Reviews by

Donald McVicar



As early as the fourth century BC, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato speculated that their leading citizens and warriors should be endowed with "quick comprehension, a good memory, sagacity, courage, and trustworthiness." These attributes for fighting men have been revised very little in the following centuries.

In his comprehensive, major work, Dr.Allen D.English describes the English and the Canadian Government's recruitment, selection, training and sustainment of aircrew in both WW1 and WW2.
In WW1 Canadians were part of a large Imperial army. Their airmen fought in th RFC, the RNAS and finally the RAF. At the end of the war 40 percent of the aviators in the RAF on the Western Front were Canadian. Many awards for valour were awarded to them, while many more airmen were wounded or made the supreme sacrifice.

WW2 began in 1939, and by the end in 1945 more than one million Canadians had joined the fighting services - 9% of the natioonal population.
But on the eve of this new war there were only 290 officers and 2,700 other ranks in the permanent RCAF.

Dr. English's book describes in detail how a uniquely Canadian system called THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH AIR TRAINING PLAN produced 44 percent of the 340.000 aircrew trained from 1939 to 1943.
Canadian graduates served bravely in Fighter and Coastal Command, but their main effort was in Bomber Command, where 9,919 died.
The book then dives deeply and very thoroughly into the relation and effect of both psychology and psychiatry on the conduct of flight crews during Flight Operations in the face of the enemy.

For instance a small number of airmen when faced with a flight actually refused to board their aircraft. If, after a stern lecture from his commanding officer, and his MO the reluctant airman still refused to change his mind, he was charged with the serious crime Lacking in Moral Fibre, and grounded.

No Air Force could afford this loss of flight personnel of course, espcially when by, January, 1941 the total of the cowards reached a disgraceful high of 5% of the Force.

Something had to be done, and quickly.
The punishment was severe. Those convicted of LMF were stripped of their rank and wings, sometimes on parade before their squadron-mates. Then the miserable men could be returned to Canada in disgrace, In some cases they were allowed to remain in the Service on non-flying assignments. The punishment varied between the RCAF and the RAF.

The threat worked, because a close friend of mine --- one of "The Cream ofthe Crop," told me that he was more afraid of being tagged "LMF" than he was of being shot down on Ops.

The book is a heavy read, packed with very accurate and valuable data. It took the author six years to write, gaining him a PhD.

Perhaps the scholar who completes reading every word of the script plus all the manifold 'notes' should be awarded an honorary PhD!!



In this colorful book, author and RCAF Observer/Navigator Jack Watts recognizes the important work that the proud wearers of the single wing did during the air war. Observers, air gunners, wireless operators, flight engineers, and later in the war, navigators and bomb aimers finally get their due.

The 293 closely-written pages give a colorful and accurate insight into the operations of RAF Bomber Command from its early trips in slow Whitleys during the almost visusul bombing efforts to deliver a small number of bombs. Then it swings into the story of how huge four-engine Halifax bombers deliver their tons of death. The swift Mosquito gets its due, espeially when using the advanced OBOE navigation device to mark targets hiddend by cloud, smoke and darkness.

A very few photos (God, how scarce authentic ones are in any new historical volume!) liven up the text. Watts was only 20 years of age when he put his life on the line, and in his epilogue he notes that "an undetectable but inexorable force took over my life."

So it was for most of us!



Author Floyd Williamson tells the stories of "A Few of the Many Who Failed to Return." He meticulously researches the short lives of six Atlantic Canada airmen in this exciting and moving chronicle of life-and-death struggles of fighting airmen in the war-torn air. He notes dryly that "there was a long list to choose from."

He provides a quite good selection of photographs and illustrations to balance his story, as well as many inserts from interested parties. Of course his 'six Atlantic Airmen' are crewed up with many other colorful characters. Together they fly a wide variety of warplanes, old and new, which the author describes with a keen eye as the aircrew do battle with the Luftwaafe.

The costly attack on Nuremburg on the night of March 30-31, 1944, is meticulously analyzed, with the names and addresses of all 111 Canadians casualties listed on no less than three full pages.

There is also a glossary, an extensive selected bibliogaphy and an index to assist serious readers, who should find this title worthy of the intense effort necessary to complete it.



Spencer Dunmore has fond memories of being well-treated on the visit by fellow "pimply-faced pests" Air Training Corps youngsters to the RCAF's 6 Group of Bomber Command. The Group's dozen or more heavy bomber squadrons were manned by Canadians, administered by Canadians, and paid for by Candians.
But Dunmore, his fellow cadets and the rest of England had never heard of it. Not a whisper about the group in any newspapers or the BBC. Yet one in four of the airmen in the air force were Canadians.
Dunmore was grateful to the ordinary Canadians he met, whom he thought were "decent men,possessed of a healthy disrespect for military claptrap, including rank badges and tradition. The fastest, most efficient way was the only way that anything should be done. It mattered to them not a whit how the Duke of Wellington did it. They were, without doubt, the best ambassadors ever sent anywhere."

This book is what Dunmore calls his long-overdue tribute.

The Contents page gives a clear summary of progress of the War:
PART One - 1939: CHAOS and CRISIS
PART Four - 1942: NADIR
PART Seven - 1945: VICTORY


From the early stupid 'leaflet' raids, and defeat at Dunkirk through every theatre of war, right on the the Atom bombs on the Japs, the air people of the RAF, the RCAF and the RN get their proper due. Many battles are mentioned, as well as the names of outstnding heroes with their decorations for bravery properly described.
The author has a unique ability to change smoothly from an romantic episode to an fast-moving aviation "blood and guts" story, which keeps his narrative rolling well.
Since becoming a Canadian citizen Dunmore has written 12 books, of which this, his last, could be his best.



In the cockpit with Canada's Second World War Fighter Pilots
David L. Bashaw tells his own thrilling tale as a Canadian fighter pilot in the RAF and the RCAF while interweaving no less than 246 strands of individual stories by many other Fighter Command pilots to produce this remarkeable book.
In his foreword AVM J.E.Johnson, CB, CBE, DSO**, DFC* mentions that when he was Wing Commander Flying of several Canadian Squadrons, he saw and briefed the pilots every day. His outstanding squadron coomanders were Danny Browne, Hugh Godfrey, George Hill, Wally Conrad, George Keefer, "Buck" McNair, Dal Russell and Wally McLeod.
They are described as being "good and trusted leaders who were always there in the tightest of corners, and that it was a privilege to be associated with such fighting Canadians."
The fighter ace then says: "In Colonel David Bradshaw's outstanding and carefully reasearched narrative we again meet that gallant company."

High praise indeed from one who has been through it all!

Bashow brings his readers into the cockpit of many fighters, including the world-renowned British-built Hurricanes and Spitfires and the American-built lomg-range Mustang.

Operations range from The UK and France through North Africa, Malta, Sicily, Italy, and the Far East, including Burma, Ceylon and South Pacific waters. Chancy flights of fighters from RN aircraft carriers get a well-deserved description.

Almost 400 pages of densely-packed narrative, an extensive bibliography. an index, and 49 photos make this memorable book a welcome addtion to any library.

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