From Battle of Britain Airman to POW Escapee - The Story of Ian Walker, RAF, Angela Walker

From Battle of Britain Airman to POW Escapee - The Story of Ian Walker, RAF, Angela Walker

This book tells the story of a New Zealander who volunteered to join the Air Force at the outbreak of the Second World War, and arrived in Britain in time to take part in the battle of Britain (as an air gunner in a Blenheim night fighter), before moving to Bomber Command, where he became the tail gunner in a Wellington. Mid way through his first tour he was shot down and captured, ended up in a POW camp, attempted to escape and ended up being repatriated because of the injuries suffered in his crash. 

Ian Walker’s story is told from the point of view of his daughter Angela, as she read his wartime diaries after his death, and went on to research his wartime experiences. As a result we get two related stories – Ian’s wartime story and Angela’s exploration of that story. Both are fascinating tales.

Ian’s experiences included many aspects that differ from what you might call the ‘standard’ airman/ POW story, starting with the long voyage from New Zealand. He was then the air gunner in a radar equipped Blenheim night fighter, so we get a different view of the battle of Britain. His time with Bomber Command is more familiar, but his experiences after being captured differ in two key ways. First, he spent some time in a Gestapo run hospital, where he saw evidence of the desperate fate of his fellow Jewish patients. Second, because of a leg injury he suffered while escaping from his aircraft he was eventually repatriated to New Zealand. This is the first eyewitness account of that process I’ve come across, and we follow Ian as he travelled by train from his POW camp across France then by ship to neutral Spain, meeting up with an Allied ship containing German POWs going the other way.

Angela’s story is also interesting. A key part of it the discovery of how many of his war experiences her father had simply not talked about – growing up it had felt like he could be quite open about his experiences, but on reading his diaries it became clear that wasn’t the case, and the memories he was willing to share were carefully chosen. Towards the end of his life Ian travelled to the UK several times to take part in the anniversary celebrations of Battle of Britain, where he was a guest of honour as one of the last surviving members of the ‘few’. Angela took part in these trips, but it is clear that reading her father’s diaries made her appreciate them more.

This two pronged approach to the book means that we get two interesting views of the same story, which combine to give a picture of Ian’s wartime experiences and the impact they had on the rest of his life.

1 - The girl with the poppy
2 - 'The boy from Koru'
3 - 'The OE'
4 - 'Fate, it seems, had taken a hand'
5 - 'All hell let loose'
6 - 'One of the finest chaps that ever lived'
7 - 'Farewell to 1940 and all its troubles'
8 - 'Hell, this is it'
9 - 'Another ruddy shaky do'
10 - 'Rabbits'
11 - 'Darkness always gives way to light;
12 - 'Close the shutters'
13 - 'The true story of Kriegsgefangener number 39620'
14 - 'Forgotten what a banana tasted like'
15 - 'Land of the long white cloud;
16 - 'The higher the fewer'
17 - 'A dream that war had denied'
18 - 'A giant wheel of destiny'
19 - 'Slept like tops'

Author: Angela Walker
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 327
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2017

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