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Hell on Earth: Dramatic First-hand Experiences of Bomber Command at War Paperback – 1 Apr 2003

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grub Street; New edition edition (1 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1902304950
  • ISBN-13: 978-1902304953
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 1.6 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 688,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"'A good, tense reporting job...the author allows these veterans to tell the key elements of their stories mainly in their own words yet still brings out the excitement and terror of their recollections.' Journal of Aircrew Association 'A very good read going a long way to helping understand what those chaps went through to achieve victory.' Bomber Command Historical Society Journal"

From the Author

Mel Rolfe on the drama of Hell on Earth
A former Bomber Command veteran has written: ‘I think this is the finest RAF book that I have read.’ I would be happy to hear from any bomber survivors who have stories to tell. The following extracts illustrate the drama in this book.

‘It is believed that when Dacey realised the aircraft was on fire he grabbed an extinguisher, hurried aft and tried, in vain, to put out the flames. Somehow he became trapped behind the spreading inferno and was unable to return to the cockpit for his parachute. Alone with his screams, he could do nothing except wait and die as his unsuspecting companions jumped into the cold night. It is likely that Dacey was already dead before the Halifax plunged into the ground and blew up, atomising his body.’

‘Unable to release Jones (mid-upper gunner) they agreed the only way was to chop off his foot, clip him to a parachute and all bale out. Jordan seized the axe, which was part of their escape gear, detaching himself from his macabre task, knowing it must be done otherwise they would all die.’

‘We were marched to a deserted and tatty industrial area, into a short cu-de-sac, where most of the property was badly damaged. A factory wall stood across the bottom and they put us against it. A line of a dozen (German) soldiers stood pavement to pavement, rifles against their shoulders. A corporal stood near them with his hand up. Stan said to me in a low, horrified voice: "They’re going to shoot us.".’

‘We could see the (Lancaster) wing flapping up and down. It could have broken off at any time and going through my mind was the thought that it probably would. But we pressed on. I took a realistic view. I knew the chances were against us getting back and this might be the time everything was going to end. But I didn’t experience fear which interfered with what I had to do.’ --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Tells twenty stories of the bravery and fortitude of pilots and their crews. The narratives are supplemented by a superb plate section which contains a number of photographs I have not seen reproduced elsewhere.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read quite a few books on the lives and escapades of servicemen and women during WWII and usually they focus on a particular incident, campaign, operation or life story. This book is different - it recounts the stories of differrent aircrew and their reminiscences of their service. It gives a background to their lives and families and highlights the every day life of aircrew - boredom and terror, punctuated and often terminated by danger, destruction and death.

There are twenty chapters, each about the experiences of one man and his aircrew. It's not all boys-own adventure - we hear about the everyday things as well as the derring-do. There's no doubt that these are brave ordinary men, thrust into a life of danger. We learn about the small things that the crew did to promote luck and well-being and we learn why flying in a bomber is dangerous - certainly not just because the enemy are trying to kill you.

The book describes extraordinary bravery and a determination to hang on to life and return home to britain to do the most ordinary of things. No other book that I have read, has shown so well how the very smallest innocuous thing can turn out to be a matter of life and death - collecting a bicycle or having your mask microphone fail can save your life. There is great poignancy - the happy picture of an aircrew taken five days before five of them were killed.

The book has humanity flowing through it - acts of bravery and kindness - amongst the aircrew, occupied people and even from some of the Germans that captured some of the crew. The incredible luck that let people return to tell us their story.

Highly recommended. Very well written. It has been a priviledge to have a brief glimpse into the lives of our airmen. Thank you.
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Format: Hardcover
The book contains the first real information on the fate suffered by my Mother law's first husband a member of the crew of a Halifax (Casey's) shot down over Warsaw. The book was picked up quite by chance and revealed that the Pilot went to his grave blaming himself for (what he thought was )the needless deaths of some of his crew. Regrettably communication between him, the other survivors, or the RAF did not take place in the intervening years with her... but at least now some of the facts are known to her. At a time when our Society has an urgent need to know and a 'someone must be to blame' attitude it's revealing (and humbling) to read these stories of courage by ordinary people and to wonder 'just how they could stare death in the face' so calmly day after day.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book includes the different stories of 20 Bomber Command crews operating during the campaigns of WWII.

The lives of some crews could be as brief as a few sorties and German air defenses took a heavy toll on men and machines during the first four years of WWII. Add in fatigue and the knowledge that there were targets that they would be asked to revisit that had incurred heavy or withering losses on the crews during earlier sorties; it could now be their turn! It was also true that too many bombs fell off-target, literally missing by miles and may therefore have necessitated many return sorties until, when in 1943/4, additional aids such as in-flight RADAR and other guidance systems aided near-pinpoint targeting and significantly improved accuracy.

The numbers of aircraft involved in some raids was such that a small error by one might endanger others without any German involvement, and such incidents were not rare. Seeing pals shot out of the sky or crashing in flames and the ever-changing faces around the mess tables would all have added to their concerns. The frequency of sorties was further harrowing and exhausting. Many of the men in these crews were still very young and many not yet out of their teens or early 20s.

These are some of the factors that are reflected in the mini-biographies within the book. All those concerned deserve our respect for their courage, determination and unquestioned heroism. Although many would face long periods as a POW, some were able to eventually escape.

The copy I now possess is a replacement for that originally ordered, which was pre-read, extensively damaged with internal markings and not acceptable for its condition.
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