How did the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) ‘cavalry of the air’ transform into the strategic RAF of the Cold War? The flying lives of these three pilots combine across the years to illustrate how it happened. Trained on Bristol Boxkites in 1912, Major Leonard Dawes helped shape the RFC in its infancy. Posted to France with BE2s, he saw action at the birth of battlefield reconnaissance and air fighting, then activated many new squadrons during the First World War. Joining the RAF in 1923, Group Captain Dickie Barwell became a fighter pilot and respected leader of men. As a Hurricane squadron commander, he routed the first major Luftwaffe air attack of the Second World War and flew with Bader’s Wing in the Battle of Britain. While commanding RAF Biggin Hill, he flew combat operations over France before his death in a friendly-fire incident in 1942. Squadron Leader Brian Fern learned to fly at Ponca City, Oklahoma, in 1942, then trained hundreds of RAF bomber pilots during the Second World War. Post-war tours on Canberra bombers and spy flights in Chipmunks were followed by selection to the elite Valiant bomber force, where he became a leading exponent of in-flight refuelling, which finally gave the RAF its global reach. Combining these three stories into a narrative that explores the rise of the RAF through an era of dazzling technological breakthroughs and ever-changing operational requirements, Alastair Goodrum tells the story of a journey through adversity to the stars.