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Above the Battle (Hardback)

An Air Observation Post Pilot at War

WWII Aviation

By Ronald Lyell Munro
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 276
ISBN: 9781473872752
Published: 4th October 2016



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In April 1943, a young officer arrived at Penshurst to join ‘C’ Flight, 653 Squadron. He was no ordinary pilot and this was no ordinary RAF outfit. Lyell Munro was a soldier and 653 was an Air Observation Post Squadron whose pilots were Royal Artillery and whose ground crew were RAF.

AOP pilots were expert gunners, skilled flyers and incurable rule breakers. Flying from airstrips just behind the front lines, without armament and often with no parachute, they controlled the fire of hundreds of guns and their enemies learnt to dread the sight of the little green Austers in the skies above the battlefield. An incautious movement, a puff of smoke or a chance flash of reflected sunlight could bring tons of high explosives raining down.

They flew alone without ground control, scanning the skies constantly while they directed the guns. Closing at over 250mph, an attacking ME 109 left no time for indecision. Reactions had to be instinctive and evasive action instant. Failure was fatal.

After the War ended, the survivors went back into civilian life and few histories mention them or what they did. Lyell’s is one of only two personal accounts that are known to exist and it is likely that there will be no more. Written for his family and his comrades in ‘C’ Flight it is a story told without heroics, but with a deep affection for the men with whom he flew and worked.

This reviewer enjoyed reading this work, and believes that it is likely to appeal to a variety of interests. These could include military historians; and those with a specific interest in British Army history. Aviation enthusiasts are also likely to find the information it contains of interest, while ‘generalist’ students of World War II, and especially the D-Day landings and the Invasion of Europe will probably find it informative. Military and aviation modellers may also find it useful.

NZ Crown Mines

I highly recommend this book to all of you who are interested in the more unusual aspects of wartime flying as well as the personal feeling of those at the sharp end of the sword.

Read the full review here.

Robert Kingsley, The Gava Gold's Blog

Thoroughly enjoyable read about a fascinating aspect of Army aviation history.

The Eagle Vol.14 No.5

About Ronald Lyell Munro

Born in Oxford in 1919, Lyell Munro was the second son of James Munro CBE, Professor of Entomology at Imperial College. He was educated at the Dragon School and Repton before going to Oxford to study Politics and Economics. When the war broke out, he joined the Royal Artillery and then volunteered to become an Air Observation Post pilot.

In 1946, Lyell returned to civilian life and completed his degree at Oxford before marrying Jean, the girl who he met in 1943 at what might count as one of the longest Christmas parties of the war. After serving as a Colonial Administrator in Africa and Cyprus and then as a Senior Civil Servant in the UK he retired to Scotland. He died in 2002 and is buried in Kinloss Abbey.

Perfect Partner

First in the Field 651 Squadron Army Air Corps (Hardback)

651 was the first Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadron, being formed at Old Sarum on August 1, 1941. It was still part of the RAF but all the pilots, drivers and signallers were from the Royal Artillery, while the RAF supplied the Adjutant, Engineer Officer and technicians. It is therefore the premier Army Air Corps squadron. Its first aircraft were an assortment of Taylorcraft Plus Cs and Ds, three Piper Cubs and a Stinson Voyager. Then later that year all 651's aircraft were replaced by the version of the Plus D manufactured by Taylorcraft in Britain and renamed the Auster I. These were deployed…

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