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4.6 out of 5 stars56
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 10 March 2007
Having read many Bomber Command books, i found this one particularly good. The authors bring out a roller coaster of emotions within the reader... sorrow, joy, anger and pride to name but a few.

It is a very full and riveting read with extremely brave and moving accounts of the exceptionally well disciplined men of Bomber Command (all volunteers) led by an equally disciplined and robust commander (Harris).

The book is very well balanced in its views, making the reader aware of the fact that the 'tail end' of the war was a very uncertain time and certain logistical decisions, such as Dresden, were certainly justifiable at the time considering the climate of 'total war' and the fact that there could not be any 'give' whatsoever, not to mention the fact that Harris was leaned upon from above to hammer Dresden (which was actually bristling with war industry, contrary to popular belief) to assist Russian movements into Germany.

Some of the more personal accounts left me with a lump in my throat. Sad, sad tales of aircrew dying on thier very last op, often just shy of the airfield after getting through a very rough Ruhr Valley sortie, and the sad tale of the POW who'd been incarcerated since 1940 and kept motivated by letters from his loyal wife to be, whom at the end of the war, excitedly put banners up and gathered family for his return, only for him to be killed as the overloaded Lancaster bringing him home crashed.

The pyschological strain on the aircrews was massive, going from the relative comfort of rural English airbases to horror of major bombing raids deep into Germany, losing comrades at an alarming rate, witnessing gory death in its dirty glory then returning to the almost tranquil countryside of England a few hours later to sit and ponder whether they were next for 'the chop'.

After the war the aircrews were shunned and no specific campaign medal was allotted to them which leaves the reader angry and dismayed. The public effectively turned against them.

To quote one Lanc airman, Miles Tripp... 'The plain fact is that when one's survival is threatened, one is grateful to those who offer protection. Once the danger is past, one is ashamed that ones intellectual theories were so easily overruled by a primitive instinct or emotion and the erstwhile helpers are an immediate target for the hostility caused by this sense of shame'

