From Dogfight to Diplomacy (Kindle)
This is a tale of human fortitude in a life shaped by a love of flying, military service, war, imprisonment, diplomatic service and a wife who was eventually diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. MacDonell's service career began in the 1930s when he studied at RAF Cranwell. After a spell at No 54 Squadron he went on detachment to the Fleet Air Arm and was posted to the Middle East and Malta. Shortly before the war he was promoted to Squadron Leader and worked at the Air Ministry during the Phoney War. When hostilities commenced he became CO of No 64 Squadron at Kenley carrying out convoy support operations and eventually fighting in the Battle of Britain over Kent. Now with a DFC, he is given command of a squadron at Leconfield to train urgently required new pilots before coming south again to Hornchurch. Eventually he is shot down over the English Channel and is rescued by a U-boat. This resulted in a lengthy period spent at several PoW camps in enemy occupied Europe and Germany. During this period he was involved with the famous 'Wooden Horse' escape and was eventually freed by advancing Russian troops. Upon his return to the UK he was promoted Wing Commander and worked on the Cabinet Office staff before moving to Headquarters Flying Training Command. He was then appointed Chief Flying Instructor at Cranwell before successfully applying for the post of British Air Attaché in Moscow. Here he met the legendary leaders of post-war Russia, Khrushchev, Bulganin and Mikoyan and assisted in the organisation of the first civilian flights between London and Moscow. MacDonell has written this memoir with both humour and understatement; it is all too easy to underestimate the hardship he endured whilst captive and the significant part he played in battle and then in diplomatic circles.