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Group Captain Tom Gleave (Hardback)

The Memoirs of One of The Few and a Founder of the Guinea Pig Club

Aviation > Aviation Biography & Memoirs Aviation > Pilots Aviation > WWII Military > Memoirs P&S History > By Century > 20th Century

By Gp Capt Tom Gleave
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 296
Illustrations: 16 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399059183
Published: 30th June 2024


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Thomas Percy Gleave began his RAF career in 1930. He transferred to Bomber Command on 1 January 1939, but at the outbreak of war requested a return to Fighter Command. He took command of 253 Squadron just in time for the start of the Battle of Britain.

In this autobiography, Tom Gleave tells of the early days of his encounters with the German aircraft in dramatic detail and particularly of that dreadful day, 31 August 1940, when he escaped his fatally damaged aircraft with severe burns to much of his body and his face. After being taken to Orpington Hospital, Gleave was transferred to Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead where he was one of the first pilots to undergo plastic surgery by Archie, later Sir Archibald, Mclndoe and his brilliant colleague, Percy Jayes.

Gleave received leg and facial grafts, and his nose was reconstructed. The Guinea Pig Club was formed at Queen Victoria Hospital on 20 July 1941, with Mclndoe as President and Gleave as Vice-President and a Founder Member, being the club’s first and only Chief Guinea Pig until his death in 1993.

Despite his grievous injuries, soon after the Guinea Pig Club was formed Gleave returned to the air once again. By October 1941, he was declared operational. On the 5th of that month, he was posted to RAF Manston as its new Commanding Officer. As he reveals he was faced with a front line airfield that had been badly damaged by the Luftwaffe. While Gleave was at Manston, the airfield, and the men and machines based there, played a central role in the Channel Dash during which the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, battled their way up through the Channel to reach home ports. It was after this action that Gleave recommended Lieutenant-Commander Eugene Esmonde for a posthumous VC, as well as recognition for five survivors of the Fleet Air Arm Swordfish involved. All of the awards were granted.

A number of other postings followed before Gleave was promoted to Group Captain on 9 September 1942. Having then been involved in the planning of the aerial elements of Operation Overlord, he was made Head of Air Plans under Eisenhower at SHAEF on 1 October 1944.

Tom Gleave revealed a little of his Battle of Britain service in I Had a Row With a German, which was written under wartime conditions in 1941. This moving and detailed autobiography, however, was penned in the years after the war. A more expansive and revealing account of his part in the events of the Second World War, it is published here for the first time.

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