Fantastic book
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on 6 October 2005
I couldn't agree less with Michael - this is a truly awesome book. The authors have done a brilliant job in bringing to life the fears and emotions of the Bomber crews. My uncle was a rear-gunner in Bomber Command and he says this is the best, and most accurate book he has ever read on the subject. It's exciting and emotional and, to use a well-worn phrase, it's a real "couldn't put it down" book.
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on 6 October 2005
This is a wonderful book - it is such an emotional and rollercoaster of a read, to coin a phrase, "it's difficult to put down".
I have a couple of relatives who flew in Bomber Command and they all say that this is the most "true to life" account of their war that they have ever read. It really captures the fears and emotions of the time and portrays the horrors the men endured in such a realistic way that you feel as if you are sitting in the aircraft with them.
It is a magnificant tribute to the bravery and heroism of the time.
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on 3 February 2005
I suspect the light-hearted title does this book few favours. I approached this with some trepidation, having received it as a gift and expected it to be little more than a whimsical collection of first-hand recollections. In fact these are synthesized with narrative and analysis that does not shy away from asking the hard questions about the bomber offensive.
The reader thus sees the human face of the bombers who brought devastation to German industry and civilians, without losing sight of the moral issues. The book is not an apology for 'Bomber' Harris and indeed points out his strategic and political mistakes; but it also seeks to make its judgement in the context of a war that the Allies were desperate to conclude, rather than simply indulge the benefit of sixty years of hindsight. I can empathise with the reviewer from Oxford brought close to tears.
Recommended to experts and novices alike.
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VINE VOICEon 17 August 2007
This book is not a comfortable read - over half the people of Bomber Command never came back from their missions over Germany - yet they kept going and sustained more casulaties in one raid for example over Nurnberg that in the entire Battle of Britain. This is not to say their sacrifice was worth more - but it just shows the sheer scale of the sacrifice. The book covers the last two years of WW2 and makes the point that it was not over bar the shouting, and regardless of some 20:20 hindsight, at the time these crews did a great job for us and in my opinion it was churlish not to recognise that.
The descriptions of the raids, the brutal deaths that people suffered and the emotions of the survivors make this a very raw read about real people and their sheer courage against the odds
I recommend this book for telling a story of people who gave everything night after night and I think a quote in the book sums it up 'theirs was the courage of the small hours'
After reading this I understand more of the debt we owe these guys - 55,000 out of 100,000 crew never came home and no other service in the war sustained this casualty rate - brave men indeed !
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on 19 April 2005
From a historical point of view this book looks at the various missions and reasons for certain actions of Bomber Command in the latter part of the war. In the personal accounts it also looks at the crews, both British and American, their backgrounds and their recollections of certain missions, and their feelings in the aftermath, both of bombing runs and of the bad press Bomber Command received after the war right up to the current day.
The book is so much more than just facts and figures on missions though. It's the personal accounts, taken from the time, and current day interviews with the men in those bomber crews, that will fill the reader with admiration, awe and very often bring a lump to the throat.
Throughout the book many crews lives are followed, with one or two individuals being followed more closely through their diary accounts and letters. It is these men that the reader will feel most attached to, and by the end of the book you feel you have lived through some of the horrors sitting next to them on a Lancaster or Flying Fortress. It is also this part of the book that it hits home the hardest, when you discover that some of the men you've got to know from the excerpts were eventually killed in action.
It's an easy book to read on the technical front, but harder to read from the emotional angle....all in all it's a brilliant read.
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on 10 July 2005
It's long been popular to denigrate the actions of Bomber Command during the latter days of WW2. Harris' policy of area bombing population centres was, and certainly has been, extremely controversial, and the actions of his airmen have been compared to war crimes in the years since the war.
In the main this book attempts to explain the air war though the eyes of the men who fought it, largely through testimony of the men who fought in this campaign. It succeeds, for me, by making clear the conditions these men were expected to fight under, the stresses they bore day, in day, under odds of survival far worse than any other armed service. John Nichol's sympathy for these men is clear, and if this book is an attempt to redress the injustice that these men have been dealt since the war then it works very well. At the end of the day, irrespective of the orders, these men carried out their duty, night after night, despite terrible odds and the knowledge of a very unpleasant end. That in itself deserves recognition
That's not to say this book is wholly supportive of Bomber Command's actions - there are passages dealing with the callous treatment of airmen so traumatised by battle that they were unable to continue fighting. The opposition to area bombing during the latter days of WW2 is described in detail. The description of the bombing of Dresden is particularly interesting, setting it as it does as an entirely defendable action.
In summary, an excellent, well written book which in my opinion does justice to the largely ignored sacrifice these brave men made for the Allied war effort at a time when war was not optional or debatable, but purely for survival.
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on 16 January 2005
It wasn't clear if this was going to be another book of memoirs, or at the other end of the scale, a terse review of the strategy of the various air forces at the time. My personal interest in reading this kind of book, is partly the 'why' and partly the 'who'. The technology of war as amply covered elsewhere.
With that in mind, this covers both the US and UK air war in Europe from 1942 to the end of the war in 1945. It discusses Sir Arthur Harris, Churchill and others at the top but more importantly asking what the airmen and aircrews faced and saw.
Dresden, Nuremburg and other infamous events are discussed and the view is factual albeit horrific. The topic of 'Bomber Harris' area bombing war crime' is dealt with sympathetically, based on fact and much less on emotion.
The view is that the RAF and USAAF had a difficult job to do - particularly at the start of their campaign. A handful of Luftwaffe interviews also show that this was unpleasant and difficult.
When reading the very personal interviews, bound up in the military strategy, you can't help but be moved by the way they responded to the difficult task.
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VINE VOICEon 20 February 2010
This is the best book I've ever read about Bomber Command. Bomber Boys: Fighting Back 1940-1945 is another excellent history, but I think T-EC betters it. The bravery of the air crew is almost unbelievable. It was like going over the top in the First World War, but EACH NIGHT. There's something more scary about being in a bomber rather than a fighter. First they were in the air longer, but they were also over enemy territory for longer. But other than the pilot, to some degree, the other crew members were not in control of their own destiny. The inexorable, dangerous journey to and from the target must have been terrifying. Nichol and Rennell also defend not only the air crew on the front line, as it were, but also Bomber Command's and Harris's strategy in general, which I think is quite unusual in these histories. I agree with their assessment. This book is a joy to read. I'm usually wary of books written by more that one author as sometimes it makes for a clumsy `voice' and narration, but this works very well indeed.
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on 22 July 2006
Im not a big reader myself but am truly interested in war especially the efforts of Bomber Command in the 2nd World War. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It made me laugh in places and cry in others and understand the bravery these guys had. I would sincerely recommend this book to others.
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