Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
Publication: Historical Archives. Posted by
Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
A man's got to relax, even during wartime. Pictured here is a RAF pilot reading a Buchan novel while his hair is cut.
Sometimes we need a break from whatever we’re doing, kick back a little bit, enjoy a book and get a haircut. For most of us, however, that typically means getting a break from work. Back in the early 1940s in Europe, though, that meant having to take a break from battle, as World War II had been raging on. Here, we see one member of the military getting away from the action for a bit to relax and make sure he’s looking his best by having his haircut right at the airfield in what makes for a pretty unconventional barbershop.
This man wasn’t just any member of the military, but was Francis Mellersh, an Air Vice Marshal of the Royal Air Force for Great Britain, one of the best at what he did. While getting his haircut here, Mellersh was reading the book “Greenmantle” by John Buchan, a thriller written in 1916 that proved to be very significant. It’s a good read for someone that’s getting their haircut while smoking a pipe, surely.
Mellersh was born in Esher, England on September 22, 1898, officially joining the military in 1916 back when the department he’d become associated with was known as the Royal Naval Air Service. Mellersh proved to be a quick learner as he excelled as a fighter pilot and entered World War I at just 19 years old. He quickly became a flight commander and was even involved in the air battle that took down the infamous Manfred von Richthofen, who was more commonly known as the Red Baron.
The plane that you see behind Mellersh and his barber was the Supermarine Spitfire, which had been used by several Allied countries during World War II. The plane didn’t have a very long range, but was certainly swift and powerful, making it perfect for combat. The introduction of the Spitfire occurred in 1938, four years before this photo was taken. Production of the plane ceased in 1948, with the RAF being its main user. Even though production had stopped, the Spitfire remained in use until 1955, and was used in some very famous conflicts such as the massively important Battle of Britain where the RAF was able to hold off German forces to defend the United Kingdom.
Mellersh continued to serve in the military after the first World War had ended, and spent the rest of his life working up the ranks of the Royal Air Force as the second World War the started at the end of the 1930s. Here you see Mellersh during that time, with his haircut coming in 1942. He became a very decorated fighter pilot that earned awards such as the Air Force Cross and became a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. At the time of the photo, Mellersh had been stationed at RAF Wattisham that was located in Suffolk, England before closing down in 1993.
Mellersh had been with the Royal Air Force from the start when the branch became the newest in the military in April 1918 and proved an integral part of World War II. Now, the RAF boasts more than 33,000 active personnel. The RAF has reployments in countries around the world, ranging from Afghanistan and Norway to Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.
Throughout the early parts of World War II, Nazi Germany had won just about every battle that they had participated in. It wasn’t until the Allies, including the Royal Air Force, were able to capture the first significant victory for their side. Despite being heavily outnumbered, these pilots showed their expertise and survived through a long dogfight to establish that the Allied air forces were capable of turning the tide of war.
Pilots like Mellersh made the Allied victory possible, as the Germans were dominant on the ground during the early parts of the war, but found that British, Canadians and Americans were more than capable in the air. Mellersh lived through both World Wars and continued his time with the RAF up until his death. According to his daughter, Mellersh lived until his early 70s, passing away from lung cancer. “That bloody pipe killed him in the end at 72,” she said. “I’m afraid those who have been to war and daily diced with death are rather cavalier with their health.”
It was discovered that Mellersh had been quite the brilliant student leading up to his military career. Upon finishing his initial schooling, Mellersh had been accepted into the prestigious Oxford, one of the best universities in the world. He didn’t return to school after World War I, instead opting to continue serving his country. Though military experience had made up most of his life, “He was a very modest man, very laid-back and spoke little of the war,” his daughter said.
At the end of his service in World War II, it’s estimated that Mellersh destroyed upward of 42 enemy planes, earning him the Flying Cross for one battle. Upon receiving the award, it was noted that Mellersh “is a tenacious and skillful fighter and has destroyed five enemy aircraft in combat. On one occasion in April, 1943 during a patrol off Algiers at dusk, he encountered a large formation of enemy aircraft. In the ensuing engagement, Flying Officer Mellersh shot down two of them. Although his aircraft was badly damaged he flew it to base. More recently, in July, 1943, Flying Officer Mellersh destroyed two enemy aircraft during one sortie. This officer has set a praiseworthy example.”
At the time that Mellersh had been serving with the RAF during World War II, there were nearly 1 million in personnel for the branch alone. Following the war, those that were considered essential were kept aboard, as well as those that wanted to continue their service. Mellersh definitely fit both of those bills, cutting down the amount of those serving by nearly 85 percent. The amount of those still in the RAF continued to diminish in the years that followed due to an extended period of peace, which is why the number is almost nothing compared to what it was during World War II.