By Gordon Thorburn
In the earliest days of World War One, when IX Squadron was formed, we went to the fight in little 50mph machines that were barely capable of taking pilot and observer, a gun and a few small, hand-held bombs into the sky, especially on a windy day.
When we took a wireless set, to spot for the artillery and report on troop movements, the extra load forced the defenceless pilot to leave his observer behind. A century later, IX (B) Squadron flies jets that can exceed the speed of sound, place laser-guided missiles within a few centimetres of the target, and transmit the most complex data in real time across the globe.
In between, the tale is of ponderous beasts of biplanes, of Wellingtons and Lancasters in the bloody battles of World War Two, of Canberras and Vulcans in the nuclear age of the Cold War. Above all, it's the story of the men and women of the RAF's senior bomber squadron across a hundred years of war and peace, and their words fill this book. We go from those beginnings in wood, wire and fabric kites over France and a pilot armed with a service revolver, to the world's first Tornado squadron in the Gulf wars, over Kosovo and Afghanistan, and so to the present, a century on.
It really is one hell of a story.