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62 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Claims a place in my heart for Best Autobiographical military history
I have read countless military history books by now and all the autobiographical ones follow a set pattern: young blood doesn't know he'll make the cut, eventually finds he's doing reasonably well, and reaches a certain proficiency, then becomes depressed with the hopelessness of war and loss. Wellum's book follows the same path but more than any other he puts the reader...
Published on 8 Dec. 2006 by M. B.

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11 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not gripping
Straight from the horses mouth you can't get closer to a spitfire than this. Or can you? Although the author is clearly made of the right stuff it doesn't make him a great writer. Whole swathes of the war are missed out: there's nothing really about his first battle: how he feels and what happens, nor of his first kill. It's almost as if somebody has taken a diary and...
Published on 28 Aug. 2005 by G. Thulbourn


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So you wonder what it was like to be a Spitfire pilot....., 24 July 2004
By 
John Williams (Apeldoorn, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: First Light (Paperback)
As I was reading this book, I began mentally to pick holes in its style. It is repetetive and slightly cliched, and it leaves out some of the kinds of detail that I really wanted to know. And I felt that I didn't like the writer's personality unreservedly. But then I realised how difficult it was to put the book down. Certain passages are extraordinarily astmospheric, like the return flight alone across the North Sea and Thames Estuary on a rainy winter's afternoon, or the relief of Malta. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Geoffey Wellum was that he joined the RAF straight from school, and was barely out of boyhood when these remarkable events occurred. When I consider what I was doing at that age, I am in awe of this man. One theme that he picks up more than once is a feeling of sadness that his life should peak at such a young age, and that the rest of it would inevitably be an anticlimax. I suspect that he was right, and that, for this very reason, any follow up to this book would be an anticlimax too. I still have my reservations, but even so, this is a very gripping book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of aviation combat literature, 27 Sept. 2003
By 
J. L. Williams (london United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: First Light (Paperback)
Just when we thought there was little new to add to the existing wealth of literature on the Battle of Britain, along comes this thunderbolt of a book which, in my view, beats the lot. Here is a modest man who writes with a true passion about the sheer joy and privilege of flying the Spitfire and has the ability to articulate his feelings and sensations in such a thoughtful and sensitive way. He lived out his ‘highs’ so intensively in such a short space of time at such a young age that he dreaded the likely anticlimax of the years to come. He also shares with us the detail of cockpit procedure, not in a tedious technical way, but in order to help us share the experience and remind us of the enormous responsibilities and skills required, So many accounts of the Battle of Britain and descriptions of aerial action tend to be forensic & factual with much heavy detail about squadrons and the politics of war. There is very little of this – Wellum talks about the joy and fear of flying, the confusion and thrill of combat, the intense comradeship and about good men ensuring that evil does not triumph,
Make no mistake – this book is destined to become a classic.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Without doubt my book of the year, 7 April 2004
By 
Timothy De Ferrars (France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: First Light (Paperback)
I bought this book after hearing Geoffrey Wellum interviewed on the radio. He said that he was sitting one afternoon watching the rain through the French windows ("I rather like the rain, you know") when he picked up a pencil and started to write, a man in his eighties, about the events of more than 60 years ago.
For my money, Geoffrey Wellum sits on the same shelf of aviation literature as Richard Hillary and Antione de Saint-Exupery. But this is a wonderful book in its own right: measured, honest and lucid.
First Light simmers with quiet courage and has a freshness that makes it hard to believe that it was written so long after the event. If you read one book this year, read this.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 12 Sept. 2008
By 
Mr. Benjamin Frain (Cheshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: First Light (Paperback)
Anybody with a passing interest in aviation or World War II that hasn't already done so should do themselves a favour and read this book.
It is truly touching, engaging and riveting, reading as intimately as if the author was sat across the table, relating the story first hand.
It bristles with detail and authenticity throughout and yet still manages to affect the reader emotionally with the intimate thoughts and reflections of the author in his darker and more fraught moments.
This book deserves to be read by the widest possible audience, especially given the complete omission of any Word War related lessons in schools these days. It truly is startling to consider the attitudes of the people back then: the sheer bravery and sacrifice.
I would truly love to shake the hand of this man, and the others like him who simply aren't given the respect and status they deserve. Absolute heroes. Geoffrey - thank you for this book and the sacrifice you and your generation made.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down to earth, 29 Nov. 2004
By 
Aspo (Staffordshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: First Light (Paperback)
This is one of the best written books I have ever read.
Geoffrey Wellum writes simply and factually about life as a WW2 Spitfire pilot. From leaving school all the way through training and two full tours of duty he tells his story without pulling punches or bragging.
The people are springing to life as you read and you can really feel the sadness and joy that ensues. In a fanciful moment it felt almost like a primer in flying high performance aircraft.
One of those books that is superb to read and leaves you wondering what to do next when it comes to the end. Excellent.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, inspirational tale of endeavour, courage, duty, 9 Jun. 2002
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SMS CHOUDHRY "moorad" (Surrey, England) - See all my reviews
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This is a truly awesome account of a man's courage, duty and effort to get the job done, written in such an effective style that one can visualise every line - although, in the 21st century, civilians can surely never even imagine what men such Mr Wellum went through, all in the spirit and honour of service to one's country. The author was a Battle of Britain pilot at the age of 18 - imagine it, 18, amazing, flying Spitfires, sometimes facing overwhelming odds, against the Luftwaffe. This book should be read by every person in the UK, it describes with great honesty and directness all the emotions experienced during this historic time...an amazing period when this country was well served by people such as Mr Wellum. I could go on, but I won't...I'll just quote from one passage. The author has just come back from a particularly hair-raising mission over France, in combat against Me109s (German fighter aircraft), outnumbered at least 4 to 1. It's all he can do, fighting and flying to the edge of his and his Spitfire's abilities, to escape and return to England with less than five gallons of fuel remaining. He climbs out of the 'plane and sits down under the wing. A voice asks him if he is okay. The reply: "Yes, just a bit tired." Classic British understatement, marvellous, awe-inspiring, inspirational. To use today's typically overblown language: massive. This is a book written by a true, authentic hero. Respect.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A generation's gift., 10 Sept. 2004
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This review is from: First Light (Paperback)
As an avid recreational pilot, I do not graviate towards military memoirs without there being a high flying content. I lke to learn from the experiences of others, but am not a history-anorak, nor obsessed with Spitfires.
This account of one man's war is an exception to most of my criteria. The piloting skills are clearly depicted, but no reader would be overwhelmed with technicalities. The details are included where relevant. The biographical element is selective and the historical context is in perspective. Would that other men with tales to tell could do as well.

