No Flight From The Cage

B1858

The author is now in his nineties and this is a new edition published by Fighting High, but originally published in 1956. This new edition is valuable because it speaks for the many aircrew POWs who appear mainly as crowd actors in the tales of the escapers who were an important but minority of Allied POWs held in Germany during WWII.

The author has combined writing with running a Charitable Trust. A number of other books by this author have been published, including a novel “Less than Angel”, a history, “Ireland’s Civil War, A State of Division” and a biography “Arthur Griffith”. In this account of his experiences as aircrew and POW, Younger provides an engaging account with humour and a selection of sketches and cartoons of his own creation, combined with a section of previously unpublished photographs.

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NAME: No Flight From The Cage
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
FILE: R1858
DATE: 080813
AUTHOR: Calton Younger
PUBLISHER: Fighting High
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 240
PRICE: £19.95
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, Second World War, World War Two, aviation, bomber campaign, Europe, ANZAC, air crew, POW, prison camp. Cage, Germany
ISBN: 978-095711-635-1
IMAGE: B1858.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/n8bazbn
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: The author is now in his nineties and this is a new edition published by Fighting High, but originally published in 1956. This new edition is valuable because it speaks for the many aircrew POWs who appear mainly as crowd actors in the tales of the escapers who were an important but minority of Allied POWs held in Germany during WWII.

The author has combined writing with running a Charitable Trust. A number of other books by this author have been published, including a novel “Less than Angel”, a history, “Ireland’s Civil War, A State of Division” and a biography “Arthur Griffith”. In this account of his experiences as aircrew and POW, Younger provides an engaging account with humour and a selection of sketches and cartoons of his own creation, combined with a section of previously unpublished photographs.

The moment Younger heard of the Declaration of War, he wrote immediately to the Royal Australian Navy. He had spent much of his youth wishing to join the RAN, but the Depression had hit his parents who could not afford for him to spend an extra year in Melbourne High School, or study at Melbourne University. He discounted the offer of a promise from the Melbourne Herald of a cadetship when he turned 18 because he needed to start earning. He was one of millions of young people around the world who had their dreams shattered by the Depression and a need to take whatever job provided a regular income. In many respects, WWII came as a great opportunity to live the dream again. When War was declared in 1939 young people across the British Empire scrambled to come to the aid of the Mother Country, a concept that may be difficult to understand in the 21st Century. Today, the fashion is to look at war as a terrible situation that has no redeeming features. In modern combat, as happened to US Navy Seals, the invasion force can stealthily come ashore into the blaze of television lights, batteries of TV cameras and platoons of journalists. ‘Embedded’ journalists can then travel with an attacking force and file stories by satphone without much regard for the safety of the troops that they are travelling with. In 1939 it was a very different world and a very different war. What was not much different was that young people saw it as a great adventure, or as a great duty, or both.

In the author’s case, he eagerly sought to exchange his job as a bank clerk to join the military. In one poignant cartoon in the book he shows himself behind the bars in the bank, then the freedom of aircrew on the great adventure, and then behind the bars of a Nazi POW camp. Receiving a lack lustre response from the RAN, he wrote to the Air Force to receive a more positive response.

The author paints a moving picture of leaving home for war and of his experiences in training. There are also the flashes of humour, which lightens the tale and draws the reader closer. He describes his experiences as aircrew in the great bombing campaign against Germany. By the time that he reached the war zone, the RAF was in full swing with raids that were growing in numbers of planes and destructive capability that was coordinated with the newly arrived USAAF advanced guard, who would fly in daylight with fighter escort, to achieve a round-the-clock bombing of German cities production areas and military installations. This reduced RAF losses as they flew still without fighter escort at night, and combined attacks produced the massive temperatures in the target areas that created fire storms, as destructive as nuclear weapons, if in smaller areas. This was a hard fought campaign and the author was shot down in May 1942, before the USAF daylight raids began to relive the RAF. Even so, bomber casualties were terrible and in May 1942 were high enough for some to question the sanity of maintaining the RAF assault on Germany and Occupied Europe.

In describing the air war, the author provides a picture that reflects the reality in 1942, which is different from the perceptions that many now have. The perceptions accept that the magnificent Lancaster was responsible for the bombing campaign and it did play a significant part. However, the RAF was still scraping the barrel in 1942 and attempting to put in the air as many aircraft as possible to be able to claim 1,000 bomber raids. As a result, the obsolescent, if not already obsolete, Whitley was still flying deep into enemy territory. Hampdens and Herefords continued to be sent out with their twin engines, small bomb loads, and pitifully inadequate defence armament. The Sterling had provided the first heavy bomber capability but was a long way short of the performance the Lancaster was to offer. The Halifax was to provide further heavy bomber capability, but the demand for bombers was so great that Avro were forced to consider using radial engines in the Lancaster because of the enormous demand for Merlin engines. The Wellington was still the warhorse of Bomber Command, twin engined, but much loved by its crews because of its ability to absorb enormous damage and still make it home. Bomber Command was still struggling to improve accuracy and when he was shot down, the author was flying before the routine use of specially trained crews and the superlative Mosquito introduced precision Pathfinder marking of targets. With this selection of aircraft with widely differing performance and defensive capability, the bombing campaign depended on the extreme courage of the aircrew who set out night after night and suffered horrific casualties, rivalled only by the German U-Boat crews who were engaged in their own long range campaign against growing resistance as the RN began to achieve superiority in the Atlantic.

A major portion of the book is given to the author’s experiences as a POW and it was not the romantic environment of popular perception. Mostly it was dull, the food was poor to inadequate and the greatest enemy was boredom. In the closing stages of the War it was also very dangerous. Some camps suffered bombing by Allied aircraft and the Eastern camps were evacuated ahead of the advancing Red Army in great haste and without adequate safeguards for POWs who began the long march West through the winter snows and with very little food.

Through what could have been a testing account, the author has inserted his own cartoons and sketches to provide a very human picture of life in the cage. Included in this is an example of one little considered further loss through imprisonment. When eventually the author was freed, along with thousands of other POWs, he found that while he had languished in hardship and with the rank that he held at the time of capture, others he knew before had now long overtaken him as they were steadily promoted during their active service.

Between being shot down, being captured by the French police, and handed over to the Germans, the author had experienced a brief period of freedom as an evader in occupied France. During this period he received help from French patriots. The Epilogue and After Word provide more emotional passages as the author returned to the French people who had tried to help him to escape capture and of formation of the veterans associations.

This is one of those few books that need to be read and reread. So much of what the author experienced is so very different from many modern perceptions. The authentic account of someone who was there is essential that we may know truth in history as these veterans faded away into that history, where their voice would otherwise be lost. Perhaps one of the great successes in the aftermath of two great global wars is that so many were able to write their accounts and have them published. The equal achievement is that publishers are prepared to produce new editions of the most important books before the authors finally pass away. This reviewer was unable to access a copy of the original first edition, but is inclined to think that the publisher of this new book has been able to add to the original and produce a very effective format. It is to be hoped that the book will continue in an extended life, through reprinting, perhaps in PrintOnDemand editions and as a eBook. Although the new digital based methods of publication can confuse many of the aspects of book availability, they do provide a means to keep works such as this alive indefinitely and avoid long periods when the books are out of print and very difficult to locate as second hand books.

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