Of the 125,000 men who volunteered for operations with Bomber Command during the Second World War, 55,573 were killed, the slaughter being at an almost unprecedented level. Total fatalities between 1939-45 were 452,000. Thus, approximately 13 per cent of all British and Commonwealth deaths during the Second World War were among bomber crews. These very 'ordinary men' were asked to take on an almost suicidal task and they generally volunteered for the job; a phenomenon that continued until the cessation of hostilities. But after the fighting was over, no campaign medal was ever struck for the air and ground crews of Bomber Command who had fought a six-year offensive which was instrumental in the destruction of the Third Reich. Air Marshal Arthur Harris, the Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command, never forgave the government for this. Such was his disgust at the lack of official recognition of the effort of his men that, when he was awarded the CGB in 1946, it caused him great distress and embarrassment and he refused to accept a peerage.
Harris felt particularly strongly for his ground crews who had to work at all hours in often abominable conditions to keep his vitally needed aircraft flying. This book reveals the human side of the bomber crews' experience. Based upon many interviews, correspondence and archival sources, Andrew Simpson, the son of a Lancaster pilot, has compiled a compelling, informative and absorbing documentary record of what the men of Bomber Command went through - from initial training and crew formation, to descriptions of life on squadron and their extremely dangerous and draining operations, to the numbing effect of morale breakdown. The result of years of work, the book contains many personal accounts from air crew - from those who survived and those who did not - the heroism, the tragedy and the humour. The author also examines the technology of bombing and how this terrifying form of aerial warfare evolved in terms of aircraft design, navigation and tactics and as deployed by the Hampden, Whitley and Wellington medium bombers, and the Stirling, Halifax and Lancaster 'heavies' which equipped the squadrons of Bomber Command.
A view of, and from, the German side is included, as are the harrowing experiences of being shot down over enemy territory and evasion both on land and by sea. The story of the prison camp experience is also recounted, examining in particular Stalag Luft III and the escapes that were made from it, including the notorious 'Great Escape' of March 1944. Running as a poignant thread through the book is the story of the author's father, who piloted Lancasters on an Australian bomber squadron and whose personal accounts form the backbone of this highly researched and often very moving book. For anyone with a desire to learn more about Britain's aircrews at war or for those seeking to understand more about the operations of Bomber Command, this book offers a unique and extraordinary insight into a momentous period of history.
Publisher: Chevron Publishing Limited