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Aces, Airmen and The Biggin Hill Wing (Hardback)

A Collective Memoir 1941 - 1942

WWII Aviation Battle of Britain World War Two Aviation

By Jon Tan, Foreword by Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum DFC
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 250
ISBN: 9781473881693
Published: 2nd November 2016

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During the Second World War, RAF Biggin Hill was one of Fighter Command's premier stations. Throughout the Battle of Britain and beyond, it became a hotbed of talent and expertise, home to many of the Command's most notable and successful squadrons. Both on the ground and in the air, Biggin Hill had a formidable reputation and its prowess was very much built on a partnership between air and ground personnel, including squadron members, specialist engineers, armourers and other ground-crew. This fascinating new book from Jon Tan offers a rich account of the years 1941-1942, an incredibly varied and eventful period in Biggin's story.

The author's late grandfather, David Raymond Davies, was assigned to a specialist armourers' team at Biggin Hill and his grandson's narrative serves as a tribute to a particularly fascinating RAF career. Told from Davies' first hand viewpoint and taking a ground-crew member's perspective, no other history has been published that examines day-to-day operations at Biggin Hill in this way.

Drawing on many sources, including original interviews with veterans, the narrative foregrounds Davies' story, using it as the backbone for Tan's broader historical record of the operations of Biggin's Spitfire squadrons. It thus establishes a collective memoir, taking in accounts by such notable pilots as Don Kingaby, Jamie Rankin, Brian Kingcome, Walter 'Johnnie' Johnston, Dickie Milne and Raymond Duke-Woolley, all of whom had close associations with Davies in his capacity as a specialist armourer. Reading the manuscript, Squadron Leader 'Johnnie' Johnston told the author "I read it often; it sits here on the table next to me. It's the closest to how I remember it".

Far from being a dry account of daily operations, this narrative seeks to engage the reader emotionally. Bringing together a considerable amount of evidence and oral history, it tells the story of one twenty-one year old and his comrades, thrown into the howling gale of the Second World War and the intensity of the conflict as experienced by front-line RAF personnel.

Oh yes, the story uses much more than just Davies' memories. It also draws extensively on other documentation, eye witness views from pilots and other airmen. It tells about many individual battles in the air, drawn up from interviews with the pilots. And it mentions the famous aces like Sailor Malan and the likes, but it also tells the story of the many other pilots that fought for Britains, and indeed Europe's freedom alongside those aces. It also tracks all of the units and their staff based in and out of Biggin in those years, providing a good historical overview in that sense.

But most of all it shows us what life in the south of England was like on an airbase at war, in a most lively way that really sets this book apart!

Read the complete review here.

FSAddon, Francois A. Dumas

As featured in Scramble.

Battle of Britain Historical Society

With all the books written about fighter pilots in WWII, here is a
book that shows there is always room for a new approach that
produces an entertaining and informative perspective on part of
the air war over Europe. Strongly Recommended.

Read the full review here.

Firetrench

About Jon Tan

Dr Jon E.C. Tan is a senior lecturer and researcher at Leeds Beckett University. Alongside his academic work, he is a keen military historian specialising in RAF Fighter Command's operations post-1940, as well as those of the 2nd Tactical Air Force during the liberation of Europe 1944-45. In addition, his interests in the First World War have involved him walking the Somme battlefields using period maps.


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