John Crampton talks about John Farley's
This is a good
book. No it isn't, it's a very good book - in fact a very, very good
book. It gets Nine Plus out of Ten. Beautifully written and produced,
and so well designed. The chapters outline his experiences and at the
end of some is an annexe describing what common pilots like me call
Chinese flute music - mysterious mathematical formulae to help clever
Dicks appreciate his descriptions of flight and flying, all mostly well
over my head. Warning, there's a strange paragraph at the top of page
227 in which he gives his opinion of me: "Well suited for playing the
lead in a social farce in a West End theatre." And "the sort of bloke
who makes Hugh Grant seem like a builder's labourer." I'll give you my
opinion of Farley a little later.
The book is so immensely helpful. For instance, under Chapter
1 on page 3 is written "Start Here". Clearly he thinks we are all a
bunch of idiots who, having bought the book, will look at it and wonder
where to start. Has there ever been another book telling the reader
where to start?
Anyway, if it is the good book I have said it is in my first paragraph
why does it not get Ten out of Ten? Here I have to be very careful;
it's as if I'm about to start walking on very thin ice indeed. Here
goes. In Chapter 15 (after Chapter 14 and before Chapter 16 as Farley
would no doubt explain) there is a paragraph which dam' near took my
breath away. He gives his opinion of the aeroplanes which will stand
the test of time and hindsight. After dribbling on a bit, and a
name-dropping line-shoot about boozing with Adolph Galland in Hamburg
one night, he quotes him as saying that the Me109 was not amongst the
best because it was too tricky to land" and that constitutes a
fundamental flaw for a service type." And then, here it comes, back to
Farley: "Not for me the Hurricane either, because, unlike the Spitfire,
it was not developed to its full potential."
Well, maybe it's my fault; perhaps I'm too sensitive about the Hawker
Hurricane and maybe some of you will have no comment to make on
Farley's viewpoint. So let's take that dreadfully overrated aeroplane,
the Spitfire, first. Those who flew it, and I flew a number of its
Marks, will remember the long engine cowling that stretched ahead of
the windscreen denying you forward, and downward, view, especially when
approaching to land and while taxying. OK? Compare that to the
Hurricane with its raised cockpit and far better forward view. But much
more important; back down memory lane to the early 1930s.
The time had come to produce a high speed fighter aircraft. The days of
the biplane were over; the low wing monoplane had to be introduced. But
Hawkers had never produced a monoplane fighter and so Chief Designer
Sydney Camm and his team had to start from scratch. Their work was
exemplary - brilliant. They got it right; and what a responsibility!
The Hurricane made its maiden flight on November 6th 1935 and George
Bullman, the Company's Chief Test Pilot, expressed his delight in the
aircraft's handling and performance; and so did the RAF's test pilots.
Sopwith authorised immediate preparation for production without waiting
for a Government order, so pressing was the threat of war. In 1940
Hurricanes accounted for more enemy aircraft losses than all our other
defences, yes, Spitfires included. Pause for a moment. If there'd been
a problem with the Hurricane and its production delayed for any reason,
the German Air Force would have shot the few Spitfires we had out of
the sky or blown them up at their airfields. Invasion from Germany
would have followed. Think of the havoc, the terrifying damage and
destruction to our fair land.
Now how does the Hurricane stand in the test of time and hindsight? You
choose. But why did he write this? Well, the dear old lad is a great
one for argument; loves an argy-bargy. You can almost hear him
thinking, what will upset old goons like Crampton? I know, I'll write
something about the Hurricane that could be taken as derogatory; bound
to set the old idiots off. But no, on reflection it could not have been
like that. Now I'll tell you what Farley's really like.
Forgive the personal and delicate nature of what follows. In February
last year my darling wife died. I nearly went to pieces I adored her
so. Shortly afterwards Farley rang and asked how we both were, and so I
had to tell him. He detected my distress and said, "I'll be with you in
an hour." Not for him the question, would you like me to call?
Tomorrow? Next week, perhaps? An old Hawker mate was in distress so he
immediately stopped what he was doing, and Farley does not do just one
thing at a time, he does at least six. And he duly arrived, simply to
give me company. It's the loneliness that kills under those awful
circumstances, and he knew it. That's the man, and you should know it.
And now you do.
No, clearly the
poor fellow must have been ill to write what he did about the
Hurricane. His illness robbed him of his memory about the Hurricane's
history. Maybe he'll drop that dreadful Hurricane paragraph at the
book's second printing and replace it with a song of praise for the men
who designed and built the aircraft. They saved our country.
In the rest of the book Chapter 16, General Aviation Thoughts, is
nearly the best of the book and all who have their own aircraft, or are
thinking of buying one, MUST read it. There should be a law against
anyone in the future getting a Private Pilots Licence if they have not
read it. So, I'll forget about the Hurricane thing and give him Ten out
of Ten. It is the best book about flying you will ever read.
(See also Book Reviews, pages 7-8)