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Fighters in the Blood (Hardback)

The Story of a Spitfire Pilot - And the Son Who Followed in His Footsteps

WWII Aviation Aviation in WWII Spitfires & Hurricanes Photographic Books Colour Books Memoirs

By Air Mshl ‘Black’ Robertson
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 344
Illustrations: 100 black and white
ISBN: 9781526784865
Published: 10th August 2020



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This is no ordinary memoir. Moving back and forth through time, two stories with fascinating parallels gradually unfold. One is of a Second World War Spitfire ace whose flying career came to a premature end when he was shot down and lost an eye, the other is about his progeny, a second generation fighter pilot who rose to the rank of air marshal. There were times when the lives of both father and son, ‘Robbie’ and ‘Black’ Robertson, hung in the balance – occasions when survival was simply a matter of luck.

The narrative is unique in its use of two separate and distinct voices. The author’s own reminiscences are interwoven with those of his father recorded more than thirty years ago. Intensely personal and revealing, controversial too at times, this memoir is above all about people. There is a final irony though. The son spent a lifetime training for the ultimate examination – one that despite strictly limited preparation his father passed with flying colours. To Black Robertson’s eternal regret he was never able to put his own training to the test. His father was awarded the DFC and retired as a flight lieutenant after five years or so. He himself served for nearly thirty-six years, earned a Queen’s Commendation, an OBE and CBE and served as an ADC to HM The Queen. But after reaching almost the top of the RAF tree, in one important sense he retired unfulfilled; his mettle was never tested under fire.

Anyone interested to know more about flying, about the RAF, about leadership, about character even, need look no further than this beautifully crafted, immensely readable account.

A useful insight into the workings of the RAF as told by Air Marshal 'Black' Robertson who served for thirty years with the RAF between 1968 and 1998, following in his father's footsteps who had flown Spitfires during the Second World War.

Paul Nixon

“A fighter pilots career interwoven and delivered with unique real-life panache" - 5 STARS

"An eclectic mix of personal and career experiences written in an honest, forthright and transparent fashion that had me hooked from the first couple of pages... an amazing insight into the career of a fighter pilot juxtaposed with access to his father’s detailed wartime letters and journal’s.. Names, places, people, experiences and events that strike a chord.... a riveting read..”

Amazon UK Review

This book is the fascinating story about one who is a Spitfire pilot who is shot down and blinded in one eye and his son who also flies as a fighter pilot and reaches the position on Air Marshal. Their two lives are interwoven and cleverly told. This story is not just about a father-son relationship through flying, it’s also about teamwork, comradery, training and working alongside the good and the great. Although they were both being trained with an ultimate goal in the end, one of them would not be able to fulfil their goal. This book is definitely for those who want to learn about the RAF, leadership and character in an excellent written story about two fine men.

This was a really enjoyable book to read, the book is told in two voices obviously the father and the son, but I loved how it was written in two distinct ways, where you didn’t have any confusion but two well-presented stories and viewpoints. The book is very easy to read and has a nice, relaxed style to entice the reader in. It was fascinating to read the parallels of the two men’s lives even though they are spread apart by a number of years, and having said that it was remarkable the difference between the two. But then the RAF has to follow that same structure and discipline in order to achieve its goal. The photographs used in this book are beautiful and clearly family or personal photographs, which really do help the story. I can see this book appealing to many people certainly those with an interest in the RAF, but also those who like to read about a father and son relationship. A very enjoyable book to read earning 4.5 stars.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ A fascinating insight into RAF life

This book is a fascinating read, especially for those who are keen to know how the RAF operates in modern times and how the relationship with politicians can, at times, be somewhat fraught. As someone who attended the Hornchurch selection procedure in my late teens, only to find on the last day that I was colour blind, it was particularly interesting to speculate what my life could have been had I not inherited a faulty gene!

The references to the author's father's experiences as a Spitfire pilot in WW2 are especially poignant and I would have liked there to be more details of his wartime service. However, despite a gap of some 30 years, it is remarkable how many common elements of a life in the sky are evident, these being well explained to the reader. An excellent book which I can thoroughly recommend.

