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We Landed by Moonlight: Secret RAF Landings in France, 1940-1944 [Paperback]

Hugh Verity
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.95
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Book Description

29 Jun 1998
For most of the 2nd World War the RAF flew small aircraft into Occupied France at night, landing and taking off in total secrecy. Their mission was to transport agents to and from France to support the activities of the French Resistance and SOE. The chronicle of these operations tells an extraordinary adventure story, full of danger for both agent and aviator. Hugh Verity flew many of the missions recounted in We Landed by Moonlight and was probably the most outstanding pick-up pilot of them all.

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We Landed by Moonlight: Secret RAF Landings in France, 1940-1944 + Secret War Heroes: The Men of Special Operations Executive
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crecy Publishing; Revised edition (29 Jun 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0947554750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0947554750
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 15.2 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It was late summer in 1942 and approaching midnight. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsung heroes 21 Oct 2006
This book by Hugh Verity (who was himself one of the most accomplished pilots involved) will be enjoyed mainly, I think, by those who have already read many books on the agents who were transported to and brought back from France and whose names and exploits are familiar to them. I am sorry to say that when reading these books I have tended, although recognising the courage and skill of the pilots involved, to take their efforts for granted whilst pursuing the main exploits of the 'passengers'. This book fills in the background to the journeys to and from Tempsford and Tangmere in particular in detailed diary format. Their skills in flying to remote fields in France in all weathers and landing and taking off again (if the mud didn't prevent them), risking the flak over the French coast, enemy fighters and a possible enemy reception on arrival in France, were awe inspiring. This account in its fuller-than-usual diary format fills a gap that deserves our attention and admiration.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
If you enjoy reading true accounts of wartime aviation exploits then this book is a cut above the norm. Hugh Verity describes many of the missions he flew in Lysanders and Lockheed Hudsons from Tangmere in West Sussex, England to France ferrying secret agents to secret landing strips at dead of night. These missions were fraught with danger, not only from the enemy but from the often appalling weather conditions. If you're an aviator, like myself, then you'll really have respect for this guy. Even if you don't fly, this book gives a fascinating insight into the clandestine work across the English Channel. The book was a fascinating read which I felt was modestly written and leaves you with much admiration for these unsung hero-pilots.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing real-life adventure 6 Sep 2009
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Highly recommended. This is one of those time-warp books, where you are transported back to a world of cheery young men and staunch women-in-waiting, respectively risking their necks and worrying in the great adventure of World War II. Hugh Verity commanded the highly secret 161 Squadron, which flew single-engine Lysanders and twin-engine Hudsons into farmers' fields in occupied and Vichy France. They dropped off and collected agents, and couriered invaluable intelligence reports back from under the noses of the Germans and their Vichy allies. It is fluently written, highly-readable and modest.

I particularly commend it to pilots. Anyone who has ever been lost--and who of us hasn't--will recognise the agony of being lost at night over hostile territory while navigating visually by moonlight. Have you ever known the sinking feeling, literally, of landing on a soft field and gunning the engine to full power while the aircraft remained stubbornly stuck in the mud? Then you'll understand the frustration of the pilots as they tried to drag their heavily-loaded aircraft off short, soft, improvised landing grounds, usually with the odd tree on the boundary to add a little interest to the angle of climb.

These were young men, usually around 25, highly individualist in style and approach. There were remarkably few casualties, though many of the crew were subsequently killed in action after transferring to Bomber Command. The calibre of their passengers is remarkable. The pilots seldom knew their real names, only their code names, but the passenger lists included a couple of future French presidents, some future French prime ministers, as well as those who went on to run huge French companies. Violette Szabo was a customer of Verity Air. So was François Mitterand.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fitting Tribute 29 Sep 2008
During the war the nature of the work undertaken by the pilots and aircrew of the Special Duties Squadrons precluded them from receiving the publicity associated with air operations of a more beligerent type so, rather belatedly, this excellent account goes some way to making up for this oversight. As someone who spent a number of years growing up in the vicinity of Tempsford I've always been intrigued by the clandestine work carried out by the Whitleys, Halifaxes, Hudsons and Lizzies based there.

Hugh Verity's account takes the form of an expanded diary and details his numerous forays into the night skies (and fields) of occupied France as well of those of many of his fellow pilots. Scattered throughout with amusing anecdotes and stories that wouldn't look out of place in a Boy's Own Adventure his narrative does justice to the skill and bravery exhibited by the aircrew and the agents they carried.

This revised and updated edition contains maps, drawings and a varied selection of black and white photographs which help add further detail to the main text. I found this an excellent read about an important, if often overlooked, aspect of the war in France during 1940 - 44. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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'We Landed by Moonlight' is the story of a relatively small number of pilots who flew highly secret missions into occupied France during WWII and is one that is rarely told and certainly not in detail.

Fighter and Bomber Commands were often written about, Transport and Coastal Commands and the RAF's Rescue Service much less so although they sometimes featured in movies. The flights that are the subject of this book which was written by one of the pilots concerned are certainly the least known and were then rarely discussed. Using aircraft such as the Lysander, which was ideal for the task and without any defenses in order to keep the weight low, was a common choice and it could take three passengers at a push but in little comfort. While some flights were to get agents in, others were to recover them, extract documents or something of importance. Landings could be treacherous as they were usually at night and from unlit impromptu or abandoned airstrips in remote locations.

In a few instances, the flights were demonstrated in wartime or war-related movies where they show all too clearly the reasons for their existence, the problems sometimes faced, and the professionalism of their pilots.

The British SOE, and sometimes foreign Intelligence agencies, provided the agents but they did not have the means to transport them, hence RAF pilots. The sorties were usually from airfields close to the southern or south-eastern coasts to minimise the journey time and most of France could be covered. Because at least one half of the trip was solitary and without a navigator or aids, the pilot had to learn the route in advance, memorising maps, turnpoints and other landscape features.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars very entertaining - a very good read. But
Very informative, very entertaining - a very good read. But, at times, "repetitive"...but then the author does set out to provide a detailed record of the squadron's... Read more
Published 7 days ago by A. T. Ramsay
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Lots of information which was new to my husband. A great historical read. Very readable with good illustrations which enhanced book.
Published 1 month ago by Carol Marchant
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting
I have been a qualified pilot since I qualified in 1961, having flown in the military and airlines. I still fly light aircraft and gliders, but this type of flying is my dream. Read more
Published 2 months ago by sid
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
This is an enthralling book and conveys the sense of danger involved in the flights to delivery and collect people from occupied Europe. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars What a book
Hugh Vérity knows how to make a book a great read with personalities, dates, infos, excitements and loads of little known technicalities that can be corroborated on the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Derek Andrews
5.0 out of 5 stars A well told tale of courage
It is good that these stories can now be told in detail. Selfless courage and technical skill is described inn this book making it a good read.
Published 8 months ago by cottage0122
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I purchased this book after watching The Secret Army set of DVD, hence I wanted to know more about the
Lysander aircraft. Read more
Published 8 months ago by NewModelBoat
4.0 out of 5 stars RAF heroes.
Being an ex RAF man i was involved to a small degree with these missions.Although some areas of the book were not strictly accurate it was very interesting.
Published 10 months ago by J.W.Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars Military history
This aspect of the RAF's work in WWII is not very well known. This is written by one pilot who was deeply involved, but to get full benefit from it you really need to have an... Read more
Published 10 months ago by La plume de ma tante
5.0 out of 5 stars Christmas present
Wife loves it, she keeps reading me info from it but I'll still need a 2 up to get all the bits in between
Published 16 months ago by George Penman
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