Alone I Fly - A Wellington Pilot's Desert War, Bill Bailey

Alone I Fly - A Wellington Pilot's Desert War, Bill Bailey

Bill Bailey had quite a wide-ranging wartime career, beginning with a fairly disastrous first mission in North Africa as the second pilot on a Wellington that was shot down over the desert. He went on to Malta, where he served as a Wellington pilot and then the airfield controller for a fighter base, before returning to the United Kingdom where he became an instructor, teaching navigation to French airmen.

Bailey's unusual career means that his autobiography takes us into some unusual areas, away from the more familiar stories of fighter pilots or Bomber Command crews over Germany. His spell as an airfield controller gives us a view of another unfamiliar but crucially important part of the RAF story, and the rather casual way in which he was selected for the post despite having no relevant prior experience clearly alarmed him just as much as it surprised me!  

Bailey is an engaging companion throughout, giving an unusually clear view of how random and disruptive life in the RAF could be, as random events took him down unexpected paths (his time as an airfield controller came about purely because he had been hospitalized when his squadron left Malta, leaving him behind to recover, while his return to the UK followed the closure of the temporary fighter field he had been in charge of).

One word of warning - read the book before looking at the text on the dust-covers, which rather gives away the entire story! This wouldn't be important in most works of history, but here makes quite a difference, especially early in the book.  

Chapters
1 - I Arrive in Egypt
2 - My First Operation
3 - Over the Target
4 - Disaster Strikes
5 - Alone in the Desert
6 - Rescue
7 - The Flight Commander's Story
8 - My New Crew
9 - We are Attacked
10 - A Refresher Course
11 - We Change Airfield
12 - We Move to Malta
13 - A Call to H.Q.
14 - An Air Raid
15 - Hospital
16 - My New Job
17 - Airfield Controller
18 - UK
19 - Staff Navigator
20 - The End of the War

Author: Bill Bailey
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 168
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2009


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