One test of a well-written book is that it can hook the non-committed reader and this man is a hero on two counts: his contribution to the country is evident and I was affected deeply by the courage of such very young men; his ability to convey, very simply, that unique period in time is what makes this book stand out from so many other autobiographical accounts of the war. Mr Wellum is a writer, whose subject is so deeply ingrained it bleeds onto the page and off to the reader. I can imagine few who do not finish reading this unaffected.

I bought this book, selfishly, to enjoy the the flying content, but now have a much better understanding of the Battle of Britain, the life of the air crews and the impact of war on a very special generation. For the first time, I was moved to write to an author.
Buy First Light and consider....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In my all time 'Top Ten' ...., 25 Nov. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: First Light (Paperback)
This is a book that made me analyse my own life when I finished it - it really had a profound effect on me. These fellas were physically and mentally 'burnt out' when they reached their early 20s ! What more can I say ? I read avidly - couldn't put it down - about this incredibly brave, unquestioning and noble generation. Wellum writes very well indeed, creating fear and excitement, and I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to historians, plane enthusiasts, or anyone who would like to read how an RAF pilots lived - if that's the word - in the late 30s/early 40s.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent First-Hand Account, 27 May 2003
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This review is from: First Light (Hardcover)
�First Light� is one of those books that is destined to be remembered as a �classic� and rightly so. This is a wonderful book of a young man who joined the Royal Air Force before the start of World War Two and who later fought during the Battle of Britain and survived. Most of the book is taken up with his training as a pilot and the fighting during the Battle of Britain. However the book continues on to cover his role in Operation Pedestal and the fighting over Malta until his return to England as a tired and worn out pilot.
I truly enjoyed Geoffrey Wellum�s story of his training and chuckled a good many times whilst reading about one thing or another. Mr Wellum has a wonderful way of telling a story and you can easily picture the details as you read his narrative. I found myself amazed as I read the book of how much this young man and his friends suffered in defending their country and their mates in the air.
This is an account that anyone who has an interest in WW2 aviation will be delighted in. It�s well told, full of humor, sadness, and death defying flying and combat action. These men, as young as 18, flew one of the fastest and deadliest aircraft at the time and many didn�t make it through the campaign or even their first mission. You read with sadness the loss of many good pilots and friends but still the men continue flying day after day facing terrible odds.
I really enjoyed the author�s style of writing, he was witty, descriptive and came across with a sense of telling a story with understated facts. He downplayed his own role during the Battle of Britain and I was really hooked on the narrative as it moved along at a cracking pace. I found it hard to put the book down late at night, which brought forth a moan from my wife about turning the lamp off or else!
This is a great story and in finishing I would like to add the following comment from a great historian about this book: �A work of exceptional quality..�his prose has a passion and immediacy which make it compelling reading� � Max Hastings. He�s not wrong either!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank You Geoffrey Wellum!, 28 July 2002
By A Customer
Absorbing account of one man's fight against the Nazi aggressor but with an objective view that both informs and stirs the imagination.
From the moment you start to read this title the author has you believing you are in the era. A sure sign that he has attracted your interest is the fact you just can't put it down!
Simply written with just enough peripheral view around the story it is presented as only someone who was there can. I could 'feel' the exhaustion, bitterness, emotion and depression as felt by the author during the period and he does a great service to his colleagues and nation alike.
I realised the sense of duty but also the appreciation Mr Wellum had of his role of fighter pilot.
New books describing this period will always do well, especially when written as a true account by a participant. They are few and far between but rather than depend on this for popularity the author has given us a diamond to cherish.
Many many thanks for spoiling my summer reading Mr Wellum, nothing I read in the months to come will match my enjoyment!
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First Light (Penguin World War II Collection)
First Light (Penguin World War II Collection) by Geoffrey Wellum (Paperback - 6 Aug. 2009)
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