Amazon Customer, September 2020

This book is a real winner!

“Black Robertson’s book is far more than simply an outstanding pilot memoir, or even a family memoir. Rather, it offers an insightful look into the professional development of an RAF airman from Cranwell cadet to Air Marshal, the evolution of the Royal Air Force itself from the early jet era of Hunters through the demanding days of NATO versus the Warsaw Pack and the defence of British interests (e.g. the Falklands) with the Phantom, and then on into the post-Cold War world where the need to strengthen RAF airpower is challenged by drawdowns, budgetary stringencies, and often misguided Mandarins driving questionable defence policy. I was struck by how beautifully the author integrated his father into the story . . . it is at once very moving and very effective, and, once again, works to integrate the RAF "then" with the RAF of the 1960's-1990s. The photographs are wonderful. This book is a real winner ”

Dr Richard P Hallion FAIAA FRAeS FRHistS

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Impossible to put down once you start reading!

I really enjoyed Black's book. It is fascinating to read more about people you knew fleetingly or by reputation. I couldn't stop reading it till I got to the end - it's that engaging. Well worth getting.

Amazon Customer, September 2020

Beautifully written, a joy to read.

Black Robertson's writing style is approachable and engaging, and he'll draw you into the world of the RAF, both his own life and his father's. His wistful, honest accounts and views on the various eras of the squadrons, told through his anecdotes, are fascinating, entertaining and feel very personal. There are also some photos you will find nowhere else, in each case backed with the story and context that makes the book feel full of life. It's a fantastic read which leaves you feeling you really know the author.

5 Stars.

Amazon Review

Robertson’s account of his own career is precise, elegant and fun... Fighters in the Blood adds a unique twist to the standard autobiographical form, which is a ‘must read’

Gp Capt JR (Jim) Beldon MBE RAF

A very worthwhile read for many reasons and from many angles. Black evokes the inimitable atmosphere of the RAF College in the sixties and continues with a most illuminating account of the rest of a high-flying career.(Pun very much intended). I found this book hard to put down, and
in fact reread it only a few days later. A must for any fan of aviation and the Royal Air Force.

David Harlow

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I found eminently readable. Half a Century ago as a schoolboy I failed an RAF selection board due to dodgy eyesight. I often wondered how different life might have been as a fighter pilot. This book gives an excellent insight into the ups and downs (no pun intended) of life as an RAF pilot. Insiders will find wry amusement in anecdotes about folk they know. Outsiders (like myself) will garner a rounded picture of the challenges, fun, rewards (and occasional drawbacks) of a military flyer’s life. Black Robertson manages to weave some excellent wisdom about the essentials of sound leadership into his book (without being didactic) – wisdom as relevant to the boardroom as to the flight briefing room. The author peppers his narrative with parallel events from his father’s life as a WWII Spitfire Pilot – providing fascinating contrasts of then and now. Doubtless constrained by the Official Secrets Act, some of the later Chapters yield fascinating insights into defence procurement with tantalising hints to be gleaned ‘between the lines’. Overall a well written and superbly illustrated book that will be of interest to a broad readership. I recommend it. Dr Ian Mason

Ian Mason

About Air Mshl ‘Black’ Robertson

Air Marshal GRAEME ‘BLACK’ ROBERTSON CBE, BA, FRAeS, FRSA was born in Woodford, Essex in 1945. After three years at the RAF College, Cranwell, in 1968 he joined his first operational unit, 8 Squadron, flying Hawker Hunters in Bahrain. He then began a long association with the Phantom that included tours on 6 Squadron, command of both 92 Squadron in Germany (by his own account, the pinnacle of his career) and 23 Squadron in the Falkands. In 1985 he took over RAF Wattisham until he returned to Germany as the Deputy Commander in 1991 and subsequently as Air Officer Commanding No. 2 Group. His final appointment was as Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander-in-Chief RAF Strike Command in 1996. He retired from the RAF in 1998.

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