'Brushes with Aviation'


This unique, colourful book tells the story of Miles Aircraft, Handley Page, Fairey Aviation, Vickers Supermarine and other manufacturers that built thousands of aircraft in the Royal County of Berkshire.

It recounts how RAF flying training began in the county as far back as WWI and, in WWII, how the Air Transport Auxiliary carried out its vital role, and the D-Day airborne assault by British and US forces is vividly described.

So too is the Cruise missile stand-off in the Cold War years.

Even the film ‘Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines’ gets a showing and indeed, many of the real pioneers played leading roles in the Berkshire story: balloonists like Patrick Alexander, ’Burnaby the Great’ and John and Gertrude Bacon; early fliers like Gustav Hamel, Henri Salmet, Geoffrey de Havilland and Tommy Sopwith; and later pioneers like Charles Lindbergh and Alan Cobham.

Great designers such as Sidney Camm and the Miles brothers also feature.

The softback book contains, 170 pages, each 240mm x 300mm, containing 120 historic black-and-white photographs, numerous colour photographs, many line drawings, 30,000 words of text plus depictions of 80 full-colour paintings by the author. The original recommended retail price was £30 and the book may be ordered through Amazon.

Fifty copies of the first print run were set aside as a special limited edition, priced at £60. Each copy is numbered and signed by the author and includes a unique 'remarque' of an aircraft featured in the book drawn by Geoff Beckett. Only one 'remarque' of a particular type of aircraft will be drawn and a number of orders for these Collectors' Copies have already been taken, but drop us an to see if your favourite Berkshire-story aircraft is still available.

To give you a feel for the beauty of the book and the astonishing amount of research that has gone into its making we offer you a taste through the thumbnails below which - if clicked on - will give you a reduced size image of a few typical pages. (The quality of the originals is, of course, much better than you will see on screen.)


"The Miles M.100 Student"

"London to Windsor air mail service"

"ATA statistics"

"Alan Cobham and de Havilland"

"Tribute to Charles Powis"

"Chilton's challenge"

"Berkshire's barnstormers"

"All in a day's work"

"Prince among pilots"

Below are some of the comments we've received about 'Brushes with Aviation'.

“From its title, one could assume that this is an art portfolio book, but that’s not the case ... 80 colour illustrations by the author and extensive text.”

“The paintings in particular enlighten the narrative and make the book such a joy to read. I hope you get as much pleasure from it as I have.”
Jeremy Miles

“ ... the human element is never far from the forefront of this story and Beckett does not disguise his respect for the men and women whose passion, knowledge and readiness to take great risks in the cause of aviation changed the world. As a person with no particular interest in aviation, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book.“
Linda Lloyd, Editor-in-Chief, Indepenpress

“A labour of love taking many years to write, prepare and illustrate, this colourful, coffee-table book would make a fine gift for loved ones and even yourself.”

I really like this book. It's different from any other aviation book I have ever seen.

At first glance it might look like an aviation artist's `portfolio' book, but it's actually a lot more than that. The many paintings by the author are an integral part of an informative and very readable text that, supported by many historic photographs, tells the complete story of aviation in the Royal County of Berkshire. Interestingly, as the story unfolds, it can be seen that what happened in this comparatively small county, reflected the wider development of aviation, both in the UK and other parts of the world.

In the days of ballooning and early powered flight, it was the Royal family at Windsor that brought aviators to the County to demonstrate their skills. However, in later years, with great names in British aviation such as Vickers, Handley Page, Fairey and, of course, Miles Aircraft, coming into the picture, as well as lesser ones such as Chilton and Elliotts, it became a centre for aircraft manufacture that rivalled many larger counties. Geoff Beckett covers the technical side of these companies' activities in a knowledgeable yet very readable style. In addition, the human side of aviation is often brought to the fore.

In the war years, Berkshire was not really one of the `front line' counties in the air war but, in two respects, it played a unique part. The Air Transport Auxiliary, with its headquarters at White Waltham, rightly receives comprehensive coverage of its personnel and their outstanding work. The airborne assault on D-Day, from both the American and the British perspective, is also covered in detail. A direct RAF involvement continued until the early'90s and, of course, the American involvement with Berkshire continued throughout the `cold war' years.

This is a graphically appealing book that many people will also enjoy as a good read.

Neil Buchan, UK Amazon Review

What a superb book this is. I have enjoyed browsing it for a while but, recently, I was able to sit down and read it properly. One Hundred and Sixty pages of a personal perspective and entertaining aviation history in the Royal County of Berkshire, brought to life with wonderful atmospheric paintings.

This book would appeal not only to aviation enthusiasts, but also to local history enthusiasts, and indeed anyone with an interest in social history. I am an aviation enthusiast so it is always interesting to rediscover the genius of the Miles, Handley Page and Fairey organisations and the under-rated but vital ATA. However, Geoff Beckett brings these giants to life within a local context.

I was struck how it also reflected the social and industrial history of Britain as a whole. After the war, our Grannies may have returned from factories building planes to baking cakes in the kitchen, but they had changed social and womens' history for good. Perhaps not as quickly as it should have been. What a shame only a few of the talented ATA women pilots could pursue professional flying careers after the war. How many men were really better than Lettice Curtis?

Geoff Beckett does a fine job of outlining early aviation and I enjoyed reading about the rise and fall in the fortunes of the British civil and military aviation industry. Enjoyed but left feeling that yesterday’s politicians were just as short sighted and incompetent as the present ones. So many missed opportunities. A reader of this book will realise what talent and genius this county - and this country - once had.

I have had this book lying about for a while and have noticed how many of my friends (including non aviation friends) have picked it up and found themselves engrossed.

Next time I fly from White Waltham, I will fly over the area with fresh eyes and renewed interest.

Jim Steele, UK Amazon Review
© Copyright 2011, Geoff Beckett All rights reserved