What are you reading at the moment?

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Gage, Mar 12, 2006.

  1. Seroster

    Seroster Canadian researcher

    Just finished Assault Crossing by Ken Ford - 43rd Division crossing the Seine. Not an essential piece of WW2 reading per se but very well put together, lots of quotes from veterans and French civilians, and I liked that the size of the force - 43rd Division - allowed the author to relate the story of what happened to individual units down to the company levels at time. (Even if, sadly, that was because of individual companies that got cut off.)

    The only surprising note per se - maybe I should say I was shocked, anyway - was learning that General Thomas blamed a subordinate for an action he had urged which led to the loss of one of those companies. An anonymous quote about him was frank and unflattering.

    Well worth reading.
    Owen likes this.
  2. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

  3. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    This just arrived to feed my "Operation Totalize" habit. :D

    Just started reading and it looks like an interesting mix of information sourced from the unit's war diary, the regimental history ('the Blue Flash'), Marcus Cunliffe's personal diary and several other personal accounts by veterans who served in the unit during the NW Europe campaign.

    I had forgotten that they converted to Buffaloes for the Rhine Crossing.


  4. Waddell

    Waddell Active Member

    Night Fighter.jpg

    I finally finished Jimmy Rawnsley’s ‘Night Fighter’ which was first published in 1957, a dozen years after the war had ended. The book is authored by navigator Rawnsley, his pilot John Cunningham and a fellow navigator Robert Wright. The voice throughout the book, however, is all Rawnsley’s. As I understand it Wright was an accomplished writer who co-wrote the story.

    The book starts pre-war when Rawnsley was travelling through Germany and clearly identified the threat that Nazism presented to the world. He was in his early thirties, recently married and was a qualified electrical trades person. Upon returning home he enlisted with the RAF Auxiliary Air Force and by the time the war kicked off he was an air gunner before converting to a navigator and radar operator. The book follows his experiences flying with John Cunningham, whom Rawnsley almost worshipped as a pilot.

    The strength of the book is the narrative following the development of radar interception and the detailed descriptions of the mechanics and tactics of how they managed to develop the system to a high level of effectiveness. The aircraft they employed were initially Blenheims, followed by Beaufighters and eventually Mosquitoes. I particularly enjoyed the Beaufighter sections of the book, with Cunningham sneaking up underneath German bombers and pounding cannon shells into the unfortunate plane. You can also fell the plane shuddering with the cannon fire within the text.

    Like several other RAF memoirs I have recently read it is also touched with sadness as Rawnsley writes about the crews he served with who didn’t survive the war. There seem to have been many early on who perished in low level flying accidents or just disappeared into the sea. Throughout the book Rawnsley also occasionally revealingly records his self-doubt and lack of confidence in his own abilities. It seems strange but I put it down to the constant pressure he and his crews were under.

    Interestingly in the final section of the book Rawnsley talks about the post-war lives of some of his fellow fliers. A crew he found particularly interesting as an effective crew were that of Flight Commander Branse Burbridge and his navigator Bill Skelton. Both men understood each other according to Rawnsley and worked together ‘almost as one man’. What I found surprising was that post war both men studied religion, Burbridge becoming a lay preacher and Skelton a clergyman in the Church of England.

    Well worth reading if you are interested in RAF memoirs.

    Last edited: May 26, 2019 at 6:46 AM
  5. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Although a little slow to get going, this is a well researched book on an extremely interesting subject. For an incident in world history so gigantic in consequence, partition seems not to have had too much exposure in historical discussions, or perhaps I just have not followed what seems such an obvious trail, coming directly out of WW2 and the British/Indian Army on the sub-continent.
  6. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    Good to see Night Fighter get a shout, one of the all time best regarding RAF memoirs for me. I’ve just finished re-reading Mike Henry’s Air Gunner, which I remember being better to be honest. He had a very unstable war, never really being crewed up properly (20 different pilots for the 54 sorties he flew), repeatedly moving squadrons and going on liaison with the Navy. The majority of descriptions are off duty larks as I’m pretty sure he only mentions actually firing his guns in anger on one occasion against shipping.

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