My RAF Journey Part 5

Cream of the British Youth

RAF Journey Part 5 - The Cream of the British Youth Guy Martin

I was immersed in a system made up of the cream of the British youth, and as aforementioned, the least educated of them all. But I had some advantages: whereas I had been the oldest in the school grade – having been kept down a year in the Prep – I was the youngest of my course of 154 cadets. I had been schooled at SJC – another advantage – so the cultural richness of that privileged education was a major boost to narrow the gap with the infinite sophistications of my RAFC Cranwell education. Only the best would do, so I set out to be the best at everything – for the first time ever.

Academic subjects included:

• Air Force Law & Queen’s Regulations
• Politics, philosophy & economics
• British military history
• Military strategy
• Leadership development
• Applied mathematics
• C.E.A.S.R. (Customs, Etiquette and Social Responsibility – where we were taught everything from ensuring that the men under your command never committed rape in enemy territory to how to cut a banana in a socially acceptable manner)

Physical disciplines included:

• 5am reveille for marching drills
• Field manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain
• Intense PE
• Cross country in full kit and ‘Hernia boxes’
• Survival courses
• Daily team sports (I played Rugby for the first time, having been confined to captain of 2nds Hockey at school).

Cranwell was founded in 1919. The designs for building the main college were completed in 1929 and built in the style of Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital in Chelsea. Most of the ultimate structures were completed in 1933. I was fascinated by the history of it. I never viewed the building without it catching my breath: it was that beautiful! It reminded me of my appreciation of the aesthetics at St John’s, where you knew, consciously or unconsciously, that such an environment was bound to be conducive to learning, as there was an original intent by visionaries with a passion for excellence to create magnificent structures over the easier option of simple functionality. The interior was simply palatial: huge ceilings, portraits of RAF legends, paintings of the various aircraft types over the generations, columns everywhere with furniture, fixtures and fittings akin to an English country estate of the nobility – along with the living energy of clinking teacups, cutlery and crockery – especially at high tea. The long corridors displayed all the sporting teams over the ages – Rugby, Polo and Cricket – dating back to the 20s. I was particularly taken by the College’s 1930 Rugby team photo where the captain, Douglas Bader, appeared confidently seated in the centre, pre-loss of his legs. The environment seemed to represent an entire time continuum of excellence – of both exceptional characters and flying machines – which symbolically told the whole RAF story, in its own confident and individually modest way. And yet it also implied that YOU were part of an untold story, still to be played out.

Guy Martin is the founder & Managing Director of Blueprints: Which has enabled business leaders to drive measurable high-performance across 130 blue-chip organisations in 36 countries