The Life of Viscount Trenchard, Father of the Royal Air Force
By Russell Miller
The definitive biography of the father of the Royal Air Force.
Hugh 'Boom' Trenchard was embarrassed by being described as 'The Father of the Royal Air Force' - he thought others were more deserving. But the reality was that no man did more to establish the world's first independent air force and ensure its survival in the teeth of fierce opposition from both the Admiralty and the War Office.
Born in Taunton in 1873, Trenchard struggled at school, not helped by the shame of his solicitor father's bankruptcy when he was sixteen. He failed entrance examinations to both the Royal Navy and the Army several times, eventually obtaining a commission through the 'back door' of the militia. After service in India, South Africa - where he was seriously wounded - and Nigeria, he found his destiny when he joined the fledgling Royal Flying Corps in 1912, where he was soon known as 'Boom' thanks to his stentorian voice.
Quick to recognise the huge potential aircraft offered in future conflicts, he rose rapidly to command the RFC in France during the First World War despite handicaps that would have blighted conventional military careers: he was obstinate, tactless, inarticulate and chronically unable to remember names - yet he was able to inspire unflagging loyalty among all ranks.
Despite his conspicuous distrust of politicians, he served as a successful Chief of the Air Staff for a decade after the war and then, at the personal request of the King, took over as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, which he reorganised and reformed. He never wavered in his belief that mastery of the air could only be achieved by relentless offensive action, or in his determined advocacy of strategic bombing. His most enduring legacy was the creation of the finest air force in the world, engendered with the spirit that won the Battle of Britain.
Russell Miller is a prize-winning journalist and the author of eleven previous books. He was born in east London in 1938 and began his career in journalism at the age of sixteen. While under contract to the SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE he won four press awards and was voted Writer of the Year by the Society of British Magazine Editors. His book MAGNUM, on the legendary photo agency, was described by John Simpson as 'the best book on photo-journalism I have ever read', and his oral histories of D-Day, NOTHING LESS THAN VICTORY, and the Special Operations Executive, BEHIND THE LINES, were widely acclaimed. His bestselling authorised biography of Field Marshal Slim of Burma was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2013.
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- Publication date:
14 Apr 2016
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One of the most enjoyable paradoxes of Russell Miller's engaging biography is that, while instinct tells you that Hugh Montague Trenchard - grunting and bellicose, nicknamed 'Boom' on account of his habitual bellowing - must have been an utter horror to deal with, he none the less exerts fascination and occasionally sympathy, too . . . [Trenchard's] early adventures - involving everything from rampaging Boers to poisontipped darts and sabotaged cooking pots containing swarms of furious bees - are pure Flashman . . . Miller's coverage of the role of flight in the First World War is compelling and illuminating . . . Boom gives a magnetic and colourful portrait of the sort of life that could simply never be lived now. — Sinclair McKay, DAILY TELEGRAPH
'Enormously readable' — John Ure, COUNTRY LIFE
Journalist Russell Miller uncovers the life of Hugh Trenchard, who joined the fledgling Royal Flying Corps in 1912 and saw a rapid rise to commander of the RFC in France after the outbreak of World War I. Through persistence and hard work, he secured the future of the RAF after the war, and eventually became its first Marshal. An outspoken force even in retirement, his advocacy of offensive action and strategic bombing still divides opinion to this day — FAMILY TREE MAGAZINE
Russell Miller's comprehensive biography of a tricky man whose fight often seemed to be as much with colleagues and superiors as with the enemy... Boom is an admirable primer on the early development of air power — Allan Mallinson, THE TIMES