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Disappointing and partisan
on 26 December 2011
This book doesn't quite know what it wants to be. It attempts to be a parallel biography of one of the authors (Tony Iveson - formerly of 617 Squadron) and of the Lancaster itself, but for the most part it disappoints in both departments. As a scholarly and balanced treatise on the strategic bombing campaign in general, and the technical development of the Lancaster in particular, it is too superficial and too partisan to add anything of great value to the existing body of knowledge. As an insightful personal biography of a real-life RAF bomber pilot it falls short of giving us much more than some (genuinely) interesting anecdotes. Other authors have done it better (e.g. Jack Currie). Quoting verbatim from VC citations becomes rather tedious - the stuffy official language tends to detract from these extraordinary tales of bravery and self-sacrifice. The stories could be much better told if the citations were used as a source rather than just reproduced verbatim. Likewise, not all the cut-and-paste testimonies from various "Last Witnesses" are very interesting or enlightening.
Today there are many, often extreme, views about Arthur "Bomber" Harris and the Allied strategic bombing campaign of WW2, but Iveson is clearly (and perhaps understandably) a loyal fan. He is completely entitled to that opinion, but he fails to argue his case, beyond the bald assertion that there was no alternative. It is a viewpoint that has already been expressed many times - and rather better - by many earlier authors, including Harris himself. There is no real attempt to address the accusations of war crime and genocide that the strategic bombing campaign still attracts.
There was the potential for a very good book here, but for anyone who knows a little (or a lot!) about the subject it does not add much to the existing body of knowledge.