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on 3 July 2001
This book provides a present day reader with a very privileged view into what life must have been like for the crews of these heavy bombers. It is beautifully written and makes for compulsive reading with a good mix of aviation and operational information but also great human content, something I have found lacking in other publications. Harry Yates conveys the close relationship between the crew and paints a graphic picture of their highs and lows. Readers will find themselves carried along with each operation, feeling relief when the wheels touch down at Mepal. Luck and a Lancaster is described by Harry Yates as a way to fix the 'remembrance of something important', it most certainly does that and far more. It will enable those born many years later to image what it was like when thousands of these huge machines flew in our skies. He sums up the Lancaster thus 'These were not mere bombers, crude forms of steel and oil. They were guiding beacons of the spirit. With them flew our pride, our hope, our purpose'. (p172) The book also contains a unique photographic record of the members of the crew; their aircraft and superb photographs taken by the cameras after the bombs had been dropped. Yates does not sensationalise but writes about his role factually explaining how crews carried out their orders in a duty bound process. He ends the story by describing his return to Mepal on an impulse, many years later. This return visit is a moving and thought provoking close to a well-written and highly readable factual account.
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on 30 July 2003
In his book ‘Luck and a Lancaster’, Harry Yates offers the reader a chance to follow the author through his tour of operations as a Lancaster pilot during the last five months of 1944. The story begins with the author as a young English lad wanting to join the Royal Air Force to fly fighters just after the Battle of Britain (as all young English boys surely wanted!).
We follow Yates through his initial training at flight school and then into training for multi-engine aircraft in Canada, something he wasn’t expecting. We then read of his exploits as an instructor and then finally his posting to a Operational RAF Squadron flying one of the great bombers of the Second World War, the Avro Lancaster.
Young Harry Yates ends up with 75 Squadron (RNZAF) based at Mepal in August of 1944 with a task of completing 30 operations against occupied Europe and Germany. Although by this period of the war the conflict in the air had swung towards the Allies it was still a very dangerous occupation flying in Bomber Command. This is the guts of the story, flying with Harry Yates and his crew in one of the many Lancaster’s allotted to them through the 30 missions required to complete their tour of Ops.
I found this story truly amazing and it was so well told I was totally immersed in the narrative. I must admit it has been awhile since I have read such an interesting and captivating account of war in the air and I cannot imagine anyone who has an interesting in aerial warfare not being taken by this honest and enjoyable book.
Not once did I find the book bogging down in too much detail, not once did it flag or slow down in pace, even the author’s account of his training and instructional flights were full of interest, humour and occasional sadness. This is a great testament to the young crews who flew in Bomber Command doing a job without question that cost many their lives. Well done to the author!
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on 18 December 2000
I bought this book almost by accident. It has sat on my bookshelf for the best part of a year until recently, when laid down with a cold, I picked it up. I expected it to be a factual, accurate but clumsy worded book like so many of the other eyewitness books I have.
I was very wrong. Not only did Yates fly a full tour (some thirty operations) and survive to tell the tale, but also he tells it magnificently. Yates is a hugely eloquent storyteller. A few examples:
- He describes the take off of a Lanc 30 times during the course of the book, and yet this never becomes dull, repetitious or boring.
- His description of flying over the frosty English countryside early one winter morning is exquisite
This book is every bit good enough to become the basis for a BBC historical program (or series) if handled well.
Two minor (very minor) things. Firstly, one of the crew that Yates trained with (Rob Bailey) doesn't show up when they transfer to the active squadron. It's a shame we don't get to know why. Secondly, the title and the cover imply the aforementioned factual, accurate but clumsy worded book. This is definitely not the case.
Very much a five star book.
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on 17 May 2017
This is without a doubt the best book that I've ever read on the life of a bomber crew and specifically the pilot during WW2. I can totally recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest of the bomber offensive.
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on 27 April 2017
very good told how it was
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on 3 April 2017
A great read.
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on 1 February 2016
a very well written book ,one of those you cant put down, first class.
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on 16 May 2003
In his book ‘Luck and a Lancaster’, Harry Yates offers the reader a chance to follow the author through his tour of operations as a Lancaster pilot during the last five months of 1944. The story begins with the author as a young English lad wanting to join the Royal Air Force to fly fighters just after the Battle of Britain (as all young English boys surely wanted!).
We follow Yates through his initial training at flight school and then into training for multi-engine aircraft in Canada, something he wasn’t expecting. We then read of his exploits as an instructor and then finally his posting to a Operational RAF Squadron flying one of the great bombers of the Second World War, the Avro Lancaster.
Young Harry Yates ends up with 75 Squadron (RNZAF) based at Mepal in August of 1944 with a task of completing 30 operations against occupied Europe and Germany. Although by this period of the war the conflict in the air had swung towards the Allies it was still a very dangerous occupation flying in Bomber Command. This is the guts of the story, flying with Harry Yates and his crew in one of the many Lancaster’s allotted to them through the 30 missions required to complete their tour of Ops.
I found this story truly amazing and it was so well told I was totally immersed in the narrative. I must admit it has been awhile since I have read such an interesting and captivating account of war in the air and I cannot imagine anyone who has an interesting in aerial warfare not being taken by this honest and enjoyable book.
Not once did I find the book bogging down in too much detail, not once did it flag or slow down in pace, even the author’s account of his training and instructional flights were full of interest, humour and occasional sadness. This is a great testament to the young crews who flew in Bomber Command doing a job without question that cost many their lives. Well done to the author!
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on 13 February 2004
The details of Luck and a Lancaster are adequately reviewed elsewhere, but I have to say how much I enjoyed it. This book is extremely well written and can be both funny and tragic. It sticks in my mind that the young Yates has a penchant for straying off course and 'buzzing' his parent's house during operational training. The reader then gets to know his aircrew, and accompanies them on some harrowing missions, courtesy of the flowing and detailed narrative. There's the Squadron reunion, where the crew are older but unchanged in character and Harry's emotional return to what was RAF Mepal. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and spending some time with these gallant young men.
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on 31 May 2000
This book is a fascinating and deeply moving portrayal of a bomber squadron and one particular crew at war.It is descriptive,humorous and poignant and succeeds in what it sets out to achieve.It describes in colloquial language life and death on a Cambridgeshire airfield.Mepal was the home of 75 (New Zealand ) Squadron and it was there that Harry Yates was posted as a Lancaster pilot. Mr.Yates writes from the heart. He describes the formation of his crew, the camaraderie they held for each other,their fears and hopes and their great desire to succeed and finish their tour.His description of the flying, the planes and the missions are exciting and heart wrenching.
The book is more than just a plain account of a bomber crew at war.For those of us who had relatives in bomber command it is a historical description of earlier times.For those of us who had fathers in 75 Squadron it is a tribute.It is an attempt to describe how those young airmen survived those times and how they coped with the loss of so many colleagues.
To quote Sir Arthur Harris "this country, and its allies,owe these young men--the Many that died, and the Few that survived-- a debt they have not met: because it can never be met in full." Mr.Yates captures this sentiment exactly.
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