The Lancaster bomber has been the subject of countless books over the years, ranging from the memoirs of individual aircrew to full scale histories of the aircraft and the bombing campaign. This work by Martin Bowman falls into the first of those camps. There are eighteen chapters here, each covering a different topic. Ten are by Bowman, eight by other authors (these are mainly written by aircrew).
Some of Bowman's chapters follow a particular crewman or incident, two look at the Dam Busters, others focus on particular topics - the German jets or the concentration of evaders in the forest of Mailly. There is even one chapter looking at the career of one of the most successful German night fighter pilots.
One unusual feature of most of these stories is the frankness with which the high casualty levels suffered by Bomber Command are faced. Many older accounts stick to the wartime reticence - people go missing, or 'go for a Burton', or disappear from the account. In contrast Bowman traces the fate of many of the crews that are featured in passing in these accounts, and even in the articles written by ex-aircrew the passage of time had both increased their willing to address this issue and given them more time to trace the fates of crews they'd lost contact with during the conflict. This unflinching honesty begins in the preface, a rare account from a crewman who survived one of the many disastrous crashes on take-off.
This is an valuable collection of stories, providing a moving cross-section of the experiences of the men of Bomber Command, and the horrendous level of casualties that they suffered. My only quibbles is that the introduction needed to make it clearer where each of the chapters came from, and that the book does finish rather abruptly at the end of the chapter on German jets, but those are only minor quibbles in an interesting book.
Prologue: Never so young again, Dan Brennan
1 - A Yank in the RAF
2 - The Waddington ghost
3 - Jo Lancaster
4 - The Dam Busters
5 - Apres Moi Le Deluge
6 - A member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race, Cy Grant
7 - Kiwi
8 - The Seven Year Twitch, Eric Jones
9 - Three Passions and a Lucky Penny, Eric Stephenson
10 - 'A Lancaster pilot's impression on Germany', Dick Starkey
11 - Mailly
12 - One hell of a story
13 - J-Johnny
14 - 'Bill' - Terry Owen
15 - What the Stars Foretell
16 - An Australian in Bomber Command - David Scholes
17 - The night ghost of St. Trond
18 - Day of the Jets
Author: Martin W Bowman
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation