• Hang Tight

My second favorite pilot of the female persuasion emailed the following:

There's a book review in the Sunday [UK] paper today that makes you want to go straight on Amazon. The book is called On a Wing and a Prayer by Joshua Levine and is all about the World War I pilots.

This extract caught my eye:

One summers afternoon in 1917 Grahame Donald attempted a new maneuver in his Sopwith Camel. He flew the machine up and over, and as he reached the top of his loop, hanging upside down, 6000 feet above the ground, his safety belt snapped and he fell out. He was not wearing a parachute; they were not issued to pilots in the belief their availability would impair their fighting spirit.

Hurtling to earth, with nothing to break his fall, Donald's death was seconds away—but it didn't come. In an interview given 55 years later he explained, "The first 2,000 feet passed very quickly and
terra firma looked damnably 'firma'. As I fell I began to hear my faithful little Camel somewhere nearby. Suddenly I fell back onto her."

The Camel had continued its loop downwards, and Donald landed on its top wing. He grabbed it with both hands, hooked one foot into the cockpit and wrestled himself back in, struggled to take control, and executed "'an unusually good landing".

Loopy Lou

While you're out finding books, look for anything by former RAF fighter pilot Derek Robinson.  He's best known for his military aviation novels full of black humor. . .oops, I mean humour.

Novels set in RAF squadrons during the Second World War:

Piece of Cake (1983) is set during the Phony War and Battle of Britain with Hornet Squadron flying the Hurricane. There is a TV mini-series (1988) with the same name based on this book.

A Good Clean Fight (1993) covers the Desert Air Force during 1942 with Hornet Squadron flying the Curtiss Tomahawk.

Damned Good Show (2002) covers RAF Bomber Command's early bomber operations and has fictional No. 409 Squadron RAF flying the Handley Page Hampden.

Novels about spying during the Second World War:

Kramer's War (1977)

The Eldorado Network (1979)

Artillery of Lies (1991)

Other books include:

Invasion, 1940 (2005), a non-fiction work about World War II which aims to debunk "two powerful myths": first, that the RAF alone prevented an invasion of Great Britain by Hitler's Germany; and second, that such an invasion force would inevitably have conquered Britain.

Rotten with Honour (1973), about Cold War-espionage.

Red Rag Blues (2006), about espionage and the McCarthy witchhunts in 1950's America.


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