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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patrick Bishop has allowed us to know them, 24 Dec 2009
This review is from: Bomber Boys: Fighting Back 1940-1945 (Hardcover)
Opposite my house (20km South of Dijon, Burgundy) past the war memorial in the village cemetery lie the crew of a Short Sterling shot down on the 13th August 1943 by a Messerschmitt 109.

· Pilot: Pilot Officer Frederick MATTHEWS Royal Australian Air Force, 25 years old
· Bombardier: Flight Officer Franck HOLLAND Royal Australian Fleet Reserve, 32 years old
· Navigator: Flight Sergeant Alistair ROSE Royal New Zealand Air Force, 20 years old
· Gunner: Flight Sergeant Albert HARRIS Royal New Zealand Air Force, 23 years old
· Radio officer: Sergeant Kennet CORK Royal Air Force, 21 years old
· Mechanic: Sergeant John KNIGHT Royal Air Force, 27 years old
· Gunner: Sergeant Henry OTT Royal Air Force, 19 years old

The book succinctly details the strategy and tactics of the bombing campaign. It is an explanation not a justification - none is needed - where the sheer terror of the aircrews experience is equalled by the horror of those beneath the bombs. Bishop presents the mass of data well. He gives a balanced account of Anglo American strategic goals/arguments and his comments on Dresden were reasoned. Before that he explains how aircrew found love, and what happened to the WRAF who fell for a married Wing Commander. What emerges are stories, how crews were recruited, trained, commanded and lived. This book is rich in detail, about people rather than military technology or command and control structures.

Bishop allows us to understand the most controversial aspect of the bombing campaign in Europe. After the war there was little recognition for those engaged in the bomber offensive, ineffective and savage the politicians preferred to ignore those who had participated. This was despicable - Churchill in particular is culpable while some air marshals and planners have a case to answer. The crews believed they were attacking the military capability of the enemy, assisting the land war and supporting the Red Army (especially in the destruction of targets in Eastern Germany - Dresden et al). By default - not design - it was a war against women and children but that could only be appreciated after the Germans had been beaten.

As for "my" Stirling bomber that was shot down, I learned it was a poor aircraft giving its crews an excellent chance of death. For the seven it was a cruel end, fighting and failing inside a burning plane there was no escape. Each year our small village places a wreath at the war memorial then process to the cemetery to play both national anthems on a bugle. Having read this book I have an appreciation of what they went through. An excellent history, well-written Patrick Bishop has allowed me to know these people. He has made them human. It left me shocked, having read so many war histories as entertainment here on my doorstep is the reality buried under seven immaculate headstones.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Dec 2009 11:56:45 GMT
Last edited by the author on 31 Dec 2009 19:54:47 GMT
Julian Wark says:
A really fine review. I agree we all read for entertainment which is fine but you and the author remind us that human beings fight wars. It is a great book that left me well informed and moved in equal measure.
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