Inundated with Battle of Britain celebrations (celebs flying Spitfires, everyone making Woolton Pie) I turned to Flying Officer X. He was a kind of uniformed Writer In Hangar for the wartime RAF, and produced two books of short stories: The Greatest People In The World (1942) and How Sleep The Brave (1943). They actually concern Bomber Command, but the ethos is the same- young men flying by the seat of their khaki overalls on operations. The pilots, navigators, observers and rear-gunners of those leviathans of the sky, their bravery, their courage, their bar bills. Flying Officer X was of course the masterful story writer H.E.Bates, and these two little books should help put paid to the lie, recycled by James Delingpole recently when he repeated in the Spectator what friends had told him, namely that Bates books were just 1930's romantic slush. There may be romance (usually bitter sweet) in his work, but none of it is slush. Quite the opposite. And he wrote superb novels, novellas and collections of short stories right up to the 1970s. The two RAF books were combined as The Stories of Flying Officer X and you can get a cheap copy on Abe Books .
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)