"The sort of man": Politics, Clothing and Characteristics in British Propaganda Depictions of Royal Air Force Aviators, 1939-1945
Throughout the Second World War, the Royal Air Force saw widespread promotion by Britain’s propagandists. RAF personnel, primarily aviators, and their work made frequent appearances across multiple propaganda media, being utilised for a wide range of purposes from recruitment to entertainment. This thesis investigates the depictions of RAF aviators in British propaganda material produced during the Second World War. The chronological changes these depictions underwent throughout the conflict are analysed and compared to broader strategic and propaganda trends. Additionally, it examines the repeated use of clothing and characteristics as identifying symbols in these representations, alongside their appearances in commercial advertisements, cartoons and personal testimony. Material produced or influenced by the Ministry of Information, Air Ministry and other parties within Britain’s propaganda machine across multiple media are examined using close textual analysis. Through this examination, these parties’ influences on RAF aviators’ propaganda depictions are revealed, and these representations are compared to reality as described by real aviators in post-war accounts. While comparing reality to propaganda, the traits unique to, or excessively promoted in, propaganda are identified, and condensed into a specific set of visual symbols and characteristics used repeatedly in propaganda depictions of RAF aviators. Examples of these traits from across multiple media are identified and analysed, revealing their systematic use as aids for audience recognition and appreciation.