Book review: The Ragged Trousered Airman
The book is an account of Jack Davidson’s experiences in the RAF during the second world war. He joined the RAF to avoid being conscripted into the army, where he thought he was more likely to be shot. However, after his initial training, he was instructed as a machine gunner and put on anti-aircraft gun posts. He then trained as a ground observer and eventually ended up travelling through twelve countries, including Africa, India, Iraq, Russia and Egypt.
His is a personal story of his war, told in anecdotes about his adventures with comrades, sometimes in dangerous situations. It is all told in a very chatty style, so easy to read, as though he is talking to the reader. The only irritation is his occasionally putting some phrases in brackets by way of explanation, as in “gone doolally (mentally unstable)”. His sense of humour comes through in every situation, even the most dangerous and hard times, although there are some poignant moments.
The anecdotes are quite short and funny but sometimes I was still waiting for the conclusion of the story. An example is one night in Iran his mate wakes him up to tell him he can hear a bear outside. He tells us about the relationship with his mate and the next paragraph takes us to their journey the next day. Obviously no bear, but what was it?
Nothing is left out. We hear about his sexual experiences, his bravery and his mistakes. He came from a working class family, and often his class prejudice shows. He chose his title as a tribute to Robert Tressell’s “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist”, which he says was the first book he read. This is the sort of book that anyone can enjoy, but particularly those who have been in the forces.
Jack Davidson is a design artist, living in Amble. We have a copy of his book to give away to the first person to tell us which book inspired his title.
The book is published by United Writers Publications at £16.95, ISBN 9781852001452