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Return Flights - In War and Peace (Hardback)

The Flying Memoirs of Squadron Leader John Rowland

Aviation > Lancaster Bombers Aviation > WWII WWII > Battles & Campaigns > Dunkirk

By Sqn Ldr John Rowland
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781848844070
Published: 31st March 2011
Last Released: 14th March 2011


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John Rowland made his first flight with the RAF Volunteer Reserve on 1 October 1938 from Redhill in a DH60 Moth. He won a Prize Cadetship to the RAF College Cranwell and then posted to the School of Army Cooperation. He volunteered for 613 Squadron which had been formed shortly before the war started. It was still not fully equipped with Lysanders and half of its planes were still elderly Hectors. On 25 May 1940 came the news that six Hectors were to be sent off on a ground strafing operation to relieve the pressure on the garrison of Calais which was blocking the Germans from advancing up the coast towards Dunkirk and encircled by German troops Three Hectors flew on each side of Calais and created as much of a diversion as they could by dropping bombs and firing their guns at anything they could see. This was the only occasions on which such obsolete aircraft was used in Europe in WW2.

He converted to heavy bombers and was posted to 12 Squadron at Wickenby flying Lancasters in June 1943. On 3 July he made his first trip to Germany, to Gelsenkirchen. After he had flown 28 operations he was promoted to Squadron Leader as a Flight Commander at 1656 HCU at Lindholme. He was next posted to 625 Squadron as a flight Commander on 12 May 1944. It was a two flight Lancaster Squadron. The last of his 50 bomber operations was to Calais, the town to which he made his first operational flight in the Hector in 1940.

After the war John flew as an airline pilot with BOAC.

This is one of many WW2 'flying memoirs' books currently in circulation and covers the author's career through Cranwell, CFS instructional duties, tours on 12 sqn and 625 Sqn (Lancasters) before leaving the RAF post-war to become a pilot with BOAC. What makes it a bit different is that he was one of the very few pilots to see active service over France in the 1940s flying the somewhat inadequate Hawker Hector open cockpit bi-plane on Army co-operation tasks.

Air Mail

This is a very readable memoir, telling a fascinating story and provides an interesting view of life in Bomber Command, with a different feel to memoirs set earlier in the war.

historyofwar.org - Dec 2011

Another useful account that brings a human background to RAF history. Not many biographies touch on operational flying in Hectors!

Aeromilitaria - Autumn 2011

The author has interesting tales to tell. This book merits a read.

Aeroplane - October 2011

In modern times it is hard to find a completely accurate and truthful resource on most aspects of the second world war however this book is pleasant exception. Return Flights In War & Peace encompasses the memoirs of John Rowland, squadron leader, airline pilot and hero. The book covers everything from his first flight with the RAF Volunteer Reserve on 1 October 1938 to his promotion to Squadron Leader as Flight Commander at 1656 HCU at Lindholme. Through direct and detailed prose, the memoirs also divulge information on Rowland's first tour in 12 Squadron and Crossing Africa ultimately relating to the reader what it felt like to captain 48 varied bombing missions. At 91 years of age, John Rowland is still fighting on and it is this fact that makes the book all the more significant.

John (Customer Review)
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