The RAF has been an incredibly important part of recent British history, having most notably played a vital role in the security of the United Kingdom during the Second World War, protecting it’s citizens. With the 100th anniversary of the RAF being celebrated this year there are sure to be a lot of documentaries about the organisation.
Whilst the RAF itself is a fascinating subject, and the history of flight even more so, there is sadly little information about the RAF itself within 100 Years of the RAF. Instead of looking at how the RAF was formed, the people who served in it, or even how it shaped British warfare, the documentary focuses on the aircraft.
The film quickly becomes a procession of one plane after another, yet with little information about how these technological or warfare advancements came about. If you’re someone who already knows a great deal about the RAF and the planes used by them then this will probably be fine for you, but as someone with little knowledge on the subject it felt very un-engaging and, at times, boring.
There are moments in the film that are more interesting, such as when they take the time to talk to servicemen and women. They speak to service people from the Second World War, including a female pilot who highlights the fact that many female pilots from that time are overlooked for their service. One of the most interesting interviews in the film is with Squadron Leader John Peters, who was shot down during the first Iraq war. This part of the film was fascinating, and I really wanted this to go into more detail; I’d even happily watch a documentary about his story.
Sadly, these moments were few and fleeting, and the majority of the 98 minute run time is spent moving from one description of a flying vehicle to another. I understand that the film is trying to give an overview of the last 100 years of the RAF, but it feels less like a history of the RAF and more an inventory list of everything they’ve flown. Unfortunately, this makes the film feel a lot longer than 98 minutes, and drags more than one.
The film feels very sterile and lacking any passion. It doesn’t feel like a documentary film made by someone who is passionate on the subject, and the narrator, well known news presenter Sir Martyn Lewis, seems to be going through the motions of reading the script.
The RAF should be a fascinating and exciting story, one filled with the deeds of heroes and innovators, a story of leading the way into a new form of warfare and conquering adversity. Instead it’s a chore to watch, which is a huge shame for those who gave their lives in the service of their country. The RAF has an amazing and storied history, but it won’t really be explored here, but, if you are passionate about aircraft it might just scratch an itch for you.
100 Years of the RAF is now available on DVD and Digital HD.