Here's a minor curiosity. Many of the leading figures in the RFC/RAF (at least, many of the ones that interest me) had earlier served in West Africa. (They all served in the Boer War too, but that wouldn't have been uncommon for their cohort.) This is the list:
- Hugh Trenchard: Southern Nigeria Regiment, 1903-10
- Frederick Sykes: West African Regiment, 1903-5
- P.R.C. Groves: West African Regiment, 1903-4
- L.E.O. Charlton: Gold Coast Regiment, 1902-7
- unnamed officer: Nigeria1
Too much shouldn't be made of this; it's probably just a coincidence. But I can imagine a couple of explanations. One is that adventurous spirits might be drawn to the challenges of serving on the frontiers of Empire as much as to slipping the surly bonds of Earth. (Certainly the biographies of Trenchard and Charlton show evidence of this kind of restlessness.) The other explanation might be that (what I imagine to be) the extreme logistical difficulties of soldiering in West Africa back then may have suggested the advantages of simply being able to fly over all obstacles!
- According to Robin Higham, The Military Intellectuals in Britain, 1918-1939 (Westport: Greenwood, 1981 ), 134, an officer whom Trenchard knew from Nigeria was undergoing flight training, and suggested that he take it up.
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