Pierre Glosterman was a French pilot who choose to fight for the RAF in WW2 rather than the Free French. Despite reaching the rank of Wing Commander & recieving a host of medals by Britain he was disgracefully treated by the post-war French Government (because he fought for the brits). When he tried to join the French airforce he was only offered the rank of sous-lieutenant (pilot officer) a disgusting snub for one of the most experienced combat pilots to survive the war. His book was written based on diaries he wrote at the time rather thanmemories & as a result is extremely accurate. He charts the rise of the RAF as the war progressed starting with Mark V Spitfires v Focke Wolfe'sover Calais & ending up flying Mark V Tempests against the new German Jet sover Germany itself. I first read this when I was 12 & am delighted that its back in print. I still vividly remember reading about his high altitude interception of an Me109 over Scapa Flow (Orkney) in a Mark 8 high altitude Spitfire. Hepursued & downed the german in a near vertical dive from over 40,000 feet. In the course of that his Spitfire nearly exceeded the sound barrier which caused almost fatal damage to the airframe. His account of the subsequent forced landing in a Spitfire with a jammed canopy is real edge-of-the-seat stuff as is his account of crash landing a Tempest just days after watching a friend burn to death doing the same. Buy this book! There's very few like it.
I've edited this to add in a new paragraph: the original version of the book was edited because of 'post war paper shortages'. Reading this version you realise that was a shocking lie. This is the unedited version which includes some pretty catty comments about De Gaulle and Montgomery, a few amazing allied cockups and one incident when Glostermann who really should have been rested and is strung out on the amphetamines needed to keep him flying has to be stopped from shooting down a B17 that ditches its bombs over a french town. This new version of the book tell you EXACTLY how WW2 was fought and won and is much better than the original sanitised version.
Like the other critics I love this book. But how many aircraft did he shoot down and how many was he officially credited with? In one of the originals 23 and now 33. Shores has Closterman with c 19. This latest version is the best. A larger picture of Closterman is created, more irreverant to authority, the issue of losing track of Mouchotte and the criticsm that ensued creates an inpiring picture of a very brave, idiosyncratic fighter pilot. A great book
Pierre Clostermanns The Big Show or Le Grande Cirque as it is in French,is re published in hardback. This news sent me straight to the orderbutton ! I have the original book, which is an all time favourite. Thenew version contains more than I had expected, in 'new'chapters whichdetail his arrival in Britain initially, and go on to include severalother chapters, here and there throughout the book. At the end are detailsof wartime aircraft both British and German, and operational information.The original preface is now at the back, replaced by a new preface forthis 2004 edition written by the man himself. The original is hard tocome by, but is included here in it's entirety. The only thing missing aresome of the photographs from the original, but these have been replacedwith different ones. All in all, for those who know the book well, this is well worth a look,and for those who do not, I urge you to read it. If you have ever read Antoine de St Exupery, Pierre Clostermann's bookwill be for you.
This book, along with Geoff Wellum's First Light and Jim Goodson's Tumult in the Clouds really stands head and shoulders above the rest of the bunch and will have you hooked from start to finish.
Just one thing I would really like to know more about is the claim that Rommel was killed in the attack on his staff car in Normandy in July 44 by a pair of Spitfires - one Canadian and one Kiwi pilot, and not forced to commit suicide later, after being implicated in the plot to asassinate Hitler.
But, make no mistakes, this updated version (unabridged, I mean) is much, much better than the originalk pusblished version which, of course, already was great. He also took the opportunity to clean some errors the first edition had (for example, whe he said that one pilot of his Squadron shot down German ace Walter Nowotny-simply not true).
Clostermann's (deceased in 2006) narrative is addictive, even when thera are passages not related to aereal combat.
We must not forget, however, that there are controversies about Clostermann. One of them, is that he was grouned following the shot down of Commander Rene Mouchote. Clostermann was his wingman and got separated from him, when he already had a reputation for recklessness. Also, Clostermann was shot down at the Channel one mission, but even in this biography he does not mention it.
Another controversy is his total of victories. French says 33, but that's no true (and not Clostermann's fault, by the way). French had the habit of totalling all claims (probable, damaged, etc) to make a pilot's total. Clostermann himself said he wanted recognition for "only" 23, citing like proof the citation of one of his decorations. However, historier Christopher Shores put his total in "only" 11.
Anyway, Clostermann's courage, dare and skill was beyond any doubt (when entering RAF, he got an "Above Average" grade). Like said previoulsy, one hell of a book.
I discovered an earlier version of this book and absolutely loved it. This full version was even more interesting since it filled in a few gaps left in the earlier version. I have not read a better book about life as a fighter pilot. Indeed it stands as one of the very best books I have ever read. He has a wonderful style of writing. You really do feel what it was like to be there. Hugely recommended.
The Big Show first came into my possession in 1951. It quickly became my favourite book, much read and re-read and now a battered well thumbed prize possession. Imagine my joy to find it newly re-issued and with previously unpublished material. There is so much that is new that it is like starting all over again, and, there are even new photographs! This book of Clostermann's RAF service is the most exciting account of air warfare ever published. The descriptions of combat are so realistic that you are there with him in his Spitfire or Tempest, dodging the flak and Me109's. Experience the thrill of air combat and share his grief at the loss of close friends. This is truly one of the greatest accounts of war in the air ever published.
This is a great story of a French fighter pilot who fought in the Battle of Britain and then through to the end of the war. It gives a rare insight into the mind of a fighter pilot from this generation on a similar but more human vein to that of Galland in 'The Last Enemy'.
If there was only one WW2 book you should read, here it goes. This book is the first from many WW2 memoirs I've read and it's undoubtedly the best one. When reading this, YOU ARE THERE, smelling the gunpowder, hearing bullets and explosions and wishing only to pass through the hell alive. You will read this book during one long evening and then you'll return to it, once and again. I remember that I cried when reading the last pages, I cried of relief and sadness, I cried along with the young man, who had come through the most painful chapter of his life. Per Ardua Ad Astra - Through Struggle To The Stars, they say. And you'll find that definitely true.