Wings Over The Waves - Review

 With a forward by the legendary Winkle Brown, this book was always going to be an attractive read for me, given my Fleet Air Arm interest handed down to me by the Father a Telegraphist Air Gunner in Barracuda’s. With my appetite to lap up anything from this era covering the Barra, the cover immediately catches the eye and that ungainly some would say rather ugly bird shown doing what it did best, ‘bombing’.

 Graham Drucker has done a superb job at researching the career of Lt Cdr Roy Baker-Falkner and if you re seeking detailed information on WW2 Fleet Air Arm operation, life as a pilot and details of sorties on which he flew you will not be disappointed by the book. From Taranto to Coastal Command his Swordfish exploits are all we documented and then of course on to his role in the crippling of the Tirpitz. There are also some unique photos which again I lapped up!

 The book is extremely detailed and there is so much to cram in the font is quite small. The hard cover and the dust sleeve make it feel nice and heavy and therefore good value both from a content perspective but also for value, the paper being a nice matt format good for reading.

 I worked my way through the book in stages as it’s a lot to digest but I could easily have read it start to finish given time.

 Sadly, like many Roy was lost in operations and one of the many heroes of the time taken cruelly away from friends, colleagues and family. This is an excellent read and highly recommended and so sorry it took me so long to post this review.

 We used the book as part of our research in to our Coastal Command series in 2021/22 and are extremely grateful for the support from  Pen and Sword and to Matt in particular.

Pieter Johnson

We all have differences! Engaging Middle Aged Men in Diversity

Most of my life I have identified as 'white' even though I am not! I am mixed black African and white. I have shied away from sharing this in my professional career. I have always thought it would work against me. 

Some would say, why bother involving middle aged men in the diversity agenda? 

Because having lived with racism most of my life, either directed at me, my family or, those around me, I feel I have a contribution to make to the discussion. 

It is also why I am keen to get involved and Iam supporting Amey's Inclusion agenda, working with the Inclusion Project Team to develop our approach to this challenging topic. You see the term EDI can be clearly stated as the following (I took this from an internal presentation someone else made but it makes so much sense):

  • Equality - Fair treatment for everyone
  • Diversity - The mix of people
  • Inclusion - Accepting people for who they are 

Although my diversity may be in the colour of my skin, others may be sexuality, ethnicity, religion or neural. The list is a long one. We are all different in some way or other, so why should skin colour make me feel I need to hide and not disclose this in fear of being ostracised?

 #InclusionWeek2020 #Each1Reach1

My Heritage and Challenges

My black Grandfather came from Central / West Africa to Europe sometime before the start of WW1, he joined the British Merchant Navy but his ship was torpedoed in the channel and sunk. He was captured and placed in the infamous Ruehleben Camp.  Ruhleben held interned ‘civilians’ (merchant seaman) but it was structured to allow some form of prisoner organisation. Inmates selected "captains" for each block, with a "captains' committee" running the camp. But these captains reinforced racial prejudices of the era, Black seamen caught on British ships at the start of the war, were not allowed to have representation, recreating old colonial rule. Whilst there is much in the public domain to praise the camps structure, he was beaten and bayoneted in the back by the guards; an injury he suffered with, for the rest of his life.

He was repatriated to England in 1915 (probably because he was injured) and after meeting my English grandmother they married a year or two later, having two children, my father and aunt. He became a stalwart worker rising to a management position in Lyons in West Kensington, London. A more British gentleman you couldn't imagine, with his attire, demeanour and household furnishings. He was fiercely proud of this country but having been wounded as a result of the war, it took my Grandmother to protest outside the Home Office with other wives of Black and Chinese seaman in the early 1920's and eventually he was awarded a war disability pension.


Being dark skinned my father grew up under intense racist attention from many quarters in the late 1920's and 30's but like his father before, was proud of being British. He became a child actor and featured in several films and this skill was to later return to him when he became a professional dancer

At the age of 15, in 1941 during the London blitz he served with the ARP rescuing the injured and recovering the dead from bombed buildings. The mental scars from this caused him terrible anxiety and stress through life and along with later experiences in WW2, we now recognise that he may have suffered from PTSD. 

