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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mini-Masterpiece, 21 Oct 2010
This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
There are few WWII Bomber Command books written from a gunner's perspective and I can't think of another by a 'Tail-end Charlie'. This is a quite exceptional account; Ron Smith, who flew more than two tours on Lancasters gives us some breathtaking glimpses of his experiences, some of which, like the ill-fated Nuremburg raid on 30th March 1944, have you on the edge of your seat.

His writing is vivid yet reflective and understated; at no time does he lay claim to heroism on his own part or that of others, yet the quiet courage of all these brave men is apparent on every page. He intertwines the operational narrative with the difficulties of trying to sustain wartime romances and the equally tricky business of needing to behave like a normal human being when on leave, of trying to leave the emotional and psychological impact of 'the night job' to one side.

He disabused me of a couple of my own preconceptions. Firstly, I had always thought that Pathfinder squadrons were composed of elite crews with long experience, yet his own was scooped out of 626 squadron at Wickenby and transferred to 156 Pathfinders at Warboys after just a few missions! Secondly, I thought that all tail gunners felt that they had drawn the short straw, that theirs was the most vulnerable and precarious of positions on the aircraft. Yet Smith revelled in it, enjoyed his solitude and responsibilities and never, as far as we see, requesting anything else.

Not a long book, but it's one of the most intimate and revealing accounts I've read and I would recommend it strongly to anyone who wants a fuller picture of Bomber Command in WWII. Ron Smith was not a professional writer, but for me he is the first to capture perfectly the sheer outlandishness of what these remarkable men had to do night after night for years.

Only one quibble. The publishers should have employed a decent proof-reader as the text is peppered with grammatical errors, most frequently plurals expressed as possessives - eg 'the aircraft were standing at their dispersal's'. Pedantic it may be in this increasingly illiterate age, but personally I find it irritates and devalues the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book let down by proof-reading, 29 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
A truly unique and very honest account of more than 2 tours as a Pathfinder tail gunner. Excellent account of near-misses, fears, experiences on the big bomber raids. Slightly spoiled towards the end by some poor proof-reading, but overall a 'must read' for anyone interested in the bombing war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read about harrowing experiences., 27 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
It would have to be the most lonely and terrifying position in the plane. But the stories were very entertaining and explained quite od lot of information and the horrors that the bomber command boys had to go through.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 18 Mar 2013
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D. A. Beechey (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
Ron Smith has written a book that is basic in what he attempts but that is not a critiscism. He tells the simple story of what it was like to be a rear gunner in the RAF's night time bomber raids, and he does it well.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The debt we owe....., 6 Mar 2011
This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
If the fact that the author managed survive the number of operations he volunteered to undertake is bordering on amazing it's the self effacing humility of Ron Smith's book that's truly humbling. Having initially joined the RAF Regiment the author then volunteered to serve as an air gunner in Bomber Command. His operational career started with 626 squadron before, somewhat to his surprise, a move to 156 squadron and PFF.

The book follows the author and his crew through 65 operations seen through the eyes of Lancaster tail gunner and the ongoing battle to overcome the fear and the trepidation of what awaited them. Truly fantastic reading and a fine tribute to a those who served in Bomber Command.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rear Gunner Pathfinder (Witness to War), 18 May 2014
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This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
this book was brilliant I dont know how they got in that plane every time knowing they could be killed
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, 21 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
I've read several objective and very good books on Bomber Command by Martin Middlebrook but this was written - and very well written at that - by somebody that was there and who had a grandstand view. Ron Smith witnessed some of the RAF's most pivotal and hellish raids over Germany including the infamous Berlin and Nuremberg raids from his cramped and lonely gun turret.
This was a book I couldn't put down - highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars World War Two history., 16 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
Excellent book, documenting the nerve-wracking experiences of RAF 'Tail-Gunner's' on Lancaster's during World War Two.
A book that is a 'must read'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent War Memoir, 3 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
We "baby boomers" are incredibly lucky that we have avoided having to fight in a global conflict such as that which engulfed our parents and grandparents in the first half of the 20th century. My own father was
involved in WW2 and the Korean War, but rarely spoke of it afterwards.

Ordinary people, like Ron Smith DFM, author of this relatively slim memoir, volunteered for the incredibly hazardous life in Bomber Command. The odds of surviving a "tour" of 30 operations were frighteningly slim, yet
these young men did their duty night after night, never knowing when their end might come.

What I like about this book is the honesty and the real sense of what it was like, the fear and above all the fear of letting one's crew mates down. No grandstanding, no boasting, just a real sense of what Ron Smith and countless thousands of others went through
because it was their job. This a very worthwhile read for anyone like me, who is endlessly fascinated by this period of our history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rear Gunner Pathfinders, 26 May 2011
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This review is from: Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) (Paperback)
A good book, short and to the point. Well written and very typical of books of this genre. An interesting perspective to read about the experiences of a tail gunner. While not a gripping read in the sense of a thriller it none the less captures the emotions and way of life that are common in books of this "Witness To War" series. It certainly brings home what people of this generation lived through or as this book makes very clear did not.
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Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War)
Rear Gunner Pathfinders (Witness to War) by Ron Smith (Paperback - 10 Jan 1998)
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