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Bomber Command Pilot: From the Battle of Britain to the Augsburg Raid (Hardback)

The Unique Story of Wing Commander J S Sherwood DSO, DFC*

Aviation > WWII WWII

By Gerald Sherwood
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399012492
Published: 11th August 2021



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John Sherwood was commissioned into the RAF as a pilot officer on leaving school in 1936. In mid-1940, he was posted to a frontline bomber squadron. He went on to undertake a full tour of thirty sorties against enemy targets during the summer of 1940, earning himself a Distinguished Flying Cross for his part in what has become known as the ‘Battle of the Barges’.

Sherwood flew Manchesters on a further series of eventful bombing missions against the enemy, earning a Bar to the DFC in recognition of his determination and leadership. It was in the new Lancasters that Sherwood, by then a Squadron Leader, undertook his most daring mission. This was Operation Margin, the attack upon the M.A.N. diesel engine works at Augsburg in Bavaria on 17 April 1942. This involved a flight of some 600 miles in broad daylight with no fighter escort, flying at less than 250 feet in order to avoid enemy radar.

The raid was led by both Sherwood and Squadron Leader John Nettleton. Sherwood was shot down during the raid and was duly posted as missing. Assumed dead for six weeks, he eventually surfaced as a prisoner of war in German hands at Stalag Luft III.

Operation Margin was considered a success and both squadron leaders involved were recommended for the award of the Victoria Cross. Whilst Nettleton’s citation was approved, and the VC duly invested, Sherwood’s was amended by the Air Ministry to state: ‘To be recommended for DSO, if found to be alive.’ The DSO was gazetted on 30 June 1942.

Whilst in captivity, Sherwood witnessed at first-hand the Wooden Horse escape, the infamous Great Escape, and, finally, the Long March across Germany in the last winter of the war in Europe. He was finally repatriated to the UK during Operation Exodus after the fall of the Third Reich in 1945. Written by his son, Bomber Command Pilot provides a fascinating insight into the development of Bomber Command into the powerful strike force that helped turn the tide of victory in the West.

As Featured In

Scramble 1940, Spring/Summer 2022

"I gained information and satisfaction from reading this sometimes powerful account."

Railway & Canal Historical Society - Air Transport Group Newsletter No 61 - April 2022

As featured in: 'Lancaster bomber pilot had miracle escape after being shot down over enemy territory'

The Cornishman

As featured in

West Briton

As featured in: Lancaster bomber pilot had miracle escape after being shot down over enemy territory

Cornish Guardian

As featured in: Amazing Story of a Wartime Hero

Western Morning News

We have here another wonderful book from the Pen & Sword stable about a pilot from WW2, John Sherwood who joined up to the RAF after leaving school, who was unfortunately shot down on a low flying bombing raid over Europe, and had to spend time in a prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III no less. This is a really enticing and fascinating read learning about a man who hasn’t been celebrated in life as much as he should have been. But here I want to champion these types of books, these brave pilots need to have their stories told because of the bravery and commitment these men showed for the larger cause. Plus if these men, hundreds of them hadn’t shown courage, skill and commitment things might have turned out very differently today. Like the saying goes that every dog deserves his day, so do all these young men putting their lives forward for this country. So when you get a fine book written here by his son, we need to pay it respect and remember the bravery of the few.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

Life of pilot who survived fireball crash uncovered.

Daily Express 29/10/21

The miraculous survival of a Bomber Command pilot whose plane exploded in to a fireball is revealed by his son in a new book.

Daily Mirror 29/10.21

The miraculous survival of a Bomber Command pilot whose plane exploded into a fireball is told by his son in a new book. Wing Commander John “Flap” Sherwood flew at 250ft across 600 miles of enemy territory with no fighter escort during a daring daylight raid on Augsburg on April 17, 1942. After scoring direct hits on a U-Boat engine factory, his Lancaster was hit by antiaircraft guns, causing it to catch fire and plummet into the ground. It was blown into pieces upon impact and another pilot, who saw the fireball, told his superiors no one could have lived. The news of Flap’s “death” was relayed to his wife Bernice, who said: “I would know if he was dead and I think he’s ok.” She was proved right. While the rest of the seven-man crew were killed, he was somehow catapulted clear. Flap, of 97 Squadron, was found unconscious and spent six weeks in hospital for burns to his face before being taken to the Stalag Luft III camp. While there he witnessed the Wooden Horse escape and preparations for the Great Escape – the feat immortalised in the 1963 classic film – on March 24, 1944. Flap left the RAF in 1958 and died aged 54 in 1973. Now his son Gerald has published a book recounting his father’s scarcely believable wartime service. Since 2014 he has trawled through the National Archives to learn more about his father’s 43 raids, including missions to bomb German cruisers at Brest. Gerald, 80, from St Austell, Cornwall, said: “My father and I worked together in the final years of his life in finance and insurance and he opened up about his wartime experience. “He suffered from feelings of guilt and trauma as a result of his sole survival from the seven-man crew of Lancaster OF-K King. And he only ever volunteered very scant information concerning the Great Escape.” The reprisal executions of 50 RAF officers upset him deeply. But he had fonder memories of the Wooden Horse escape, where a gymnastics horse was used to cover a tunnel’s entrance. Three prisoners managed to escape in October 1943, boarding ships back to Britain. Gerald said: “My dad had been able to experience the thrill of jumping over the horse whilst nearby Germans remained oblivious to the activity going on in the ground beneath it. “He had an extraordinary war – people who have read the book have said if it was a Hollywood movie they would not believe it.”

Daily Express - Friday, October 29, 2021

5 stars: What daddy did in the war
Read the full review here

Amazon Customer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic book highlighting the brave wartime exploits of Wing Commander Flap Sherwood. Fascinating insight into Flaps full career detailing operations over Germany in World War Two and eventually being shot down and being held captive in a PoW camp.
A really enjoyable book, a riveting read and anyone interested in air operations, world war two or just a great read should really look at having this book on their bookshelf.
Highly recommended!

NetGalley, Kevin Stabler

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An amazingly and inspiring story about a WW2 bomber pilot. The action described is gripping and the first hand accounts makes for a great read.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

About Gerald Sherwood

Born in January 1942, GERALD SHERWOOD was three months old when his father disappeared during a daylight bombing raid over Augsburg. During his educational years, Gerald met relatives who knew about his father’s wartime exploits. They enabled him to build an informative collection of press cuttings, photographs, letters and book which formed the basis of a lifetime’s research around his father's RAF service and family history. Eventually moving to Cornwall, Gerald worked in catering, civil service and retail. Later, following marriage to his wife Hilary, he settled into the insurance industry for twenty years whilst raising a son and a daughter.

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