Monocular Memoir: A Pilot's Life by Michael Williams
This delightful memoir of Mike Williams life and times will stir many memories. Cranwellians of the late 1950s and early 60s engaged in their jet conversion to Vampires will recall a good looking and sympathetic instructor who had the time and sense to make this testing time a pleasure rather than a trial. Mike stood out then as a man with charm and style. Throughout his career, Mike retained that charm and easy going approach which made him so popular in the Royal Air Force, with the other services and in the civilian world. But behind that aura lay a great professionalism and strength of character, so necessary for a test pilot, the operations floor at the Ministry of Defence and Station Commander at the Central Flying School. Without that inner core of steel, it is unlikely he would have continued to fly after the loss of one eye, and in the process become something of a legend. Looking through his Record of Service, from 1954 Initial Training at Kirton Lindsey to his retirement as Deputy Commandant at Cranwell 1984, one is struck by the number of bases no longer in being with the RAF. Kirton Lindsey, Middleton St George, Chivenor, Stradishall, Waterbeach, Little Rissington, Aden, Manby-all of them in their day lively, important stations and ones which had a profound influence on the many young men and women who spent time there. The ghosts of those days peep out from the pages of this book. They bear witness to just how great the changes have been to the RAF and how much smaller it is today. It would be easy to suggest that the era Mike Williams describes was more fun, more varied and more interesting than the essentially UK based service of today despite the fact that the RAF has been almost permanently on operations abroad since 1991. In reality, the world has changed and the armed services have had to change with it. But young men and women still join the military for much the same reason as did Mike, and they still get the satisfaction from achievements in the air and on the ground as did he. What I hope those of the modern generation who read this book will learn is that professionalism can accommodate graciousness and charm, a life outside the service without in any way compromising excellence.