Barry Island author airs his past pilot life

A BARRY Island-based dustman’s son has set out to build on the success of his first novel, by recalling life in the Royal Air Force.

Dad-of-two Ron Powell is following up his Battle of Britain novel, Wings Over Summer, by publishing a first volume of memoir, Shropshire Blue: A Shropshire Lad in the RAF.

The Barry Island writer and public speaker spent 32 years in the RAF, rising from engineering apprentice to group captain pilot.

Ron, 58, said: “I had some fascinating jobs, saw some incredible things and met some amazing people. I even spent a couple of years as a flying instructor at St Athan, which explains why I retired to Barry Island, where I now live on Nell’s Point with my wife, Geraldine.

“Shropshire Blue was inspired by and opens with a flight with the Red Arrows, before going on to tell my story from growing up the son of a dustman in Ludlow, on the English/Welsh, to my commissioning as an RAF flying officer.

The Baruc PACT chairman’s interest in being an RAF pilot was sparked by a headstone in a cemetery in Ludlow.

His debut novel was dedicated to the Battle of Britain pilot buried beneath it, the brother of one of his junior school teachers.

Ron said: “The RAF wouldn’t take me as a pilot when I left school, so, in late 1973, I joined as an engineering apprentice. I had a very harsh introduction to service life, because my apprentice entry had to parade before HM The Queen just five weeks after joining. It was a duty I performed another ten times during my three-year apprenticeship. The rehearsals were always hard work, but the Royal occasions themselves were magical.

“On graduation as an airframe and propulsion fitter, I was posted to RAF Scampton, the home of the Dam Busters. There, I worked on Vulcan nuclear bombers that were poised to fly into the heart of the Soviet Union. In Shropshire Blue, I’ve tried to convey the power and menace of these amazing aircraft, and to paint a portrait of life on a Cold War airbase."

Ron began officer training after selection as a potential pilot in 1979.

He said: “As the son of a dustman, I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with trying to become an officer, and once again, the training regime was harsh. But I knuckled down, and after some hilarious hiccups on the way, I was successful in gaining my commission.”

Later volumes of Shropshire Blue will cover Ron’s life as a pilot, including flying over the South Atlantic during and after the Falklands war.

For details, visit www.ronpowell.co.uk

Shropshire Blue: A Shropshire Lad in the RAF is available on amazon.co.uk.

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