the status of the Royal Air Force (RAF) flyer in British culture at the beginning of the Second World War. It then moves on to detail the main constituents of the allure which had attached itself to the flyboys by the winter of 1940–1, and which were to remain an enduring part of their appeal for the remainder of the war. It grants particular significance to the RAF's glamorous blue uniform and the particular magnetism of the fabric wings worn above the right upper jacket pocket, which indicated that the bearer was an operational pilot. Perhaps the most powerful testimony to the star appeal of the flyer was the close association between the air war and popular cinema. The arresting image of master bomber Guy Gibson relaxing by the swimming pool of legendary Hollywood director Howard Hawks is merely one example of the personal and creative relationships which were fostered between real-life RAF heroes and the world of the silver screen. It certainly provides a striking illustration of one of the major themes of this book: that the popular representation of the flyer was shaped by, and reflected the sensibilities of, a wider culture which lay beyond the airfield perimeter.

Keywords:   uniform, wings, British culture, Second World War, Hollywood

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