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Part 2 of a factual trilogy covering most of Bomber Command's WW2 activiities
on 7 May 2014
This book was originally published in 2007 and may now be out of print in hardback format. It is however still available as a paperback. In this instance, it is a substantial hardback purchased previously read and in excellent condition that is printed on moderately heavy paper and with several photographic insertions of some of the crews and their aircraft. Its sub-title provides a hint of their realities and expectations. When first discovered, it was mentioned within another book for its references to a former crew member who later became a POW and within which other similar stories were told; it was not then stated or understood that the book was the middle volume of a trilogy and the remainder has since been ordered to remedy the unintended oversight.
This book concentrates on the last full year of the War, 1944. It was the period when Allied losses of aircraft and crew were probably at their overall highest and the intention was still to damage German industry and morale and thereby, hopefully, shorten the War. The end was not yet in sight and, although battles were being won and former occupied territories were being liberated, no-one knew whether there would be a few months or even years before final victory was achieved.
With heavy losses of crew members, those remaining within a crew could be affected by the loss of close long-term friends who may in turn be replaced by the inexperienced. Sometimes whole crews were lost and other crews would be affected but life had to continue. There may be another raid tomorrow or the next day, but there could be relief for a few days with 'survivor's leave' which would give them a chance to spend time with family, a girlfriend or wife and not to think about the War.
There was an attitude that grief would soon give way to normality, such as it was. A man might meet someone, form a relationship and possibly marry, then be lost in action or the woman widowed and all within a few weeks. Months later and in a new relationship, the woman might remarry and again be widowed a little later. It was war!
The book is highly informative and worthwhile. It allows those who were not then born to understand those who were involved and to understand and appreciate their efforts. Although various bombing Campaigns are self-contained in their own chapter, some readers may not be happy with the presentation style, author's choices and possible omissions. Not every incident, every airman wounded or killed, became a POW or was subject to a rescue can be named or included. There are various notes and Appendices at the back of the book but not full listings of crew members for every sortie - that would be impracticable and unwieldy.