Colin Standish of the Air Police is the hero of one in a series of books about flying policemen that were written by Percy F. Westerman during the 1930s. It is not the first adventure of Standish and his friend and fellow pilot Don Grey but it is the first of the Air Police stories.
The county of Yorkshire features very strongly in this book as it does in several of the other ‘Standish’ adventures. There are lots of generalised pictures of the Yorkshire Coast and some very specific ones of places in the Dales.
Both Don Grey and Colin Standish are recruited into the newly formed Royal Air Constabulary. Their experience with Far Eastern Airlines Limited and their relationship with Sir Rugglestone Corton means that they are able to get into the officer corps of the Air Police after a test at Scotland Yard, a medical and an interview with the powerful baronet. They ask for excitement and he decides to have them posted to the North Eastern division which is based at Hawkscar in Yorkshire. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that Hawkscar is based upon the name and location of the real Ravenscar. The aerodrome is described thus:-
‘situated between Flamborough Head and Scarborough and about three miles from the coast.’
The junior officers are to live under canvas whilst the senior officers have been billeted at a hotel in Filey. Very soon Standish finds himself involved in a dangerous situation as a fault with his engine sees his aircraft out over the North Sea, desperately trying to glide or ‘volplane’ back to the coast near Bridlington. The accompanying illustration shows how his tremendous crash leaves him perched on the brink of destruction.
The next chapter opens with one short sentence.
‘Fortunately Colin Standish kept his head..’
However, this is not the last of the perils in the skies over Eastern Yorkshire. Soon Colin is detailed to follow a large aircraft which appears to be in the process of gun-running to a secret rendezvous in the Yorkshire Dales. However, both errors and confusions creep into the assignment and Standish finds himself having to make a profound apology whilst at the same time setting off on the trail of some extremely dangerous criminals.
This time the location is more precise. ‘In a valley between Wensleydale and Swaledale,,,,There’s a small village called Muker three miles to the north of us and the market town of Hawes four miles to the south. …. and along the ridge above us is a mountain road called the Buttertubs Pass’.
Gunshots, knockouts a stumbles into big holes soon follow. Standish has to be carried back by stretcher.
However, Don Grey is not without his own share of perilous episodes. Whilst Standish recovers from his latest escapade Grey finds himself making a forced landing not far from Flamborough Head, not far from Flamboro’ village. Somehow he finds himself on the brink of a spot called Robin Lythe’s Hole and then later struggling with a madman who wants to leap over the edge and ‘float’ down the beach. After another narrow escape the two chums are able to discuss their suspicions of the man they suspect of sabotage.
Standish takes a spot of leave and goes for a walk near Wetwang and sets off making his way back to Bridlington. Soon he discovers that members of the gang he has been busy frustrating are on his trail and determined to have their revenge. Only the intervention of his old pal Metcalfe rescues him from another disaster. Standish clearly is a marked man and his superiors advise more caution.
A more amusing episode takes place over the city of York where Standish has to pursue someone who is ‘buzzing’ the city. The criminal is forced down and Standish follows in pursuit, landing next to the main York-Scarborough Road. Soon Colin is astonished to find that he is pursuing a ‘feminine form’. The local population are more inclined to get in the way than assist an officer in the performance of his duties.
‘A short distance away was a charabanc with a party of cricketers on their way to play against a Malton team, The alighted en masse and, armed with bats and stumps, prepared to attack the holders-up of the other car.’
The fugitive is finally collared and we learn the true identity and gender of the person who caused so much trouble.
Westerman provides an effective climax to the book by sending Standish and Grey away on a foreign assignment and by allowing Colin to return to Yorkshire on an unorthodox flight where he has to cling on for dear life. The end comes at Greenhow Hill where police congregate from Pateley Bridge, Ripley, Harrogate, Otley, Skipton and Grassington. The villains are there with their cargo, the unconscious Colin Standish a raging fire and a concealed load of dynamite about to go off.
That is bringing things to an end with a bang – or not quite - for Colin has to survive for more adventures which we look at on another occasion.