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OU on the BBC: James May's 20th Century - Take Cover

Updated Tuesday 3rd July 2007

In 'Take Cover', James looks at how warfare drives ingenuity and gets to fly in the RAF’s latest supersonic jet. It’s an experience that he describes as "the most amazing thing I have ever done".

James May in camouflage Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

The film begins by looking at the early days of air war at the start of the 20th Century. James flies in a biplane to get to grips with how difficult it was for the early aviators to hit any targets. Using flour bombs, he tries to hit a target on the ground. It’s a lot more difficult than he imagined.

He also meets a group of ex-Paras to try some "make up for men", camouflage paint. When he fails to spot the Paras hidden in the woods he turns to modern technology for help.

James moves on to look at "the biggest art show of the century", one of the most curious innovations to come from the military world. It’s called dazzle camouflage, and it involved painting warships in a confusing series of lines and stripes. Thousands of ships were painted like this to confuse German U boats during the First World War.

Finally James meets up with Squadron Leader Paul Godfrey. He’s been invited to fly in the Typhoon, the RAF’s latest jet fighter. He has a private pilot’s licence - but only at 4,000ft at 120 knots. The Typhoon is a plane that can go from a standing start to six miles high in 150 seconds.

After landing James admits he was slightly emotional: "Well, I admit I was a bit nervous when we set off but, absolutely unquestionably and not anything to do with bigging it up for television, that was the best thing I have ever experienced. It is, it is breathtaking, it really is, I can’t really describe what it’s like. It’s life-changing, frankly."

First broadcast: Tuesday 10 Jul 2007 on BBC TWO

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