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Johnnie Johnson's Great Adventure (Hardback)

The Spitfire Ace of Ace's Last Look Back

Aviation Aviation in WWII Spitfires & Hurricanes Biographies

By Dilip Sarkar MBE
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 288
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526791740
Published: 29th October 2020

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Air Vice-Marshal Johnnie Johnson – a policeman’s son from Leicestershire – ended the Second World War as the RAF’s top-scoring fighter pilot. Fearless, and an exceptional pilot and marksman, Johnnie was also highly intelligent and a gifted writer.

Having published two of his own books, Wing Leader and The Circle of Air Fighting, during the 1980s and 1990s, Johnnie co-authored several more with another fighter ace, namely Wing Commander P.B. ‘Laddie’ Lucas. In 1997, the ‘AVM’ suggested to his friend, the prolific author Dilip Sarkar, that the pair should collaborate on The Great Adventure – a book that would, in effect, be Johnnie’s account of the ‘Long Trek’ from Normandy across Northern Europe into the heart of the Third Reich itself.

‘Greycap Leader’ was to produce a draft, after which Dilip would add the historical detail and comment. Sadly, the project was unfulfilled, because Johnnie became ill and passed away, aged eighty-five, in 2001. Years later, Johnnie’s eldest son, Chris, discovered the manuscript among his august father’s papers. In order to keep Johnnie’s memory evergreen, Chris turned to Dilip to finally see the project through to its conclusion.

In this book Johnnie re-visits certain aspects of his wartime service, including the development of tactical air cooperation with ground forces; his time as a Canadian wing leader in 1943, when the Spitfire Mk.IX at last outclassed the Fw 190; and details his involvement in some of the most important battles of the defeat of Nazi Germany, including Operation Overlord and the D-Day landings in 1944, Operation Market Garden and the airborne assault at Arnhem, and the Rhine Crossings, throughout all of which Johnnie also commanded Canadian wings. Here, then, we have The Great Adventure – ‘Greycap Leader’s’ previously unpublished last look back.

I’ve looked forward to reading this book for a while now as I tend to think that we don’t celebrate our pilots or heroes as much as we should, after all if it wasn’t for these brave heroes we might not have won the war. I must admit to having already read/viewed a couple of mediums involving Johnnie Johnson before, so the subject wasn’t new to me. But this was certainly an excellent book to read, both entertaining and interesting. I enjoyed the flow of the book and the various parts of the life story of Johnnie Johnson. There has been a lot of thought and research that has gone into the book which I think shines through, from letters, documents and diaries. At the back of the book, credit must also go to the records and statistics and bibliography sections. This book has been a great book to read and one of the best I have read about this great man.

5 stars

Read the full review here

UK Historian

About Dilip Sarkar MBE

Driven by his passion to research and share the stories of casualties and record the human experience of war, DILIP SARKAR is a best-selling author whose work is highly regarded globally. A noted expert on the Battle of Britain period, who enjoyed a long and very personal relationship with the Few, Dilip was made an MBE in 2003 for ‘services to aviation history’, and, in 2006, elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society. He is a sought-after, dynamic speaker whose enthusiasm is infectious, presenting at many prestigious venues, including the Imperial War Museum Duxford, RAF Museums Hendon and Cosford, National Memorial Arboretum, Oxford University, Bentley Priory Museum and Airborne Museum, Oosterbeek. Dilip’s work has been exhibited internationally and he continues to work on TV documentaries, on and off camera. 

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