March by Moonlight - A Bomber Command Story of Ops and Evasion, Captivity and Friendship, Jack Love & Barry Love

March by Moonlight - A Bomber Command Story of Ops and Evasion, Captivity and Friendship, Jack Love & Barry Love

This is a book with two authors – Jack Love, a navigator with RAF Bomber Command and his grandson Barry Love, who encouraged his grandfather to write the first draft of his story, and later filled in the gaps and completed the text. As a result most of the story is told from a first person perspective, making it impressively atmospheric.

Jack Love had begun pilot training, but didn’t quite make it as a pilot. Instead he was transferred to navigator training, where he eventually thrived. He then joined No. 101 Squadron, which was then operating the Vickers Wellington. There are interesting sections on his training, and his period of active service, but the main story really begins when his aircraft was forced to make a crash landing in France after one of the engines failed. The entire crew survived, and together they attempted to march to the Swiss border. Many POW stories start in the same way, but unusually Love and his crew actually reached the Swiss border, and the story of their journey, carried out with repeated assistance from the French (but without ever making contact with one of the organised escape lines), is the most compelling part of the book.

Unfortunately the nearest part of the border was formed by the fast flowing River Doubs, and this is where the party split up. Three attempted to cross the river, but the author and one other couldn’t swim. Almost immediately after leaving the swimmers, they were captured. The second half of the book covers Love’s time as a POW. He spent the first part of his time in captivity at Stalag Luft III, famous for the ‘wooden horse’ and the great escape. However one of the more distinctive features of Love’s story is that he chose not to become an active escaper, judging that the chances of success were too low and the risks of escaping too high, especially as he had a young child (a quick look at the very small number of ‘home runs’ compared to the number of escapes from camps rather makes his point). Instead he settled into the life of the camp, taking part in the theatrical productions, qualifying as a book keeper and otherwise filling his time. This isn’t to say that we don’t get plenty of escape stories, and like most POWs Love was perfectly willing to take part in the support operations, especially distracting the Germans. He was then moved to a camp in East Prussia, and as the war turned against the Germans took part in the ‘long march’, the forced movement of POWs away from the advancing Russians (although in his case the main threat to his column came from Allied aircraft, rather than from the guards).

We finish with a postscript on the fate of the three swimmers, and a 1980s reunion between the three surviving members of the crew, which rather nicely rounds off the story. This is a rare example of a recent POW story that actually adds something new to the genre, and is well worth the read.

Chapters
1 - Always the conductor
2 - Battle-hardened
3 - A piece of cake
4 - Crash stations now!
5 - Je suis un aviator Anglais
6 - Papieren bitte?
7 - Bacon and eggs
8 - No names
9 - Hande hoch!
10 - Stalag Luft III
11 - 'Legitimate' activities
12 - A highly treasured facility
13 - Christmas 1942
14 - All manner of escape plans
15 - The 'getaway'
16 - Shocking news
17 - Keystone Kops
18 - Glen Heydekrug
19 - Fallingbostel
20 - The Long March

 

Author: Jack Love & Barry Love
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Fighting High
Year: 2016


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