Book Review: An Officer, Not a Gentleman

Here we have a wee spangly book written by a bang up lass piloting her Tornado roundabout old Blighty, while happier than little miss happy. It’s true what the wag said some time ago: We truly are two people separated by a common language. Ms Hickson’s fine little book is more than just the dog’s nuts, it’s a well crafted memoir detailing her perilous rise in aviation to become the first ‘fast-jet’ pilot in the RAF.

An Officer, Not a Gentleman is a gripping read, as Hickson takes us through the various levels of her qualification, and grading, and flight proficiency, and training, all while being under perhaps more scrutiny than her male colleagues.

But she comes through without being a numpty, or cocking it up too badly, and does indeed qualify to command the Tornado, Britain’s top of the line attack jet, and then she proves her mettle in combat out of Kuwait.

I make light of the British-isms, but there were times, admittedly, that this yank had a bit of a melon-twister trying to interpret her lingo. Neeps? Tatties? Faffing? Bulling your boots? Hubbly-Bubbly? Under the cosh? I flew for a living for many years, but I admit to being lost at times, not in the dark over the battle zone when it was nail-biting, squeaky-bum time, but in figuring out what the phrases meant.

It was all good fun, and it is a great read. I was a bit mystified that alcohol still seemed to hold its central place in aviation ranks, and that girlie pics still adorned walls of flyboy barracks, but the story is told from a twenty-years ago perspective, so perhaps that’s changed. In any case, this book will not disappoint, so chocks away!

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