Spitfire Down (Hardback)
Fighter Boys Who Failed to Return
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'Cruel double blow for would-be bride who lost two fiances during war', Shropshire Star
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Profoundly moved by the stories of wartime casualties as a child, Dilip Sarkar has since spent a lifetime reconstructing the lives of many of the fallen and is passionate about recording and sharing this very personal hidden history. In Spitfire Down he explores the stories of thirteen pilots who failed to return, all killed, either in action or flying accidents, whilst a fourteenth, Flying Officer Buck Casson, was brought down by a German ace over France and captured.
There is, for example, the virtually unknown story of ‘The Baby of the RAF’, Sergeant Geoffrey Painting. Posted to fly Spitfires with 118 Squadron at RAF Ibsley in Hampshire, Painting was hit by flak during an attack on enemy shipping off Cherbourg on 30 September 1941. Still listed as missing, at just 17, he is believed to have been the youngest RAF pilot killed during the Second World War. The author has reconstructed Painting’s short life with help from his family, and forensically deconstructed that last flight with the help of the now late Wing Commander Peter Howard-Williams DFC, who was flying with the teenage pilot that day.
The author also explores the heart-rending story of an American trainee fighter pilot, Pilot Officer ‘Jim Bob’ Lee, whose Spitfire collided with a Wellington bomber over Gloucestershire – resulting in the loss of all airmen involved. Two Canadian pilots perished on Pen-y-Fan, the highest peak in South Wales. The multi-national effort that defeated Hitler is further emphasised, in fact, through the stories of both Wing Commander Piotr Laguna and Flying Officer Franek Surma. But perhaps most tragic of all is how lightning struck Joan Welch twice: her first fiancée, Flight Lieutenant Lester Sanders DFC, was killed test-flying Spitfires in 1942, and her second, Pilot Officer Ian Smith, was killed flying in Palestine in 1945.
Using correspondence, diaries and other personal papers of the pilots concerned, the author has reconstructed their all-too brief lives and provided a lasting and profusely illustrated record of these sacrifices.
As featured inBattle of Britain Historical Society newsletter - Scramble 1940, Spring/Summer 2023, Issue 167
This title allows you to look into the lives of men who died during World War II and had only just started their lives in many cases when they died. What I particularly like about this release is that it enables the person today to look into the lives of the people then at a time when very few remain, and World War II is slowly leaving living memory.Armorama
Dilip Sarkar is a regular author of Pen and Sword books, and always very readable, this time chronicling the lives of some of the Battle of Britain pilots who helped to make history. Brilliant.Books Monthly
4.5 out of 5Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)
Apart from telling the stories of the chosen thirteen, it’s a social history aided by some very good (and appropriate) photographs, including a couple of Douglas Bader playing Golf.
Read the Full Review Here
Book review and article featured inShropshire Star
(Review by Toby Neal)
As featured inNewport Advertiser
As featured inMarket Drayton Advertiser
As featured inBridgenorth Journal
As featured inChronicle Week - Thursday September 8, 2022
As featured inTelford Journal
As featured inExpress and Star (City Final, Wolverhampton)
As featured inShropshire Star
Article: 'War dealt cruel double blow for would-be bride'Express and Star (City Final, Wolverhampton)
Article: New book investigates Spitfire crashes in the BeaconsThe Brecon and Radnor Express
FEATURED INDaily Express
As featured inThe Bookseller
As featured in the article: 'Tragedy of youngest Spitfire Pilot'Worcester News
Author as featured inIsle of Thanet Gazette
Author featured in the article: 'Author on the hunt for untold stories of the Battle of Britain.'Dover Express