Book Review: ‘From the Spitfire Cockpit to the Cabinet Office: The memoirs of Air Commodore J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL’

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title: From the Spitfire Cockpit to the Cabinet Office: The Memoirs of Air Commodore J F ‘Johnny’ Langer

Author: J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL

Total Number of Printed Pages: 288

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 8


In the opinion of this reviewer, the motto of Great Britain’s Royal Air Force (Per Adua Ad Adastra; ‘Through Adversity to the Stars’), is an effective summation of this remarkable autobiography. Indeed, so interesting was its subject and so well-written its style, that, for the first time ever, this reviewer abandoned his usual well-honed methods of assessment and simply read it straight through. He is glad that he did!

In precis, this work details the aviation career of J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL. It details his activities both within the Royal Air Force and in his ‘Second (post RAF–retirement) Career’ in aviation security.  The presentation is excellent, the detail meticulous and the author’s devotion to the RAF and aviation in general very evident. However, lest it be considered that what has been written is a succession of ‘beer and skittles’ moments, the downside of military life, especially as it affects servicemen’s families, is also detailed.

Although it certainly commences with the author’s joining the Royal Air Force in World War II, this work is largely concerned with his service in the post-war Royal Air Force.  The organisation he describes was very different from that which he had originally joined and has tended to be ignored in favour of World War II. By relating events and experiences within this period of the RAF’s history, this volume performs a useful service to anyone interested in that era. In that respect alone it is of high value. As if that was not enough (and what sets this specific work apart), are the details pertaining to the author’s service time in the Far East during the Malayan ‘Emergency’, his involvement in the establishment of the Republic of Singapore Air Force, and his post-service involvement in aviation security. His experiences when interacting with other military organisations (especially with other air forces) are also very revealing; one hopes that the attitudes described no longer exist.  By their nature such activities are rarely recorded, yet are presented herewith in clear, concise and very-readable form. For doing-so the author is to be congratulated.

Unfortunately, the volume is let down in respect of the photographs it contains. These appear within the text proper, rather than in their own separate section, are on the small side, and contain no indications of their origins. There is no reference to their existence in the Table of Contents; a major failing.

In summary, this is an excellent and very well-written work and would be of great interest to anyone interested in service life in the Post-WWII Royal Air Force. The previously-mentioned technical faults notwithstanding, I would suggest it may even been worthy of the appellation ‘Classic’.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I would give it an 8.


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Book Review: ‘From the Spitfire Cockpit to the Cabinet Office: The memoirs of Air Commodore J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL’