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Airmen's Incredible Escapes (Paperback)

Accounts of Survival in the Second World War

Aviation > WWII Photographic Books WWII

By Bryn Evans
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 80 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399004688
Published: 10th April 2024



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Allied air power made a major, arguably decisive, contribution to victory in The Second World War both in the European and Pacific theatres.

The cost in men and machines was horrific with Bomber Command suffering 50% air crew casualties. While many perished, others shot down over enemy territory or water survived only after overcoming extraordinary danger and hardship. Their experiences often remained untold not just for the duration of the War but for many years.

The author has gathered together a wealth of unpublished stories from airmen of many nationalities, be they British, Commonwealth or American. Some involve avoiding or escaping from capture, others surviving against all the odds, braving extreme elements and defying death from wounds, drowning or starvation.

Importantly the accounts of those who survived the battle in the skies cheating the enemy and the grim reaper give the reader a chilling insight into the fate of the many thousands of brave young men who were not so fortunate.

The result is an inspiring and gripping read which bears testimony to human courage and resilience.

I have never read a book of this genre before and find it fascinating. The courage it must have taken to know that statistically you may not reach 30 flying missions. The self survival skills they used after forced landings amazing, still flying with flares going off in the plane, rubber dinghys burning, and at times gaping holes in their planes

Kaye and Peter Lockwood

I just received your novel, AIRMEN'S INCREDIBLE ESCAPES. What struck me immediately was the meticulous detail in how you present the stories, and the kind of synopsis and hook at the front of chapters. Your writing is fresh and evocative, and the stories you include need to be told. You have done an admirable job to bring these stories to life so others can understand what heroism is and the costs of war.

Charles Johnson (CJ Johnson)

Featured in

Alumni News - August 2022

A perfect Christmas present for anyone interested in the more personal history stories of the RAF, and a little beyond, from the WW2 era.

Read the full review here

Navy Net

What these men had in common were resilience, courage, spirit, and quite a bit of luck. Their stories, while differing in detail, are all remarkable, and to his credit, Evans’ selection and organisation keeps them from melding into one less-focused narrative. He also acknowledges the roles of those who helped these airmen often at the risk of their own lives. That these were ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances is reinforced by Evans tracing their post-war normality, though we are reminded of their psychological and physical sufferings that stayed with them the rest of their lives. Readers of World War II air combat will certainly gain insight into the dangerous world of these brave men, and indeed those who never came back.

Read the full review here

Beating Tsundoku

Intertwined with the stories are sober comments and summaries reminding the reader of the risks, the role of chance, and the lingering post-war effects of the war in the air, including what would now be included in PTSD.

Journal of the Military Historical Society of Australia - December 2021

‘In your book With the East Surreys in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy 1942-45, I found your description of the battles for Cassino in Italy the best I have read.’

John Ulm (veteran Spitfire pilot of No 145 Squadron RAF in the Italian campaign), whose story is in Chapter 37 of Airmen’s Incredible Escapes.

‘Incredibly moved by Airmen’s Incredible Escapes - Roy Ehrlich Forbes mentioned in Chapter 18 (New Zealand Observer/Navigator) was my grandfather so its nice to see the story, including his part in it, published.’

Alexander Hart in NZ (NZ reader)

'Airmen's Incredible Escapes - Accounts of Survival in the Second World War' lives up to its promise with a collection of previously unpublished stories, all of them extraordinary stories by men who defied the odds and lived to tell the tale. They are drawn from first person accounts by British, Commonwealth and American pilots and aircrew, covering fighters and bombers in every theatre through the war.

Read the full here

WW2 Today

What's not to love about a good escape story? The men and women who served our country during the Second World War were thrown into the deep end straight from the off. As Bryn Evans points out, "during air crew training in Bomber Command, the overall casualty rate was a shocking 15 per cent." And that was before the Lutwaffe or the anti-aircraft batteries on the ground got to them.

The stories in this book are straight out of the Boys' Own books or comics like The Victor that I used to read when I was young. There are 37 escapades in this book, all nicely edited by Bryn Evans and mostly told in the individuals' own words. It is gratifying that having cheated death by a matter of seconds, seventy or eighty odd years ago, many of the people featured here went on to lead long and happy lives.

