RAF at 100: The Royal Air Force and me

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aircraft mix
Credit: Andrea Fetherby/Mike Freer

Easter Sunday 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the world’s first independent air force. Breaking away from the Royal Flying Corps, a branch of the army, and the Royal Naval Air Service, a branch of the navy, the new Royal Air Force (RAF) was the world’s most powerful air force. With 290,000 personnel and 23,000 aircrafts, the RAF began their first mission over the western front of World War I.

Now, a century later, the RAF is launching a national campaign to mark its centenary. Events will be held across the UK, including a centrepiece service, parade and flypast in London on July 10.

Credit: Ralph Allmond

In the last 100 years, there have been hundreds of thousands of men and women who have served their country in the RAF. In this article, I want to share my story of the two RAF servicemen who have impacted my life: my great-grandfather and my father.

In 1922, just four years after the RAF was born, my great-grandfather was. Douglas Roy Fuller would go on to join the RAF and serve in the Second World War. Flight Sergeant Fuller served as a navigator on one of the most recognised aircraft of WWII after the Spitfire. He flew as part of operational sorties on board the Lancaster Heavy Bomber (left image at top of the article) over France and Germany. At the end of the war, he began work for the organisation that would become the Ministry of Defence. There, he helped develop operational radar systems. In 1982, his work was recognised by the Imperial Service Medal. This medal joined the 1939-45 Star, the War Medal and the France and Germany Star, which he had been awarded for his service during WWII.

In 1970, Douglas Roy Fuller’s grandson, my father, was born. At the age of 20, Ralph Allmond fulfilled his boyhood dream and joined the RAF. Dad served as a weapons systems operator, conducting sonar exercises and reconnaissance photography, aboard the Nimrod MR2 (right image at top of the article) as part of No. 201 Squadron (one of the RAF’s oldest squadrons) and then No. 120 Squadron. He then moved to instructing on the Nimrod simulator as part of No. 42 Squadron. He finished his RAF career as part of the Operations Wing at RAF Kinloss. He is now a primary school teacher going by the title Mr Allmond, but Master Aircrew Allmond finished his first career in December 2012, having served for 21 years 311 days.

Credit: Ralph Allmond

I only met my great-grandfather a handful of times before he passed away in 2012 and his career has had no real impact on my life. However, I lived with my dad for 18 years.

In 2003, just months before my fifth birthday, dad deployed to Iraq as part of the joint-coalition invasion. Between then and 2012 he would serve across the world and miss a number of birthdays and Christmases. I was too young to understand why he wasn’t there but now, at nearly 20, I’m able to use the RAF centenary to reflect.

Throughout school, and now university, there are a certain number of moral questions that are posed to students at various points. One of these is my opinion on war. Having a parent who serves in war gives this question a slightly different dimension. I’ve come to realise, though, that you don’t have to support a war to be proud of those who choose to risk their lives in it.

No one asked my dad to join the RAF but he did. Not for a sense of glory or fame, but a sense of service. I’m lucky for two reasons. Firstly, I’m able to call my dad a hero and mean it. A man who went where he was told, did what he was told and risked his life in the way he was told in order that we can sleep safely at night. Secondly, I can still call him up and call him dad. He came home, not everyone did, not all of his friends did.

Speaking about the centenary celebrations, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, said: “The celebrations are a fitting recognition and thank you to the exceptional dedication, spirit and achievements of our men and women. They also encourage us to look to the future: the greatest legacy of RAF100 will be its ability to inspire a whole new generation so that together we can help shape our next century.”

If you’ve read this far, then thank you. But this is mainly an article for me to show my own appreciation to the thousands of men and women who’ve served their country valiantly over the past 100 years.

To the current 36,890 people enlisted in the RAF, all of the veterans from the past 100 years, my great-grandfather and my dad in particular.

Thank you.

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  1. A beautifully written article Finlay. I also know your Dad well, first as his instructor on 42Sqn and then serving with him on 120Sqn and 42Sqn for many years. Say Hi to him for me.

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