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Sniper of the Skies (Hardback)

The Story of George Frederick 'Screwball' Beurling, DSO, DFC, DFM

Aviation > Reference Aviation > WWII WWII

By Nick Thomas
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 257
ISBN: 9781781593141
Published: 22nd July 2015



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When asked to conjure an impression of the 'typical fighter pilot', you may be inclined to think of the confident, extroverted, gregarious type, rallying his men and flying in the pursuit of victory. George Frederick 'Screwball' Beurling, DSO, DFC, and DFM, certainly achieved more victories than most typical fighter pilots dream of, but in temperament, personality and style, he was a one-off.

A devout Christian, teetotaler and non-smoker, Beurling wasn't to be found patronising the local bars with his fellow pilots. Instead, he committed himself solely to the art of aerial combat. His very first missions saw him pursuing lone German fighters that he ultimately destroyed. He was determined to retain focus, noting how the men who did indulge had much briefer and much less effective tours.

In Maltese skies he really came into his own, shooting down 27 Axis aircraft in just 14 days. In the month of July 1942, he secured five 'kills' in just four days. In the process he was awarded the DSO, DFC and DFM, along with hero-status amongst his fellow pilots and members of the public. He survived the war, only to be killed three years later whilst landing a transport aircraft following a test flight. This biographical study serves as a tribute to one of the most successful and intriguing fighter pilots of the twentieth century, and should appeal broadly to fans of the genre.

Beurling’s career is well worthy of a biography. The sections away from his active combat section work best here, giving us an image of the pre-war aircraft enthusiast and the post-war seeker after excitement. The combat sections are a bit too detailed, so Beurling’s own career gets a bit lost in the mass of events, but the Malta section in particular is a good blow-by-blow account of the height of the air battles, and gives us a clear idea of the environment he was operating in, as well as providing plenty of details of his own actions, often supported by his own words.

Read the full review here

History of War

For someone with a special interest in Malta, the book provides much.

Airfix Model World, July 2017

As featured in

Evergreen, Spring 2017

I enjoyed reading this book.

There is a lot going on here and the breathless descriptions of air combat and rescues at sea really work for me. Mr Thomas has done a first rate job and I hope his book does well. He has latched on to a man who deserved having a balanced and respectful biography for the modern reader. This is that book.

It will do much for patriotic Canadians as well, but we should all admire George Frederick Beurling wherever we happen to reside. He was the real deal.

War History Online
 Nick Thomas

About Nick Thomas

Nick Thomas is a former archaeologist and finds expert with a number of published reports to his name. He currently works as Collections Officer responsible for three museums, their settings and historical collections, having been the first manager of the Stafford Castle Museum and Visitor Centre, with which he has a 40-year association. Nick has contributed over 300 history articles to the local press and a number of journals, while finding time to work on many of the excavations in his home town. His previous biographies include RAF Top Gun: The Story of Battle of Britain Ace Teddy Donaldson, CB, CBE, DSO, AFC; Ben Bennions, DFC: Battle of Britain Fighter Ace; Kenneth ‘Hawkeye’ Lee, DFC: Battle of Britain and Desert Air Force Ace; Hurricane Squadron AceThe Story of Air Commodore Peter Brothers, CBE, DSO, DFCSniper of the Skies: The Story of George ‘Screwball’ Beurling, DSO,DFC, DFM*; and Their Finest Hour: Stories of the Men Who Won the Battle of Britain, all published by Pen and Sword.

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