Immediately he turned 18, he joined the Royal Navy (Fleet Air Arm) having seen a recruitment poster to support the war effort. Highly accomplished in maths and physics, after completing basic training, he was sent to Canada to train as a Telegraphic Air Gunner, which he served through the last years of the war, promoted to Petty Officer. He told me of many stories of his service life, seeing  people lose their lives, being attacked whilst on patrol, saving his pilots life and many more. You can hear his WW2 service story HERE (It starts at 35mins in)

His love of the Royal Navy and this country stayed with him throughout his life. Being one of the last few black World War 2 attendees every year he attended the Cenotaph memorial in London until ill health confined him to a wheel chair. He refused to wear his war medals, stating that he was alive and survived, whilst many of his comrades did not return and they deserved the medals and not him.

My mother was born in Holland and suffered from the challenges as a teenager of being occupied in World War Two. Her family and friends were ostracised and they had most of their food stolen or confiscated by the occupying forces. Malnutrition and la lack of diet lead to health problems for her. Her brother (my uncle) had to hidden for fear of being forced in to one of the German labour camps, like many other young men.

Upon leaving the Royal Navy, my father joined Les Ballet Negre, Britain’s first black  dance group touring the UK and Europe. Famed for its innovative dance routines, it suffered racist focus and was banned from appearing at a famous Convent Garden venue, the manager stating “A Black Dance Troup will perform here over my dead body”. This resulted in a lost opportunity to tour the USA as a result. When  in Holland my father met my mother.


 So, you can now see my mixed heritage from several places; I have rainbow blood 😊

There is still open abuse out there

When younger, I was called every name you can think of in school , on the streets and in public venues, often wedged neither in the ‘black or white’ camp so suffering from abuse both from both sides. Neither white, black, nor Asian, but a confusing mix, no one could quite get their heads around. It’s not a novelty to have the often-made comment "Oh have you been away on holiday again, you look lovely and tanned”?

Britain has been the only home I know and I believe it is an extraordinary place to live and grow up in, despite the fact that it was very painful at times, because feeling excluded is a very lonely, difficult place to be.    
Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE

Personally, I no longer feel hurt if someone doesn’t like the colour of my skin, but I do take offense to it being used against me or, my family and friends. Where I live in a rural community, I feel people looking at me that suggest I might not ‘be from these parts’. For those who think BLM is just another mouthpiece for the 'politically correct brigade', it may well be, but I can vouch for the fact that racism is still live and active today. It is not something from decades past or, dying off with the dinosaurs as many assume! 

Recently my wife and daughter arriving at school were shouted and physically pushed and harried "Go back to where you come from, we don't want your sort here". In shock my wife called me and went to the School Head for support and to report the incident. Their car had already been targeted on the approach roads with aggressive driving close behind them, revving engines and bullying driver behaviour.

This came around the height of the BREXIT activity where society was painfully polarised around issues of EU, Immigration and Job security. Locally where I live in Dorset, there was strong sentiment about sending perceived 'immigrants' back to where they originated. The ‘immigrant’ labour now ironically absent from picking the fruits and vegetables that has gone to waste on local farms!

Brexit has let 'racism genie out of the bottle' says Dorset MP
“Go home! #wevotedleave. Time to make Britain great again by getting rid of u blacks, Asians and immigrants."
Social Media Comments

After complaining to the School Head, no further action was taken against the parents and the issue was quietly ignored. By the way, this was apparently due to a lack of evidence and no corroborating witnesses who would come forward. There were many witnesses in ear shot and yet no one was prepared to support my wife. As to the evidence, I wonder at the logic that thinks my 'white skinned' wife would make something this inflammatory up. Like my fathers response when we were younger and racially abused, there is little other than direct confrontation that ever feels good enough in these cases and upon getting the call from my wife, I jumped in the car with a pick axe handle in search of some vengeance. I am glad for everyone’s benefit (and particularly my own, as this is no way to show my daughter how to react), that the people concerned managed to disappear and not be seen again for days.

Sadly, this was my daughters first incident of this nature and genuinely did not understand the language and behaviour, nor could reason why someone would say such things.

She is a fledgling engineer, so again some will think I have more to say about diversity than many because I need to help co create a world where she can prosper without discrimination because she is female. All I want is for her never to experience racial discrimination and have a fair and equal chance of progressing her life. As I said earlier, accept her for who she is and treat her fairly.

Unconscious bias can influence decisions in recruitment, promotion and performance management. Unconscious bias occurs when people favour others who look like them and/or share their values. ACAS

My brother had his DNA analysed and what a surprise! Whatever you think.......... you might be surprised ‘by whence you came’!

Don’t we just all want the same thing as my young daughter. Isn’t it the same for white middle-aged men? Aren’t we all the same?

  • Fair treatment for everyone and accepting people for who they are 

How I View Aviation Differently Now

Monday, 23 July 2018