The author has written this book as a tribute to the Aircrew Association, which disbanded in 2012. With the passing of the last survivor of WWI, suddenly the survivors of WWII are rapidly dwindling with most now into their 90s. The associations which meant so much to them are now disbanding because their last members are now few in number and growing frail. This book is an excellent tribute to RAF bomber aircrew and has taken first hand accounts from a representative cross section of a typical bomber crew.
NAME: The Fear In The Sky, Vivid memories of Operational Aircrew in World War Two
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Pat Cunningham
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Bomber crew, Bomber Command, Coastal Command, WWII, Second World War, World War Two, European Theatre, area bombing, Burma, POW, pilots, wireless operators, navigators, gunners, bomb aimers
DESCRIPTION: The author has written this book as a tribute to the Aircrew Association, which disbanded in 2012. With the passing of the last survivor of WWI, suddenly the survivors of WWII are rapidly dwindling, with most now into their 90s. The associations, which meant so much to them, are now disbanding because their last members are now few in number and growing frail. This book is an excellent tribute to RAF bomber aircrew and has taken first hand accounts from a representative cross section of a typical bomber crew. With 20,000 hours as a military and civil pilot, the author has a natural feel for the accounts he has collected and presented. The photographic illustration is first class and the ending of each account with a photograph of the subject at the time of writing the account is a nice additional touch that is rare.
The author has pointed out that the 55,573 men killed includes approximately 16% killed in air accidents rather than to enemy action, demonstrating the attrition of men and machines as a result of the high intensity of operations. The total casualty figure for Bomber Command, including dead wounded and captured, was horrifying and a 50% casualty rate that was even higher for some bomber units. It is natural that fear and exhaustion were common.
Most of the accounts are from aircrew serving over Europe, but there are also accounts of the air actions over Burma and the met flights and anti-shipping strikes. What is unusual is that the author has taken the story of each subject beyond war service and this is a fascinating addition. Some crew carried on in RAF service, some became airline pilots and civil servants, flew transport aircraft and some who had not served as pilots in wartime continued on in RAF service and trained as pilots. There are many original points that emerge from this book and it will be an invaluable addition to any aviation bookshelf.
The title is emotive and fear is a strange human characteristic. It is a natural survival instinct that keeps the mind sharp during periods of danger, but it is also a great pressure to flee from danger. That very sensible aspect of fear is unwelcome in a military environment because a battle cannot be continued if everyone has followed the natural instinct to reach safety and avoid danger. That bomber crews continued to go out night after night, knowing what awaited them, is a true mark of courage. Those who won medals responded to special pressures and their efforts were reported. For many, their regular bravery went unremarked, being almost taken for granted. The terrible results of their work also produced a political reaction that saw their campaigns ignored when they should have been recognized and commended. It may be a case of better-late-than-never, but it is incredible that a national memorial has only recently been opened in London for the brave crews of Bomber Command.
Even now, the full achievement of the bomber crews has not been fully remembered in true perspective. Britain suffered terror bombing by German aircraft that were deliberately sent to destroy some of the most beautiful medieval cities of Britain. The RAF response evolved from small scattered raids on German targets, where attempts were made to achieve accurate bombing of military targets. As aircraft numbers increased and technology developed, the RAF was to area bomb cities, creating devastating firestorms that were not to be exceeded until the US bombers dropped the first nuclear weapons on Japan. As USAAF bombers targeted Germany in daylight and the RAF continued by bombing at night, German industry was unable to produce the extra war materials needed to fight the war and heavy anti-tank guns were withdrawn to provide anti-aircraft artillery at home. Some claim that the Allied bombing campaign in Europe shortened the war by several years but the reality was that it prevented defeat of the Allies and prepared the conditions to permit Allied troops to land in Europe and fight their way into Germany.
This book tells the very human story of the brave young men who took part in the greatest air battle ever fought.