Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Review of 'Keeping Watch,' by Pip Beck.

A sensitively written true story by a RAF Bomber Command wartime R/T operator who talked down the crews on their return from operations, met them off duty and so often, mourned their loss within days. The book sparkles with anecdotes and humour yet has a very special poignancy as the author reiterates her deep admiration for these truly remarkable men of Bomber Command.

The book begins with three poems written by the author, which are well crafted and very poignant. The rest of the book is very insightful into life as a WAAF, including training and the highs and lows of the job. Indeed, some of the stories she recounted are so tragic that you feel as if you are living through her experiences, feeling the sorrow and pain of the tragic loss of young lives. 

One night on duty she has a 'Darky call,' which was the codeword for an aircraft that is either lost or in need of assistance. Whilst Pip tries to talk the Pilot down, the pilot is heard reporting that he has only one engine. He reportedly sounds 'anxious.' As the aircraft roars over the airfield, someone identifies it as a Wimpy. It flies over once more and he frantically radios in, saying, 'Hello Waddington, yes, I can't . . ' He does not speak again. The aircraft is heard crashing near to the airfield, five young men all dead. The author states how her voice 'had been the last voice they had heard -would ever hear.'

The Author: Pip Beck volunteered for the WAAF in 1941 and was posted to RAF Waddington, where she trained as a R/T operator. Later, she completed a wireless operator's course and was posted to Upper Heyford where, together with service at its satellite station at Barford St.John, she spent the last two years of the war.