From the stories of WW2 during the Battle of Britain the name of Douglas Bader is very well known as the ace without legs. He lost his legs in a prewar flight accident and with a lot of perseverance he became a famous fighter pilot. But there is another fighter pilot who flew without legs and that is Colin Hodgkinson. The story of how he managed to make a comeback after his nearly fatal accident in which he lost his legs is nearly identical. However his autobiography is written without the usual heroic phrasology that surrounds the stories of the fighter pilots that flew during the battle of Britain but certainly not less interesting.
His story starts with his life as a youngster and how his character was formed by his dominant father. The reader follows Colin during his school time and his first steps into his military career. Nothing connects him to flying, but due to his time at the Nautical College he joins the Royal Navy. From their he finds his way to flight training despite the fact that he battles constantly with his own thoughts and fears that flying was not for him. Throughout the book this fear stays with him.
During his flight training he became involved in an air collision that killed 2 instructors and severely wounded him and his fellow trainee. Colin was taken to hospital where they had to amputate his right leg. And then his big personal battle started in trying to get back to the world outside the hospital and the corresponding operations and to take part in the battle against Germany that was starting a war. He decided even to amputate his left leg to create a chance for a comeback to flying.
Despite his fears and due to his iron will and perseverance he managed to get back to flight training and finally was accepted as an operational fighter pilot on the Spitfire the plane that was his personal goal to fly. This period in hospital and his struggle to be accepted as a normal functioning man takes an important part in his life and this book.
During his time as a fighter pilot in the different squadrons his fear of flying over water and in darkness are staying with him but he survives despite a nearly fatal crash ending up as a prisoner of war. After some time he was exchanged with other prisoners of war and returned to the actual fighting again. The stories he is telling of his battles in the air and his squadron period are without any heroic glance but never the less exciting and interesting reading.
The last part of the Colin autobiography describes the postwar period in which he met his future wife June and the start of his civil and political career. At first he was still flying for the RAF ferrying planes to France and he and his fellow pilots made some extra bucks in smuggling luxury goods to and from England. Some funny stories were the result of this period. During the Korean war he became a fighter pilot again in an auxiliary air force squadron and started flying De Havilland Vampires.
Interesting is his struggle to build up a new life as a civilian after a stressful war period and his exciting last goodbye to flying happened after a nearly fatal training flight with a Vampire jet aircraft. He became lost overhead a closed cloud cover but an American bomber saved his life. Colin does not hesitate to involve his readers in his darkest and most desperate hours and shares all his tragedies and victories with us. At the end he is rewarded with a beautiful wife and family and a successful career as a journalist and writer but not in the air anymore.
A true biography of a war hero that fought many battles with the enemy in the air and with himself. The book is a hardcover with 223 pages, a nice cover and 16 pages of original black and white photos. Strongly recommended if you want to learn more about how to become a true hero despite many setbacks and even without your legs.