By Tony Brady
In setting out to write a book, the obvious question you ask yourself is what you will write about. I love Australian colonial and early Federation era history, and this is the period my PhD concentrated on. My thesis, ‘The Rural School Experiment: creating a Queensland yeoman’, is a history of education, but also draws on military knowledge, agriculture, development, and training for a purpose. So this had an obvious influence on my decision-making process. When I applied for the RAAF Heritage Fellowship in 2014 the topic naturally had to involve the RAAF and when I heard about the Empire Air Training Scheme I knew I had found a topic to satisfy the RAAF requirements, utilise my doctoral skills and enthuse me sufficiently to ensure I would complete the task in the allotted two years. However, the more I researched the more engaged I became. This was a scheme that started wide-ranging careers of women in the RAAF, brought about the beginning of the Air Training Corps, developed Australia’s manufacturing and engineering industries, led to airfields being built throughout the nation, left Australia, at war’s end, as the fourth largest air force in the world and raised the standard level of education for a generation. Once I started reading the personal accounts of those involved, I knew I had to share their stories and I wanted to do it in a way that produced a book up to academic standards but accessible to the general public. By that, I mean that I wanted to write a book that my wife and daughters would enjoy reading and would want to talk about with me and their friends. Most of all I tried to write a book that gave the reader an insight into life in the Empire Air Training Scheme, from recruitment, through training and on to deployment in the war. I want the readers to feel the trials, celebrate the triumphs and empathise with the ordinary men and women that performed an extraordinary task when times demanded they give their all.