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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 14 August 2017
Very well written and thoroughly researched. No one sensible denies the bombing of Germany was a war crime of the most gross kind and actually had little effect on the outcome of the war- it was pure revenge and spite on behalf of the masters and fathers of war.
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on 27 May 2017
This is brilliantly balanced view of probably the greatest bomber ever produced. Unstinting in its praise of the aircraft itself and the crews who flew and fought her and comprehensive in reviewing the controversy of her record and the senior personnel who espoused her design and use at one of the darkest times in British history.
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on 6 March 2017
Fantastic book and what a service!
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on 6 February 2011
Yes, I enjoyed the book very much but, perspective purchasers should be aware that whilst it IS a history of this famous aircraft, it more of a history of the way the Bomber Command war was (mis)handled by "Bomber" Harris.

Very little of the development, building and operations of the Lancaster have not appeared in print several times before, although some of the anecdotes by flight crew and production line workers add some new interest.

But the book is really an undisguised biography of Arthur Harris between 1939 and 1945. Admittedly Harris and the Lancaster are inextricably intertwined, without whom the plane may never have got past the twin engined Manchester stage.

Leo McKinstry's other similar offering of the Spitfire is rather better in respect of a history of the aircraft.

A good read though.
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on 23 September 2009
I'll start by saying that I own a huge number of books about Bomber Command and the Lancaster. At first sight, this book has a rather unattractive appearance, and it's written by a journalist - frankly, I wasn't even going to bother, assuming that this would be yet another 'pot-boiler' or 're-hash'.
Well, I was wrong. The author has managed to do something different by telling the story of Bomber Command's war and cleverly threading in the story of the Lancaster and the vital part it played in that war. Although the author (and his researchers ) make use of quotes from many secondary sources (there is a very comprehensive bibliography ) there is extensive use of lesser-known material from the IWM interview archive and also - fascinatingly - from the Harris Papers. Many superb quotations and personal accounts are woven into the narrative Middlebrook-style (and that is a compliment...).
Only 4 stars ? As said earlier, not an attractive book and I found a number of irritating little typos. If you want lots of photos, it's not for you ; neither are there reams of technical data and statistics. But don't be put off - it's a hugely enjoyable and informative 'read'. Above all, it pays worthy tribute to a remarkable aircraft and the even more remarkable men who flew in it.
Highly recommended !
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on 17 March 2017
Half way through the book I realize something's wrong with it.
It is more a succession of anecdotes relating to nostalgic and idealized military episodes than the proper design portrait of an aircraft.
Then I discover McKinstry the so called journalist.
How come this appalling man does not understand that it is precisely because people like himself have been sharing the same racist and nationalist ideas in the 1930's that the WW2 happened? What a lack of courage and pragmatism.
Anyway, don't buy that book. Mine goes directly to the recycle bin.
Have a great day,
A swiss, immigrant, aeronautical engineer, in the UK.
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on 14 February 2010
I bought this book after reading and thoroughly enjoying the author's book on the Spitfire. Only 150 pages in so far, but the enjoyment level is the same. The material is presented in an interesting way - not too technical but with enough detail to suit a lay person. What would have been useful is some extra in-text line drawings. For example, when the Lancaster's instrument panel and controls are being described, a picture would have improved understanding and visualisation considerably.
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on 16 September 2010
At times this book was vivid enough that I could almost hear the aircraft's engines.

