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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
I had been researching the service history of my great uncle, a Flight Engineer on Lancasters with a 'sister' squadron of Harry Yates' 75 Sqn. Despite gathering a wealth of information from official sources, and survivors from his squadron I had not been able to discover exactly how he had been lost.
I picked up a copy of Harry Yates' book quite by chance and, leafing through it, saw his chapter on his most feared target, an oil refinery at Homberg in Germany. Knowing that this was the target where my great uncle and most of his crew were killed, I read on. The detail of the narrative including dates was excellent and he described in detail the op on which my great uncle died and also, most poignantly, an eye-witness description of the loss of his aircraft. Discovering this information was an immense source of comfort to my great uncle's brothers, now in their 80s.
Thank you, Harry, for making this possible.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
This book provides a present day reader with a very privileged view into what life must have been like for the crews of these heavy bombers. It is beautifully written and makes for compulsive reading with a good mix of aviation and operational information but also great human content, something I have found lacking in other publications. Harry Yates conveys the close relationship between the crew and paints a graphic picture of their highs and lows. Readers will find themselves carried along with each operation, feeling relief when the wheels touch down at Mepal. Luck and a Lancaster is described by Harry Yates as a way to fix the 'remembrance of something important', it most certainly does that and far more. It will enable those born many years later to image what it was like when thousands of these huge machines flew in our skies. He sums up the Lancaster thus 'These were not mere bombers, crude forms of steel and oil. They were guiding beacons of the spirit. With them flew our pride, our hope, our purpose'. (p172) The book also contains a unique photographic record of the members of the crew; their aircraft and superb photographs taken by the cameras after the bombs had been dropped. Yates does not sensationalise but writes about his role factually explaining how crews carried out their orders in a duty bound process. He ends the story by describing his return to Mepal on an impulse, many years later. This return visit is a moving and thought provoking close to a well-written and highly readable factual account.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2003
In his book ‘Luck and a Lancaster’, Harry Yates offers the reader a chance to follow the author through his tour of operations as a Lancaster pilot during the last five months of 1944. The story begins with the author as a young English lad wanting to join the Royal Air Force to fly fighters just after the Battle of Britain (as all young English boys surely wanted!).
We follow Yates through his initial training at flight school and then into training for multi-engine aircraft in Canada, something he wasn’t expecting. We then read of his exploits as an instructor and then finally his posting to a Operational RAF Squadron flying one of the great bombers of the Second World War, the Avro Lancaster.
Young Harry Yates ends up with 75 Squadron (RNZAF) based at Mepal in August of 1944 with a task of completing 30 operations against occupied Europe and Germany. Although by this period of the war the conflict in the air had swung towards the Allies it was still a very dangerous occupation flying in Bomber Command. This is the guts of the story, flying with Harry Yates and his crew in one of the many Lancaster’s allotted to them through the 30 missions required to complete their tour of Ops.
I found this story truly amazing and it was so well told I was totally immersed in the narrative. I must admit it has been awhile since I have read such an interesting and captivating account of war in the air and I cannot imagine anyone who has an interesting in aerial warfare not being taken by this honest and enjoyable book.
Not once did I find the book bogging down in too much detail, not once did it flag or slow down in pace, even the author’s account of his training and instructional flights were full of interest, humour and occasional sadness. This is a great testament to the young crews who flew in Bomber Command doing a job without question that cost many their lives. Well done to the author!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2003
In his book ‘Luck and a Lancaster’, Harry Yates offers the reader a chance to follow the author through his tour of operations as a Lancaster pilot during the last five months of 1944. The story begins with the author as a young English lad wanting to join the Royal Air Force to fly fighters just after the Battle of Britain (as all young English boys surely wanted!).
We follow Yates through his initial training at flight school and then into training for multi-engine aircraft in Canada, something he wasn’t expecting. We then read of his exploits as an instructor and then finally his posting to a Operational RAF Squadron flying one of the great bombers of the Second World War, the Avro Lancaster.
Young Harry Yates ends up with 75 Squadron (RNZAF) based at Mepal in August of 1944 with a task of completing 30 operations against occupied Europe and Germany. Although by this period of the war the conflict in the air had swung towards the Allies it was still a very dangerous occupation flying in Bomber Command. This is the guts of the story, flying with Harry Yates and his crew in one of the many Lancaster’s allotted to them through the 30 missions required to complete their tour of Ops.
I found this story truly amazing and it was so well told I was totally immersed in the narrative. I must admit it has been awhile since I have read such an interesting and captivating account of war in the air and I cannot imagine anyone who has an interesting in aerial warfare not being taken by this honest and enjoyable book.
