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Enemy Coast Ahead (Bomber crews) Paperback – 15 Sep 1998
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`I dedicate this book to the boys who have not been so lucky...'
If this book doesn't stir the senses and inspire patriotism, nothing will, being Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC's own personal account of his wartime flying, including the attack on the Ruhr dams which earned him the Victoria Cross...
`The smell of burnt cordite. The cold sweat beneath my oxygen mask. The closeness of the dam wall... We saw the tremendous earthquake which shook the base of the dam, and then, as if a gigantic hand had punched a hole through cardboard, the whole thing collapsed.'
--Best of British Magazine - December 2011
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The immense power of this book lies in the story of unbelievable courage shown by the men of bomber command. Gibson takes us through the early days of the war, the tragic waste of the skilled aircrews thrown away in obsolete planes and flawed tactics, the tremendous spirit shown by these young men in the face of almost inevitable death and the deep sadness of seeing their comrades lost with such regularity.
After defying the odds and completing one tour of duty, Gibson transfers to night fighters rather than resting, before going back for another tour on 'heavies' and eventually forming and leading the elite 617 squadron on the famous Dams raid.
Yes it is jingoistic, yes it is bullish, what else could it be from a warrior and leader of this nature? Indeed, it is these traits that give us great insight into the prevailing feelings and attitudes of the men involved that make first hand accounts so valuable in our assessment of history. We should be thankful that this document encapsulating the spirit of the aircrew was written by one of their greatest leaders before he too gave his life to the cause.
Technical details are necessarily censored from a book written at the height of the hostilities but this in no way detracts. Those interested can easily fill in the blanks through reading books such as Max Hastings' 'Bomber Command' or Paul Brickhill's 'Dam Busters'.
After reading this book maybe a dozen times over the last 35 years, I recommend it unreservedly to all.
The author describes the life in Bomber Command as it was, where men were not heroes, just men doing their 'jobs', which were among the most important 'jobs' of all time.
He is modest about his extraordinary exploits of which only some are described here.
I am awed by the quality of the men he describes who journeyed with him into danger and death, with their outstanding bonds of comradeship and honour.
The author died in the later part of the war in a Pathfinder Mosquito which crashed because the fuel selection controls were mis-rigged, so in the end the enemy never got him.
People said of him that he would never have settled into peacetime, but I have flown with many ex Bomber Command pilots and I am convinced that Guy Gibson would have made the transition, if he had been given the chance.
Of course I have undying gratitude to Wing Commander Gibson and his crews because I have the privilege of writing this review in English.
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