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The RAF in the Cold War

Here we take a different approach to the subject of the RAF in the Cold War and look the museums themselves. This helps us to understand how the RAF viewed itself – and the image it sought to project to the public – during the Cold War.

The RAF in memory

Here we take a different approach to the subject of the RAF in the Cold War and look the museums themselves. This helps us to understand how the RAF viewed itself – and the image it sought to project to the public – during the Cold War.

The RAF in the Cold War

Moving beyond the museums, we also consider four memorials to the RAF and its crew in the Greater London area which were erected in the Cold War era or in decades following it. This allows us to look at how public memorials to the RAF were received, and consider how much time needed to pass before certain aspects of the RAF’s work could be memorialised in public.

RAF Museums and Me

My usual refrain when I get something wrong is ‘my name is Emmett; I come from Watford; I know nothing’. A number of you will spot this as a reworking of a line of text from a Fawlty Towers episode… to avoid offence to those of Hispanic origin. As Professor Nathan Widder at Royal Holloway noted: “not very many people will admit publicly to coming from Watford”… however, that meant that Hendon was not very far away from home, and the RAF Museum was one of two museums that my mother took me to regularly as a child: when RAF Hendon was opened as a museum, I was seven. (The other museum was the Victoria and Albert in London, which I think probably spoke more to my mother’s interests.) So I attended the early months of the opening of what are now the ‘Historic Hangers’ – the original museum – the Battle of Britain Museum (1978) and the Bomber Command Museum (1983). My wife comes from Birmingham, so eventually we would add RAF Museum Cosford in the late 1990s to our visits to the Midlands. Given my asthma, terrible eyesight and colour blindness, any career in aviation or related fields was denied to me. Therefore, the option I took as an alternative…

The Bomb

…was to become a doctoral economist, specialising in international trade agreements. Which is how I ended up teaching History at Royal Holloway. Principally, I was responsible for misleading students on the Modern History and Politics and History and International Relations degree. When it was decided that we needed a Special Subject – a final year double unit – that would appeal to these students, ‘The Bomb – A History: Atomic Weaponry and Society in the Twentieth Century’ was born. I took the opportunity run a seminar at RAF Hendon every year around Stanley Baldwin’s 1932 statement that ‘the bomber will always get through’ and on Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ as part of the course. One year, we did a self-funded trip to RAF Cosford, who allowed us to hold a seminar on a Sunday – these were very committed students. They still are: Lauren, a student on the From World War to White Heat: the RAF in the Cold War course is writing her dissertation on US-Japanese relations and ‘the Bomb’ 1945-54; Catherine, another student, is doing hers on the cultural significance of ‘The Doomsday Clock’; while Kathleen is looking at the cost of the nuclear arms race to the US in the 1960s.

The History of the RAF in the Cold War

I am very fortunate to have to opportunity to teach students of their quality, and involve them in this project (we paid them, in case you were wondering). ‘The Bomb’ is not a military history course, but Ross and I looked to combine our interests in developing this free online course. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with Dr Mahoney, and having done something of the ‘history’ of the RAF in the Cold War, we now come to the public history of the RAF.

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From World War to White Heat: the RAF in the Cold War

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