Thunder Bird in Bomber Command, Sean Feast

Thunder Bird in Bomber Command, Sean Feast

The Wartime Letters and Story of Lionel Anderson, the Man Who Inspired a Legend

Lionel Anderson was the older brother of the famous animator Gerry Anderson, the creator of Thunderbirds and a string of other iconic television series. During the Second World War Lionel served in the RAF. This book is built around a series of lively and entertaining letters he send home while he was training as a pilot in the United States, supported by an examination of his service career, which tragically ended during his first combat mission flying a Mosquito.

The book thus falls into two very different halves. The first half covers his time in the United States, and is supported by his letters home. These paint a picture of a rather glamorous time, with some memorial experiences while on leave, including meeting Marlene Dietrich in a restaurant in Long Beach. Lionel also worked as an extra in the wartime movie 'Thunder Birds', probably the source of the name of the later TV series. This is the first account I've read of RAF training in British facilities in the United States - other accounts have covered British trainees in American schools. His letters also cover descriptions over the local areas around his training base, live on base and his flying experiences.

The second part of the book covers Lionel's active service, and covers the periods after the letters ran out. This is thus a rather more conventional history, although he did serve in an unusual squadron. No.515 had two special tasks, operating two special devices. Moonshine was a spoof device that created the appearance of a large number of aircraft on radar, and Mandrel was a jammer for the German Freya radar system.  Both were secret, perhaps explaining the lack of letters. The squadron later converted to the Mosquito, and tragically Lionel was killed during his first intruder mission in the new aircraft. This section is more of a traditional history, made more interesting by the unusual tasks carried out by the squadron, and based largely on the surviving squadron records.

Unsurprisingly the first half of the book is the strongest, benefiting greatly from Lionel's letters, but the second part is also of interest, covering an unusual type of operations.

1 - Volunteer
2 - Home from Home
3 - Thunder Birds
4 - Wings
5 - The Moonshine Boys
6 - A Strange Existence
7 - Intruders
8 - The Thunder Birds Legacy

1 - Dramatis Personae
2 - Operational Record of Lionel Anderson
3 - Course 7
4 - RAF Flying School in Arizona Desert
5 - 515 Squadron Personnel
6 - 515 Squadron Losses - 1943

Author: Sean Feast
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 240
Publisher: Fighting High
Year: 2015

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