ROYAL FLYING CORPS KITBAG: AIRCREW UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT FROM THE WAR OVER THE WESTERN FRONT IN WWI
Author: Mark Hillier
Publisher: Frontline Books, Pages: 268, illustrations 200
Published: 5th March 2020
‘Kitbag’ is turning out to be an excellent series from Frontline books on uniforms and equipment, and this latest volume is no exception. Royal Flying Corps Kitbag, by Mark Hillier, takes a detailed look at aircrew uniforms and equipment during the Great War, charting its developments from the formation of the RFC in 1912 through to the end of the war in 1918. Whilst no book can cover every object and detail, Hillier does an excellent job in collating together a rich array of kit and detailed information to help tell this story. The first chapter covers the evolving range of flying clothing from goggles, helmets, coats, boots, gloves and even early life-preservers, including issue items to those aircrew could privately purchase through the various retailers at the day. The next chapter examines flying equipment such as map cases and boards, compasses, field glasses, watches, pistols and even message streamers, giving a good level of description and technical detail. The uniforms chapter is a perfect illustration of the word ‘uniform’ and how un-uniform the service was with a mismatch of dress, like the distinctive maternity jacket to the wide variety of general military service dress jackets. It must be forgotten that the RFC began as part of the Army and thus a lot of its standard kit like trousers, breeches, puttees, boots, braces, shorts are of the official issue pattern unless officer kit which was nearly always private purchased. Other chapters examines rank, badges, insignia and buttons, a fascinating subject in its own right, and paperwork and documents, including aviator’s certificates, logbooks and manuals. The last chapter looks at the transition from RFC to RAF in 1918. Including both khaki and blue uniform and the new range of insignia that was introduced in an effort to standardise the fledgling RAF.
Being a collector once it is nice to see a few old friends in this book that I was lucky enough to be the custodian of, and without the passion of collectors and museums I am sure that this book would not have been possible. For anyone who has an interest in early military flying and equipment in the Great War this book is a must and an investment you will not regret. With a huge amount of good descriptions, colour photography, intermixed with period black and white adverts and photographs of the period, this makes a very attractive and handy book for collectors, historians and air buffs alike. Whilst covering both RFC and RAF it would have been nice to see the RNAS included, but it is realised that there has to be a focus and this omission no way distracts from this fine work. I highly recommend this book, a superb reference to those early airmen.