Not once did I find the book bogging down in too much detail, not once did it flag or slow down in pace, even the author’s account of his training and instructional flights were full of interest, humour and occasional sadness. This is a great testament to the young crews who flew in Bomber Command doing a job without question that cost many their lives. Well done to the author!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2004
The details of Luck and a Lancaster are adequately reviewed elsewhere, but I have to say how much I enjoyed it. This book is extremely well written and can be both funny and tragic. It sticks in my mind that the young Yates has a penchant for straying off course and 'buzzing' his parent's house during operational training. The reader then gets to know his aircrew, and accompanies them on some harrowing missions, courtesy of the flowing and detailed narrative. There's the Squadron reunion, where the crew are older but unchanged in character and Harry's emotional return to what was RAF Mepal. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and spending some time with these gallant young men.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2000
This book is a fascinating and deeply moving portrayal of a bomber squadron and one particular crew at war.It is descriptive,humorous and poignant and succeeds in what it sets out to achieve.It describes in colloquial language life and death on a Cambridgeshire airfield.Mepal was the home of 75 (New Zealand ) Squadron and it was there that Harry Yates was posted as a Lancaster pilot. Mr.Yates writes from the heart. He describes the formation of his crew, the camaraderie they held for each other,their fears and hopes and their great desire to succeed and finish their tour.His description of the flying, the planes and the missions are exciting and heart wrenching.
The book is more than just a plain account of a bomber crew at war.For those of us who had relatives in bomber command it is a historical description of earlier times.For those of us who had fathers in 75 Squadron it is a tribute.It is an attempt to describe how those young airmen survived those times and how they coped with the loss of so many colleagues.
To quote Sir Arthur Harris "this country, and its allies,owe these young men--the Many that died, and the Few that survived-- a debt they have not met: because it can never be met in full." Mr.Yates captures this sentiment exactly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2000
There can't be too many autobiographies (maybe this is the only one?) of 75 Squadron aircrew during WWII. The limited audience Yates is writing for must make this a non-profit undertaking, and Yates took 50 years to get his published, but I'm extremely pleased that he did. It's not a long book, but the insights it gives are fabulous.
For (I assume) an amateur author, Yates writes well. He also seems to have a pretty good recall of the detail of day to day life: the sort of detail which doesn't get into official diaries.
I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of the simmering tension and wafer thin bravado at briefings, and I was struck by the deep pride he had in a squadron which he had only been in for a month or two before he was a veteran, and which he left forever after four months.
For people like me, who had relatives in 75 squadron whom we never met, this is a important historical document. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2011
My parents and I have just finished this book. We came across it when looking for information about the fate of one of my mother's childhood NZ friends - Garth Gunn - All we knew was that he had ended up in the airforce in Europe during the war and been killed. It was a real revelation to find some much information about him in this book. Wonderful that the work all these young men did, the risks they took and the sacrifices made has been written down in such well-written permanent record.
My mother had this to say - "Fantastic. Should be on everyone's reading list for old and young. I have read the epilogue this afternoon and appreciate the way it ties the book together with his nostalgic, lonely walk around the decayed remains of the air-base and all the memories it evoked for him. Like most of the servicemen after the war he had left the experiences behind while building a new life of being married and rearing a family and being a civilian again. How fortunate we are that he wrote of the Lancaster years so feelingly...the mates and their dependency on each other, and the wonderful machines....the way the men came to accept what they were doing and the rights and wrongs of the bombing raids. They were but boys by today's standards, but what a massive coherence working as teams for their own safety and the success of their missions. Not much room for error was there? If I had one wish it would be for Garth's parents to have been able to read such a remarkable book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2000
I bought this book almost by accident. It has sat on my bookshelf for the best part of a year until recently, when laid down with a cold, I picked it up. I expected it to be a factual, accurate but clumsy worded book like so many of the other eyewitness books I have.
I was very wrong. Not only did Yates fly a full tour (some thirty operations) and survive to tell the tale, but also he tells it magnificently. Yates is a hugely eloquent storyteller. A few examples:
- He describes the take off of a Lanc 30 times during the course of the book, and yet this never becomes dull, repetitious or boring.
- His description of flying over the frosty English countryside early one winter morning is exquisite
This book is every bit good enough to become the basis for a BBC historical program (or series) if handled well.
Two minor (very minor) things. Firstly, one of the crew that Yates trained with (Rob Bailey) doesn't show up when they transfer to the active squadron. It's a shame we don't get to know why. Secondly, the title and the cover imply the aforementioned factual, accurate but clumsy worded book. This is definitely not the case.
Very much a five star book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2014
It may seem a strange way to describe an account of a WW2 Bomber Command's Lancaster tour of operations but this is a truly sensitive, beautifully written account of how a crew used to create itself and how they were then lead through a 30 operation tour by the aircraft's captain. In this case the author. The affection for his crew and the depth of the emotions triggered by daily exposure to such awful trials by Ack Ack and night fighters, is described with such skill that it takes the reader with this crew through their tour of duty. A"must read" for anyone who like me feels such a debt of gratitude to the servicemen who fought WW2 . I was 7 years of age in 1945 and have had a lifelong interest in reading their accounts.
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