Updated: Sep 28, 2021
Rate of Climb
Author: Air Commodore Rick Peacock-Edwards CBE AFC
Publisher: Grub Street 2021, RRP £20.00
ISBN: 978 1 911621 46 1
The first thing to say about this book is that it is a jolly good read, assuming you are an aviation fan and want, in particular, to know about the RAF from a pilot’s viewpoint in the Cold War years and later during the Gulf War. However, while the situations are set out, the book is also a very personal memoir.
Rick Peacock-Edwards is the son of a Battle of Britain pilot, and it is clear that his obvious passion for the air stems from his father and from that generation of aircrew. The early part of the book sets that out quite clearly, while the later chapters contain references back to these origins for his career as its progression is set out.
Although born in the UK, the author’s formative years were spent in South Africa and it was from there that he joined the RAF with a strong desire to fly the Lightning. In a very readable style, Peacock-Edwards recounts his training as he progressed to attaining his goal of flying the Lightning. It is clear that he is a fighter pilot through and through, with no apparent alternative had he failed to attain that status, but the determination to achieve is very evident in the memories set out before the reader.
The author takes us through tours in Germany on the Lightning before his career moves through flying the Phantom and then being in command of the unit that introduced the Tornado F2 to the RAF. While it is obvious that Peacock-Edwards was a ‘flyer’, the book also sets out the other tasks set before him during a long and varied RAF career, including time as a Station Commander and latterly as the Inspector of Flight Safety. Each of the episodes is related in a straightforward, sometimes blunt, manner.
The style of writing is both informative and entertaining and contains many good stories about squadron life that will be interesting to those with little knowledge of the RAF and memory jogging to those with more ‘in-depth’ knowledge. The stories are often told in a way that relates back to the author’s father and his colleagues in that they illustrate the ‘work hard – play hard’ ethos followed by the author.
A colourful list of characters, some now well-known, make these stories come to life. The book concludes with chapters relating to the author’s activities after he left the RAF, including serving on the Board of the RAF Club, being a Master of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots and several other business ventures set up with colleagues.
The book comes full-circle with Peacock-Edwards' assertion that the Battle of Britain, in which his father fought, must not be forgotten and his activities to set up a business to offer tours that not only visit places of relevance to the Battle but also set those places in the context of the history of the Battle. The pandemic has intervened, but the determination shown throughout his career suggests that it will soon be up and running. The National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne will be included!
Rate of Climb is a readable book of personal recollections of a life of achievement. I suspect that the hardest part of the writing was restricting it to just short of 200 pages.