I suspect that this is a book that will be enjoyed by old fogeys like me, and new generations of fascinated school children - assuming they can be prized off electronic media.

Read the full review here

Paul Nixon

The book is well researched and indexed with a collection of excellent photographs and maps. The author has used primary sources, interviewing many of the airmen, as well as effectively researching official accounts. It will hold significant appeal for those readers with an interest in military history and military aviation.

AVM Treloar of the RAAF for RUSI United Service Journal

Airmen's Incredible Escapes is an anthology of human endeavour, individual resourcefulness and the will to survive in situations of extreme adversity.

RAAFA Wings Journal

I felt that not only does the book capture a series of very personal stories, from night over Europe to the heat of North Africa and the jungles of the Far East, it tells us of what our fathers and grandfathers had to endure. Bravery, luck, skill and individual determination against adversity all come into it.

Read the full review here

Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

I would still commend Bryn Evans for bringing them all together in one place, and making a clear well narrated story of the life in the lead up to the events that these crews survived and so rounded off the tale fully.

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Bryn Evans's book is the meat and the bones of countless stories published each week in my two comics, Lion and Tiger. Inspiraitonal, hugely enjoyable, and still within living memory for some, almost for me too. Superb.

Books Monthly

Article: Airmen's Incredible Escapes tells of daring WW2 air crews

Telegraph & Argus, 6th December 2020 - words by Emma Clayton

Having now read a few of Bryn Evans' books, I'm happy to say that "Airmen's Incredible Escapes" again demonstrates his great interest in aviation and commitment to original research. In this book, Bryn skilfully merges a rich series of veterans' intimate "first person" adventures with the "big picture" of historical events.

The variety of novel situations and the amazing pathos and bathos of some of the personal stories provide constant surprises. Even readers with extensive knowledge of the Second World War will find much new material in this book. Bryn has collected individual stories from all corners of the Earth and almost every mode of Allied wartime air-operations. Individuals from a wide variety of Western countries are represented. (With a good smattering of Australians.)

The book is structured around 37 self-contained chapters, each following an individual who escaped imminent death. (The text also commemorates their colleagues, who often were not so lucky.) Chapters are arranged in chronological order, so that the flow of history is also evident. There is remarkable contrast between the situations and Bryn moves the narrative along at a good pace. However, the voices of the individual veterans also come through very clearly. Bryn's Prologue and Postscript contain a further dozen quick pen-portraits from his research, adding yet more variety.

Some technical and historical knowledge is assumed, but Bryn's level of explanation is good. There are also Glossaries and Maps for those who need to familiarise themselves with far-flung territories or the jargon of military aviation. Appropriate illustrations are distributed through each of the stories. The standard of proof-reading is also good, making for an entertaining, educational, and in many places, thrilling, read.

James Oglethorpe, 3 Squadron RAAF Association (Australia)

This book is a collection of about 30+ stories in various ways about pilots and crews escaping in various ways with the lives. There are some great stories of both bravery in escaping from harsh conditions and escaping in conditions severely personal pain. It really is staggering how many were left invalided, and the amount of men they must have gone through during the course of the war. It wasn’t during actual war or battle there are from memory a couple of training or non-combat conditions where people have faltered or survived. For a good gripping read I can recommend this and well worth reading on a cold night in front of the fire.


Read the full review here

UK Historian

As featured on Scale Modelling Now

Scale Modelling Now

I thoroughly enjoyed Bryn Evan's book about these incredible escapes by airmen. It was as gripping as a novel or even more so given the true nature of the events. As the son of a WWII airmen who had his own dramas, it took me into his war, and I felt a renewed connection with a father long gone from my life.

Well worth reading and a book of interest to many.


Ralph Bowles

Ralph Bowles

About Bryn Evans

Bryn Evans is a management consultant with many years’ experience of finance and IT at boardroom level. He writes extensively across a wide range of categories, be it business management, travel, military history or fiction and his work has been widely published. His fiction work has earned him Second Prize in the Catherine Cookson Short Story Competition and other awards. He is the author of With the East Surreys in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy 1942-45, The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force and Air Battle for Burma, all in print with Pen and Sword.
He lives with his wife, Jean, in Sydney, Australia.

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