on 27 June 2011
Passing time in a small back street second hand bookshop I was surprised to find this Gem. Having quite a few WW2 Pilot autobiographies and books on bomber command I realised I didn't have any autobiographies from bomber command personnel.
This book is fantastic and deeply engrossing; I read it in two sittings. The book title "the eight passengers" refers to fear it i.e. the seven men Lancaster crew had an extra passenger in that fear of death was ever present and constant during missions over Germany. The book also has a chapter on the crew and their circumstances many years after the war which was very interesting if not very sad.
An astounding story especially as the author seems to pull the reader into his world. This book led me to 3 other bomber command autobiographies
Flights into the Night: Reminiscences of a World War Two, RAF Wellington Pilot
No Moon Tonight
while these books are also very good for me "the eight Passenger" is the best
on 21 April 2013
As with my colleague above I came upon this gem by chance quite recently. It is without doubt a classic and should be compulsory reading for all students of modern history, particularly those who have sought to denigrate the efforts of the air and ground crew of Bomber Command in WWII.
With a father in the bomber force and childhood memories of walking to school through acres of destruction in the centre of Portsmouth [in 1958!!] I confess to strong feelings on the subject.
The popular notion of 'Dresden Guilt' so common these days needs accounts like this to provide the required balance. It is interesting to note that none of these very young men when asked if they felt any guilt years later felt anything of the sort, save perhaps the author and then only because the aiming point was obscured.
Ex -service myself I found one depressing fact repeated here. The comments on P167-168 on how quickly the nation forgets found particular resonance.
But then it has always been thus, apparently Queen Elizabeth 1 could not wait to ditch the sailors who had served her and the nation so well in the Spanish wars.
It seems the British, or at least those who managed to avoid any hint of danger, cannot wait to dispose of those who defend their right to do just that, when the job is done. One need look no further than today's newspaper to see the truth of it.
The Eighth Passenger, quite the best and most moving book on Bomber Command I have read.
on 25 April 2014
I first read his book - published in 1969 - as a boy mumble years ago, after pinching it from my father's bookshelf. I had expected a tale of glorious derring-do; what I read was a much more sober account which even at a tender age made me wonder why exactly I found the idea of war so exciting.
Several decades later, I am happy to have re-discovered this book - now in an updated version - and to have had the chance to read it again with a more mature and knowledgeable eye.
Baldly stated, this is the story of one crew from RAF Bomber Command. Miles Tripp was a bomb-aimer with a Lancaster crew which flew 40 missions over enemy territory between October 1944 and March 1945. It is short, honest and fact-filled: what comes over most clearly is just how ordinary these seven men were (The "Eighth Passenger" was Fear) - and how young. At 24, the rear-gunner was the Old Man of the crew, two of whom were under twenty. Miles Tripp was twenty-one. They were thrown together by a set of extraordinary circumstances, lived through tumultuous times, were asked to do terrible things at the risk of their own lives; and were then discarded to pick up their individual lives as best they could.
There is no heroism in this book (except that that it took a lot of courage to get back into a plane and fly mission after mission when the odds of you surviving the war were not much better than fifty-fifty); nor is it a hymn to camaraderie. Indeed, Mr Tripp is very honest about the personality clashes that the crew was subject to. But precisely because the crew are emphasised as being ordinary, flawed people, the impact of the book is much the greater.
Someone once said that the most terrible thing about war was that it made the horrible seem banal. I know of no other book where the banality of war comes across more clearly.
The second part of the book (also short) is an account of Mr Tripp's efforts in the late sixties to track down his former comrades, and to solicit their views about the war. To the central question of "Was it worth it?" the considered answer was a low-key and slightly reluctant "Yes."
I have one gripe with this book - the map. If this is to believed, there are two cities in Germany called Hamburg (one of them should have been labelled Homburg); and the town called Hohenbudberg in the text is labelled Hohenbudburg on the map. The text is correct. This may seem a trivial point, but given that the book has been through several editions, and has been up-dated each time, such carelessness is very disappointing. Although it is almost certainly not the fault of the late Mr Tripp, I dock one star for the failing.
on 28 April 2007
This is one of many superb books written by Bomber Command veterans about their wartime experiences.
Miles Tripp was the bomb-aimer in a seven-man Lancaster crew, who flew on many night raids over Germany during the latter stages of Word War 2.
Tripp's compelling story quickly rewinds from his post-war life to his initiation into Bomber Command. Like all RAF bombers crews, their job was not complete until they had successfully completed a tour of thirty missions - a doubtful objective, given the many dangers that could prevent their safe return home and the frightening statistics of bomber crew losses.
As bomb-aimer, Tripp was the man with his 'finger on the trigger'; it was largely down to him to ensure their payload hit the target - or the mission would not count towards their goal of thirty, and the target may even have to be attacked again. Tripp provides a vivid portrayal of his thoughts and emotions during these highly dangerous nocturnal raids over many of Germany's cities, including Dresden.
This new edition of the book includes a supplementary chapter - the author's post-war reunions with his former crew. His old friends recollect their feelings towards one another and the Lancaster's omnipresent 'eighth passenger' - fear.
on 2 June 2015
I first read this book about 40 years ago and it left a firm impression on me then. Now, having re-discovered it and having read it again with updates on his crew members it has left an impression again. I guess all of them must have passed away by now. But the eighth passenger must surely be living on still............. Nobody could be expected to complete a tour of bombing operations over Germany, day after day and night after night without the cold hand of fear getting hold of them. How they all dealt with it was something else. At the end of the book Miles Tripp asks each crewman in turn, what he felt, was he afraid and was it all worth it. They all said they were afraid at some time during the tour of operations and that it was definitely worth it. Which is was, because if his generation hadn't stopped Hitler we would all be speaking German now. Now, 70+ years since the war ended, almost all of the men and women who crushed the Germans are now all but gone. But the lessons are there, if anyone wants to push us around, they can expect trouble.
on 26 July 2014
THE EIGHTH PASSENGER by Miles Tripp is a factual first hand account of an bomber command airman's life in the latter days of WW2.
Miles Tripp is best known as a thriller writer who wrote 30+ novels, plus some factual books including this one.
The 8th passenger referred to is fear, that the seven bomber crew had to deal with.
A particularly interesting part of the book is when Tripp tries to locate his old crew, some wished to remember the war and their part in it, some didn't, and he respected their wishes.
A recommended read together with Gibson's first hand account of his life as an airman in ENEMY COAST AHEAD.