Friday, 29 March 2013

Spring, New Life & New beginnings.

Spring appears to be here finally, in chilly Cumbria. There are signs of growth everywhere in the garden, the daffodils are gradually springing into action and finally, having suffered a blow to my creativity lately, I sense the wind is changing. The writing has been slow and perhaps not as steady as I would have liked. However, I have been reading like mad. As most people know who visit my blog, I am an avid World War Two amateur historian and writer. My research is constantly ongoing and just lately I've been reading several books about the unsung heroes of the air who risked life and limb to fly Bombers. My latest read is by the author, Kevin Wilson:

There were many ways for a combat crew to die during Bomber Command's war of 1944. Over German territory, bursts of heavy flak could tear the wings from their planes in a split second. Flaming bullets from German fighter planes could explode their fuel tanks, cut their oxygen supplies, destroy their engines. In the spring of that year, thousands of young men were shot, blown up, or thrown from their planes five miles above the earth; and even those who returned faced the subtler dangers of ice and fog as they tried to land their battered aircraft back home. 

The winter of 1944 was the most dangerous time to be a combat airman in RAF Bomber Command. The chances of surviving a tour were as low as one in five, and morale had finally hit rock bottom. In this comprehensive history of the air war that year, Kevin Wilson describes the most dangerous period of the Battle of Berlin, and the unparalleled losses over MagdeburgLeipzig and Nuremberg. He tells how ordinary men coped with constant pressure of flying, the loss of their colleagues, and the threat of death or capture. And, by telling the story of the famous events of this period - the Great Escape, D-Day, the defeat of the V1 menace - he shows how, through sheer grit and determination, the 'Men of Air' finally turned the tide against the Germans.

It's a fantastic read and very informative. It's also filled with personal accounts of those who were part of Bomber Command. One gets a sense of the fear those men carried with them every day, what is was like to be flying through the Flak in Europe, watching your crew get hit and injured or worse still, killed before your eyes. Watching other crews bailing out of stricken bombers, going back to base and always seeing new faces, the old ones having barely had the chance to become 'old hands,' now vanished for ever. Life in the forties is wonderfully recreated by the accounts of these men and it has proved to be a valuable resource for my own research. It is well researched and I like the format.

Black-and-white photograph showing the face and shoulders of a young man in uniform. His hair appears dark and is combed to the back. The front of his shirt collar bears an Iron Cross decorations, black with light outline. He is looking at to right of the camera, his facial expression is determined.One of the poignant moments was reading a little about the  German fighter ace, Heinrich Alexander Ludwig Peter Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, (14 August 1916 - 21 January 1944).He received the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross personally from Hitler himself in 1943 and prior to the meeting he contemplated shooting the Fuhrer. According to his mother, he was very disillusioned with the war. He had become Germany's most successful night fighter yet he would confess to friends about his angst at killing airmen when he shot their planes down. He claimed that he always tried to hit the enemy plane so as to give the crew a chance to bale out. Clearly this expresses a more humanitarian view and it is such views/opinions that are so refreshing and intriguing to hear when reading these true accounts. Overall, it's a book I would highly recommend.