Many books have been published after the war about the efforts of the RAF during WW 2 and especially about Bomber Command that from the beginning until the end of the war harassed Germany with continuous night bombardments. This book is an nice exception because it was written by Leonard Cheshire a highly decorated bomber pilot, who published the first edition of his book already in 1943. It contains the stories of his perilous adventures in the air starting as co-pilot on the twin engine Whitley bomber which was widely used over Germany in the beginning of the war.
He tells his stories in the I form with detailed descriptions of the different night missions he flew and the crewmembers he worked with interspersed with accurate reproductions of his conversations with crew and superiors that were important in his view. It is of course fascinating to read what can go wrong on those missions. Except enemy anti-aircraft guns there is also the always present danger of night fighters, fuel shortages, navigational errors because of weather, forced evasive courses and mechanical problems. All those problems could lead to crashes, ditches and eventually death of the crews.
Sometimes it is difficult to follow the story line of the author. Cheshire has a tendency to hop from one item to another without a logic date line. But despite that the book contains thrilling stories of his adventures in the air over Germany and written during the war so hot from the needle. In the second part of the book Robert Owen explains the background of Cheshire stories and brings it to more realistic levels based on published historical documents and is correcting sometimes the situations that Cheshire describes in numbers and places. At the end of the book there is a list of all the operations that Cheshire was involved in.
This book gives the reader a good insight what was happening there in the nights over Germany and what terrible situations the bomber crews had to endure, but it is still not clear to me, despite reading many books about the night operations of the RAF, why mid air collisions did not happen more often despite the enormous bomber formations all flying to the same target.
There is nothing in this book that explains this and that is a pity. Per example the fact that pilots were flying the initial bombing pattern again and again when they could not identify their target in the first run until they were sure of hitting it. Doing so in the dark with hundreds of bombers flying around you is amazing and a terrifying job. A certain amount of black and white photos mostly taken by Cheshire himself are illustrating the hard cover book that is made of fine quality binding.