Sunday 24 October 2021

Guest Review: Lancaster: The Forging of a Very British Legend By John Nichol

'The Avro Lancaster is an aviation icon; revered, romanticised, loved. Without her, and the bravery of those who flew her, the freedom we enjoy today would not exist.'

Sir Arthur Harris, the controversial chief of Royal Air Force Bomber Command, described the Lancaster as his 'shining sword' and the 'greatest single factor in winning the war'. RAF bomber squadrons carried out offensive operations from the first day of the Second World War until the very last, more than five and a half years later. They flew nearly 300,000 sorties and dropped around a million tons of explosives, as well as life-saving supplies. Over 10,000 of their aircraft never returned. Of the 7,377 Lancasters built during the conflict, more than half were lost to enemy action or training accidents.

The human cost was staggering. Of the 125,000 men who served in Bomber Command, over 55,000 were killed and another 8,400 were wounded. Some 10,000 survived being shot down, only to become prisoners of war. In simple, brutal terms, Harris's aircrew had only a 40 per cent chance of surviving the war unscathed.

Former RAF Tornado Navigator, Gulf War veteran and bestselling author John Nichol now tells the inspiring and moving story of this legendary aircraft that took the fight deep into the heart of Nazi Germany.

Review: This is a book about the Avro Lancaster, the bomber that flew with the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War, and the people that crewed and maintained this iconic aeroplane. The author, John Nichol is a former RAF navigator who flew bombing missions himself during the Gulf War in 1991.

The book covers the aircraft’s development and its subsequent deployment from the end of 1941 onwards with Bomber Command, taking the fight to the enemy’s territory. Like his earlier book about the Spitfire, a lot of the focus is on people and there are numerous stories of those who flew in the aircraft, mostly based on interviews with the ever-diminishing survivors of the war. Hence, there are accounts not just of operational sorties, but of those who survived after their aircraft was shot down. The book is illustrated with numerous photographs in black and white and in colour. There is a bibliography at the end.

The book is an interesting account of this famous aeroplane and the people who flew in it. However, the loss rate among the aircrew was very high (greater than that of soldiers in the First World War), so many of the stories are very poignant. Like the author’s previous book, I found the writing style episodic, with many apparently unconnected short paragraphs, and sometimes the timeline was difficult to follow. Additionally, the method of quoting the references could have been better, with each chapter having its own list, resulting in thirteen pages of references and notes. If each reference had been assigned its own unique number throughout the whole book, there could have been a single list instead of eighteen separate lists.

Overall, however, I found the book to be a fascinating read with many personal stories of heroism and tragedy. There is also an interesting discussion of the RAF’s bombing campaign and the controversy surrounding it in the post-war years.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

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