|5 December 2023
Pre-copy-edited version of Brett Holman, ‘Spectre and spectacle: mock air raids as aerial theatre in interwar Britain’, in Aviation in the Literature and Culture of Interwar Britain, ed. Michael McCluskey and Luke Seaber (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 227–250.
Abstract: This chapter argues that aerial theatre, in the form of annual air displays at Hendon and on Empire Air Day, was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) to generate a sensationally modern image of technological sublimity through violent spectacles of aerial warfare, including the performance of mock air raids. This was amplified by a second, incidental kind of aerial theatre, performed as part of Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) exercises and air raid precautions (ARP) drills in the form of mock air raids on British cities. These attracted curious and even excited audiences, conscious that they might be seeing previews of their own deaths. In combining spectre and spectacle, the RAF’s mock air raids underscore the ambivalent nature of airmindedness in interwar Britain.