Did you know that our Museum Library has a Children’s Section? One of the books I found was written circa 1919 – 1921, The Wonder Book of Aircraft, edited by Harry Golding. In it, the Royal Air Force is described to children as an organization that has ” … known a multitude of changes in the few years that have passed since the value of balloons in war led to the establishment of a ‘Balloon Section’ of the Royal Engineers … before the outbreak of War in August, 1914, the value of aircraft in military operations had caused the establishment of the Royal Flying Corps as a separate branch of the Army; and when the little British Army went overseas to endeavour to stem the first mighty onslaught of Germany there went with it some two squadrons of aircraft with flying men and mechanics. The total muster in those days of machines of all sorts available for service overseas was 82 – a scratch lot but one that rendered invaluable service. it was a pilot of the Royal Flying Corps who informed … that the retreat itself was only begun in time on account of the aeroplane scouting service. ” Although the writing is clearly challenging for a child, the content, along with art work and photographs, would have provided plenty of information for a young person interested in learning about various aspects of aircraft!
In the Boys’ Book of Flying, written by Charles Boff and published in 1940, the Fairey ‘Battle’ monoplane was described as the ” … the fastest single-engine bomber in the Royal Air Force ” – 300 miles per hour – 50 miles in 10 minutes – a two seater medium bomber – Rolls Royce Merlin 12 cylinder engine – most powerful in service with the RAF, entirely metal-covered – span 54 feet, length just over 42 feet, height 15 feet 6 inches. Its primary duty was “… to upset and generally hamper the enemy’s plans by dropping bombs on the said enemy’s aerodromes and other important points. ” Children today would be interested in comparing that aircraft to the CF-18s we have today! In another chapter, Boff writes about ‘The Airman’s Umbrella’, the parachute! “During the Soviet army manoeuvres of 1936, soldiers equipped with parachutes … in less than 10 minutes the soldiers secretly dropped well in the rear of the ‘enemy’, rid themselves of their parachutes and had assembled the guns and were moving up to the attack… Doctors, surgeons and nurses, wearing gas masks and carrying bags of equipment, have been dropped to the ground in the same way by the Soviet Red Cross. ”
The cover of The Bumper Book of Aeroplanes would have been very appealing to the children in the 1930s. It contains stories, along with factual information, about aeroplanes. In one section, it talks about the future of aircraft, ” Although the land-plane has been greatly improved as regards its carrying capacity within recent years – the London-Paris planes carrying about 40 passengers, for example – there are many experts who believe that for long-distance work the huge flying-boat is the plane of the future. ”
Books are meant to be held and treasured! Please come into the Museum Library over the next week to have a hands-on visit with these and other children’s books that are on display. Take away a list of books currently available in your community library that might spark an interest in your child. Think about having a conversation with your children about how things have changed over time, how aircraft have evolved… remind yourself about your childhood understandings about flight and aircraft and the changes that have occurred during your life!