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The Fear in the Sky (Hardback)

Vivid Memories of Bomber Aircrew in World War Two


Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781848846487
Published: 17th September 2012



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A profound respect for the RAF aircrews of the Second World War led aviation historian Pat Cunningham DFM to record the experiences of ten men who volunteered to risk their lives on air operations, for some time Britain’s only effective method of striking back. These young men came from disparate backgrounds but, having qualified in their specialist categories, were skilfully merged as interdependent crew members.

A staggering 8,305 of the 55,573 men killed in RAF Bomber Command alone died in accidents, showing that enemy action was only one of the hazards aircrews faced. Others included technical malfunctions, notwithstanding that each had implicit faith in their supporting ground personnel. The constant pressure to get aircrews operational saw many completing the required thirty bombing sorties with less than 500 hours’ experience. Even so they were required to navigate over hostile, blacked-out terrain, in
uncertain weather, and with few radio aids, in machines packed with highly volatile substances. Hardly surprising then that fear was a concomitant of the job. ‘I was scared throughout every single operation,’ says one, ‘and if any operational aircrew member says different I’d say they were either liars, or that age has mellowed their memories.’

Bomber Command experiences over Central Europe, feature largely, but also included are maritime operations, to furnish the all important meteorological reports; two-crew airborne-interception-radar sorties; virtual suicide attacks by outmoded torpedo bombers against enemy capital ships; operations in support of the Chindits’ Long Range Penetration Force in Burma and German-POW incarceration that culminated with a three month death march ahead of the advancing Soviets.

The crew is the essential element throughout, yet as the narratives show, not all gelled seamlessly. Surprisingly however, individual traits actually strengthened the bond and gave every aircrew its special quality.

A vivid account of the experiences of 10 men who volunteered to risk their lives on air operations during World War II.

Pennant Magazine

This book contains ten intriguing reminiscences of bomber aircrew. Some were pilots, others navigators, flight engineers, bomb-aimers or gunners. They flew as both commissioned or NCO airmen. Understandably, a common problem was that of coping with fear. Many former aircrew hold that anyone who claims to have felt no fear is either lying or has allowed the years to blank out that fear. But there are a few who do maintain that they never felt afraid. For the majority, though, handling with fear was something to be worked out by the individual.

Britain at War

…it is an assembly of ten autobiographical accounts by Bomber Command aircrew retelling of their experiences, and very hairy many of them are. There are many personal touches, drawn from their first fays in uniform right up to the end of their tour of duty sometimes in a German POW camp. The stories make a lively read rather than offering something new to history…

The Bulletin

Aviation historian Cunningham records the experiences of ten men who volunteered to risk their lives on air operations – for some time Britain’s only effective method of striking back.

Military History Monthly
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