Setting the Foundation: An outline for my time in England

Although the spring semester finished over two weeks ago, I haven’t stopped since submitting my independent study’s twenty page paper. Since touching down at London Heathrow four days ago, I have been working in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Library amongst Cambridge students preparing for their final exams. Ideally, I should have made a post like this my first or second day here, but I wanted to take a few days to gather my thoughts and gauge the wealth of resources I would be working with at the University of Cambridge Archives and my later visits at the Imperial War Museum and Royal Air Force Museum.

So, below I have briefly outlined my goals for my two-and-a-half weeks in England:

1.      Work through the Rhys Davids family papers

My major goal for my time in England is to read through the Rhys Davids family papers, housed at Cambridge’s Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Lieutenant Rhys Davids DSO, MC & Bar is one of the pilots I intend to focus on in my honors thesis.  Today, I finished reading through Arthur Rhys Davids’ letters from his time at Eton, his Royal Flying Corps training in 1916, and his time on the Western Front from March to  October 1918. I plan on doing an extensive blog post (or two) on him and what I find in  his papers later in my trip.

2.      IWM Duxford Air Show/Festival

On May 27, I will be going to the second day of the Duxford Air Festival at Imperial War Museum Duxford. In April, I was lucky enough to attend the Great British Fly-In at the   Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, where Royal Air Force   officials conducted lectures about the history of the RAF, operational history, and even     talked about aircraft flown in (including a Lancaster bomber from Canada). The Duxford Air Festival takes place at IWM Duxford, which was an operational aerodrome  in the First and Second World Wars. Although the main focus will be on the airshow,  there will also be historical interpreters and museum staff to provide information on  the history of British airpower. As it is the one hundredth anniversary of the  Royal Air Force’s creation, there will be information about the Royal Flying Corps  (predecessor to the RAF) and a First World War air exhibition.

Check out the video below to see highlights of IWM Duxford Air Festivals.

3.      Oral Histories

One of the best set of sources about interactions between pilots comes from oral histories. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a major push to interview Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service as more veterans began passing away in large numbers.  Many of these were a joint effort of the BBC and the Imperial Museum and veterans were asked about their wartime experiences, opinions of their comrades, technical expertise, and views of enemy pilots. Though I will be listening to many different oral histories, the    primary ones I will be looking at will be those of Hubert Noel Charles, who was 56  Squadron’s  (the squadron I will primarily be focusing on) Chief Engineering Officer. My quest to obtain these sources started last year, as I found the series of three different interviews on the Imperial War Museum’s Collections site. Only one of them was  digitized for remote listening, however, and when I tried to get the other two reproduced,  I found that the rights were owned by the BBC and I could not obtain a copy. During my two research appointments at the Imperial War Museum, I will listen to Charles’ interviews to see how he, as a non-flying officer viewed his flying officer contemporaries and how they in return viewed him. Do Charles’ memories correlate with the  stereotypical portrayal of strained and hierarchical relations between flying officers and the rest of the squadron?

One of my favorite places in Cambridge: Kings College Chapel

One of my favorite places in Cambridge: Kings College Chapel


  1. Emily Easter says:

    YOU are absolutely amazing!!! WOW!!!
    Makes me tired just trying to imagine ALL YOU ARE DOING in your 2 1/2 weeks.
    Best wishes for much success.

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