To celebrate today’s International Transgender Day of Visibility I’d like to preview a couple of centenaries that will be commemorated in one year and one week from today. The first is the centenary of the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918. The second is the centenary of the birth seven days later of Roberta Cowell, one of the earliest transgender pioneers in the UK who was an RAF Spitfire pilot during World War II. I will, also of course be celebrating the centenary of the end of World War I.
The 2-part biography I
wrote on this blog about Roberta Cowell can be found here and here.
I have strong family
connections with the RAF. Various uncles and cousins on both sides of my family
have served in the RAF, serving in various branches from pilot to chaplain, and
from general supplies to my uncle Group Captain J. I. Cromarty, OBE,
a surgeon who was appointed Honorary Surgeon to the Queen.
A number of the pioneers
of the lgbt rights movement in 1960s Britain did their national Service in the
RAF, among them one local Nottingham hero called Ike Cowen who was a founding member of
the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.
Long-time readers of this
blog may remember that in 2014 I built a plastic construction kit model of the
Hawker Hurricane bomber flown by gay pilot Wing Commander Ian Gleed. In advance
of the 2018 centenaries I hope to put together a small display in celebration
of RAF veterans and make more accurate models of the planes they flew.
Roberta Cowell flew
several different planes during her RAF career. I have decided to make a model
of a Submarine Spitfire Photo-Reconnaissance Mark XI. Roberta
flew this type of plane in 1944. As I show you the progress I am making I will
give more information on her RAF life.
Gleed’s Hawker Hurricane, there are no model kits of Roberta’s own plane, nor
is there one available in Nottingham at the moment of the exact make of
Spitfire PR XI, so I am adapting another one and using authentic World War II
references to produce, as near as possible, an accurate scale model of the
Roberta’s Spitfire. Below you can see the model kit I have bought.