Hyper-nerds who can already tell a Mark I Lancaster wing support from a Mark VI wing support (or something like that) may wish there was more detailed technical information, but for anyone else who has not yet read Leo McKinstry's 'Lancaster', you will probably like it if you are any of the following:

a) Interested in the Second World War
b) Not usually interested in the War, but interested in modern history
c) Not usually interested in the War, but one of your parents or grandparents was in Bomber Command or worked in bomber production during World War 2, and you want an idea of what it was like

There is enough human interest and sense of what it was like to appeal even to people who would not otherwise know a Lancaster from a Hurricane, and regardless of their views about wars

-the extreme cold at high altitude

-the hours of flying together without speaking. as the intercom, which was the only way the crew could communicate above the noise of the engines, had to be kept clear in case of urgency

-crews preserving their mental balance by not becoming too friendly with the crews of other bombers at the same base, knowing that by next year the majority of the other crews may well be dead. It was alright to be friends within one's own crew, knowing that whether they survived or perished, they would probably all do so together

-distinctions of rank becoming irrelevant at 30,000 feet up, when everyone relied on everyone else

-the rare wartime treat of bacon and eggs allowed to bomber crews before and after a mission, regardless of rationing

-the unit of German soldiers in Normandy so stunned and disorientated by Lancasters' bombs falling around them that none of them could walk straight for a week

-the former Lancaster bomber crewman who, asked years after the war whether the British bombing of German cities had been a 'war crime', replied that "the greatest war crime of all would have been to lose the war".

and also a great deal about the experiences of the ground crews, aircraft designers, workers in aircraft factories, and most sadly of all civilians in Germany on the receiving end, but there is a limit to what I can put in one review.

As to the long-running argument as to whether with hindsight the bombing of German cities had enough effect on the war to justify the terrible suffering it caused:

Alright for us to have opinions in hindsight, but no hindsight was available to people at the time; the commanders often received contradictory information, advice and special pleading, not all of it reliable, and had to follow their best guess and hope.

The logic of the strategy of general bombing to weaken German willingness to resist was that if it was to have a chance of working it had to be done whole heartedly over a long period, or not at all. When it began, apart from naval blockade Britain had few other ways to get at Germany or support her allies.

However, an argument that the author does not address is to be found in Norman Davies interesting book 'Europe at War 1939-45'. The 'strategic bombing' offensive only really got into its stride in 1943 onwards, so while it may well have shortened the war, it is unlikely to have made the difference between Allied victory and defeat, as the turning point of the war in Europe came in late 1941 - 1942, when the Soviet Union first survived and then reversed the onslaught of most of the German army.
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on 7 March 2011
Lars Lundstedt's review is right on the money. Having read McKinstry's "Spitfire" I got my daughter to get me this for Christmas. You get a lot of book for your money, and the writing isn't bad, but a book about the Lancaster, written in the same way as the Spitfire it ISN'T. It does bring to the fore the whole argument about area bombing (not specific to the Lancaster). It does deal with the Dams raid (but there are better texts). It does deal with the Lancaster's structure (but not in any detail) and so the list goes on. McKinstry would have done better to come clean and title it something like "The Development of British Bombing Policy in the Second World War". Not having read Mckinstry's biographies, I expect that his format is the same. With "Spitfire" he was able to turn those skills to write the biography of the Spitfire, with "Lancaster" he missed the target and went for area saturation. Notice how the "sales blurb" reviews are mainly from obscure publications? - I wonder why?
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on 9 July 2010
I've always been a fan of the Lancaster bomber and have read many books involving it (Enemy Coast Ahead, The Dambusters, Bomber Boys etc) and so was excited to find a book puporting to be more about the bomber itself rather than the historical events it was involved in. I know the bombing offensive of WWII and the Lancaster is inextricably linked but there were times when I wondered if I was reading a history of the bomber or the bomber offensive. There is a lot of good information in this book but I did feel it scrimps on the development through and beyond the Manchester and on the Lincoln and beyond. Maybe I blinked, but I can't remember reading anything about the York. The Shackleton was also only briefly mentioned.

Overall an interesting read but I feel a lot of it goes over ground covered in others books (including those mentioned above). A better book would have been one concentrating more on the technical aspects of the Lancaster (but of course covering the dams raid, the Tirpitz sinking and the Grand Slam, all of which involved technical innovation and bravery, skill and sacrifice on the part of the crews) and the long Avro lineage from the Manchester through to the Shakleton
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