Above the Battle (Hardback)
An Air Observation Post Pilot at War
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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.Robert Kingsley, The Gava Gold's Blog
Read the full review here.
Thoroughly enjoyable read about a fascinating aspect of Army aviation history.The Eagle Vol.14 No.5
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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