Author(s): Vincent Orange
Winston Churchill probably had more impact on 20th Century British military history than any other person and especially during World War II. Yet of all the many volumes since that war which deal with his relationships with generals and admirals, most surprisingly, there seems not to be a single book devoted to Churchill as a would-be pilot, and, more importantly, to the relations he had with a host of airmen between 1914 and 1945. Exceptional air marshals of his time included Dowding, Park, Portal, Freeman, Tedder, Coningham and Harris. Such men had years of professional expertise behind them and those who had reached the top by 1943 were such strong characters that not even the prime minister could dominate them in policy-making. Crucially, Churchill had supported the independence of the RAF from other services, and whilst he did bully and cajole, even abuse his airmen, he also listened to them and their plans, and inspired them.
Professor Vincent Orange was born in Shildon, County Durham, in 1935 and educated at St. Mary's Grammar School, Darlington, in the Royal Air Force (1953-6), and at Hull University. In 1962 he went to live in New Zealand and taught History at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch until he retired in 2002. In his young days, he had parts in twenty stage plays (several directed by Dame Ngaio Marsh) and about fifty radio plays. He also appeared regularly on television, commenting on current affairs. In addition to his eight books (including Park, Dowding and Slessor published by Grub Street) and numerous other articles and conference papers, he contributed nineteen essays to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. He is addicted to, amongst other things, cricket, rugby, Jane Austen, Richard Wagner (and all other noisy Romantics), his wife Sandra, her son Gerard and daughter Sarah.