Following World War I, a generation of boys looked upon military pilots as role models and heroes. In Britain, many young men saw flying as the ultimate goal, one that could be achieved by joining aviator clubs, the newly formed Auxiliary Air Force or the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, created in 1936 to support the RAF. When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938, RAF volunteers were drafted in droves.
As Hitler flexed his military muscles, it became clear that war was unavoidable. British aircraft production was increased and pilot recruitment became paramount. Young pilots who dreamed of becoming war heroes were about to find themselves thrust into the thick of battle. With the invasion of Czechoslovakia and then Poland, trained pilots from both countries abandoned their homelands and made their way to Britain to join the new squadrons.
After the fall of France in May 1940, Britain anxiously awaited Germany’s inevitable invasion attempt. Throughout the summer, German bombers relentlessly pounded RAF air bases in the southern counties. Greatly outnumbered by the Luftwaffe, the pilots of the RAF Fighter Command scrambled as many as five times a day. Civilians watched in awe and horror as skies crisscrossed with the contrails from the constant dogfights between Spitfires and Me–109s.
Britain’s freedom depended on the outcome of that summer’s battle. Its air defenses were badly battered and nearly broken. More than a fifth of the British and Allied pilots died during the Battle of Britain. Against all odds, Britain persevered. Last of the Few brings together the remarkable personal accounts of the pilots who fought and survived that battle.
Max Arthur, author of the bestselling Forgotten Voices of the Great War, draws from hundreds of hours of recorded testimony as well as personal interviews with many of the pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain. He offers historical background on the events, but the heart of the book lies in the accounts of the men (and occasionally women) who lived through the events.
Pilots speak of losing buddies, grappling with nightmares and dealing with the stress of battle. Harold Bird-Wilson, a Flying Officer for the 17 Squadron, recalls being “both worried and frightened at times and praying for bad weather, probably the only time anybody in England prayed for that!”
Officer Richard Hillary describes the “empty sensation of suspense” he felt in the pit of his stomach once airborne. “I knew that morning I was to kill for the first time,” Hillary states. “That I might be killed or in any way injured did not occur to me.”
The stories in Last of the Few are as riveting, vivid and poignant as they were 70 years ago.
Hardcover Book : 304 pages
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing ( August 01, 2011 )
Item #: 13-445839
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 inches
Product Weight: 13.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)