A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: David Pike
Date: 2017 Dec 29, 10:15 -0800
Tracy Shrier you wrote: “What is AP1234? I should find a copy".
Between 1918 and 1938 the RAF trained no new Navigators (or Air Observers as they were called then). Detailed navigational knowledge was restricted to a small bunch of career pilots, who having proved themselves as pilots, specialised in ‘Navigation’ as a career path after completing a very detailed specialist navigation course. One such pilot was F C ‘Dickie’ Richardson. By 1940, the RAF had realised that their current navigation training text was out of date and needed re-writing. The new ‘Textbook’ would need to be suited to large numbers (tens of thousands) of keen reasonably well educated young chaps straight off the street enlisting as direct entry Air Observers. Current commercially available texts were deemed either unnecessarily complicated or hopelessly oversimplified. Moreover, whilst all attempted to describe the science of navigation, with the possible exception of Weems, none attempted to give a method of how to go about doing it, or provide a system which would work wearing bulky flying clothing in a bumpy, boiling hot or icy cold aircraft with noisy engines.
In 1940, Richardson was tasked with producing such a textbook. The result was AP1234, which was produced in large numbers from 1941. The first edition ran to 125,000 copies in the UK, with many reprints in the Dominions and translations for the Czech, Polish, and Norwegian Air Forces. Even the Chinese had one, and believe it or not, the Luftwaffe also made a translation. Sample navigational logs and charts were provided from Pilots Flt Lt Sitwell, and Sgt Steers, and of course, Navigator Plt Off Ivor Brain. One particularly endearing feature of the 1941 Edition is that each chapter was headed by a quotation from Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ or the ‘The Hunting of the Snark’. The quotation for Chapter 7 – Astronomical Navigation is the very apposite “Why,” said the Dodo, “the best way to explain it is to do it.” I particularly like quotation for Chapter XI - Ground Organisation “There was one who was famed for the number of things, He forgot when he entered the ship” – The Hunting of the Snark, and we’ve all met people like that.
Copies of AP1234 turn up from time to time on eBay, usually for less that $15. There’s a moderately clean one there at the moment with a starting price of £6.99 plus £3.00 UK postage. You often find a name, rank, and number inside, which you can frequently follow up sadly by visiting the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site. Of the two I have at the moment, one was owned by a young sergeant killed in the UK whilst converting to Wellingtons, and the other was owned by Rob Campbell Stuart who was one of the 50 allied aircrew murdered by the Gestapo after the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III.
Anyone interested in the story of the 1941 Edition should read Richardson’s autobiography ‘Man is not lost’ available on eBay for pennies plus p&p. Alternatively, you can read about Dickie Richardson’s contribution Air Navigation in the RAF here from page 143 https://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/mediafiles/EEA1B9D1_5056_A318_A88B16BD35A68C31.pdf . DaveP