Guest Lecturer sailing aboard SeaDream II from Mumbai to Athens, April 2014

Guest Lecturer

Guest Lecturer sailing aboard SeaDream II from Mumbai to Athens, April 24 2014


Dr. Michael Fopp has had a long and distinguished career in major museums.  He has been the keeper of the Battle of Britain Museum, director of the London Transport Museum, and director general of the Royal Air Force Museum.  After 22 years as the director general of the Royal Air Force Museum, Michael retired in 2010 to undertake a year as Master of the Guild of Air Pilots, a Livery Company of the City of London.

Michael is an aviation and social historian specializing in the 20th century.  He is a light aircraft pilot with commercial and instrument licences and currently chairs two aviation charities concerned with flying scholarships and aviation safety.  He has also been an expert witness in aviation safety.  Michael has flown many different aircraft from antique and vintage machines to very modern, high performance aircraft – one of which he built himself.

Michael recently delivered the prestigious Cobham Lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London which was repeated in the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.  This was on his specialist subject – the Battle of Britain; Michael is the son of one of the pilots who fought in that battle. Earlier this year, Michael also delivered the annual Probert Lecture at the RAF Club about the history of the Royal Air Force Museum and his years as its Director General.

Michael was previously president of the International Association of Transport & Communications Museums for ten years and chairman of the Museums’ Documentation Association for a similar period.

Lecture Titles:

London Transport at War: 1938-1945
Join Dr. Michael Fopp for a fascinating look at the role of London’s transport company during the Second World War.  London Transport not only ran the buses and trains of London throughout the Second World War, but they also carried out many other interesting and exciting tasks.  Illustrated with photos and film from the famous London Transport archive, this story demonstrates how the men, women, and children of London reacted to the first persistent assault from the air in history.

“Got Any Gum Chum?” – The Social and Cultural Impact of the American GI on Britain During the Second World War
After two years of blackout, rationing, and deprivation, the arrival of American forces in Britain in 1942 had a huge impact on the cultural and social life of the British people, particularly those who lived close to American bases dotted all over the country.  Musical and culinary tastes changed, segregation of black and white was questioned, and attitudes about many things altered – on both sides.  This was a fascinating and life-changing time for all concerned.  Its impact on British life continues today.

The Flight of the Mew Gull – London to Cape Town 1939
In February 1939 Alex Henshaw flew a tiny aircraft from Gravesend to Cape Town and back in a record time of four days 10 hours and 16 minutes.  This record stood for 70 years and was only broken by a more modern machine with equipment and facilities unheard of in 1939.  The story of Alex Henshaw himself and his record breaking flight to Cape Town is one of excitement, heroism, and wonder.  The endurance and capabilities of the man and machine were – sadly – overshadowed by the imminent World War, but the achievements of Henshaw himself would continue.  This talk concentrates on the man and his flying career, prior to the Cape Town flight and after as the Chief Production Test Pilot of the famous Spitfire.  Dr. Michael Fopp was the director general of the Royal Air Force Museums, a personal friend of Alex, and incorporates video and personal memories of their time together in this talk.

Aerial “Policing” in the Middle East Between the World Wars
Following the end of World War I and the creation of the League of Nations, the victors were given “mandates” to help underdeveloped people cope with the “strenuous conditions of the modern world.”  Much of this territory was previously part of the then-defunct Ottoman Empire and a large swathe of the Middle East came under British and French control.  The British already controlled huge areas of the Gulf, Egypt, and East Africa and it now fell to them to control warring tribesmen in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine.  Britain was bankrupt following WWI and the costs of this responsibility were not offset by any income derived from the areas themselves.  This is the story of how the world’s first independent air force, which had only been formed in 1918, used air power in the role of “policing” this lawless area.  The story is fascinating because of the primitive but effective methods chosen and the implementation of what was, in those days, a totally new form of military power.

The Arab Israeli War 1948
The foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 led to a series of conflicts with her surrounding neighbors which exist to this day.  The early creation of the new state and its acquisition of a defensive air force is a story of smuggling and gambling, heroism and bravery, comedy and tragedy.  The result was one of the most powerful and sophisticated air forces in the world today.  This story encompasses the first conflict which occurred between Israel and her Arab neighbors in 1948 and the repercussions to the present day and sheds some light on the capabilities, equipment, and characters of the Israeli Air Defence Force.

The Suez Crisis 1956
The Suez Crisis was a diplomatic and military confrontation in late 1956 between Egypt on one side, and Britain, France, and Israel on the other, with the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations playing major roles in forcing Britain, France and Israel to withdraw.  The attack followed the President of Egypt’s (Gamal Abdel Nasser) decision of 26 July 1956 to nationalize the Suez Canal, after the withdrawal of an offer by Britain and the United States to fund the building of the Aswan Dam, which was in response to Egypt’s new ties with the Soviet Union and recognizing the People’s Republic of China during the height of tensions between China and Taiwan.  The aims of the attack were primarily to regain Western control of the canal and to remove Nasser from power, and the crisis highlighted the danger that Arab nationalism posed to Western access to Middle East oil.

Underground London – The Secret Subterranean City
Take a look at subterranean London through the eyes of a transport and military historian.  What is hidden behind those anonymous doorways in passages in the “Tube”?  How did we carry secret messages across London during the Blitz?  Was Parliament really connected to Downing Street by an underground walkway?  This story tells the fantastic and, sometimes, unbelievable story of how London has been undermined by countless tunnels, passageways, and tubes to allow secret tasks to be carried out safely in times of war and peace.  From World War II, through the Cold War and up to the present time, these hidden secrets are revealed.  A visit to London will never be the same again!