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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Battle of Britain cover gallery

A mini-celebration of the Battle of Britain...

Battle of Britain by Leonard Mosley.
Pan 0330-02357-8, 1969, 209+16pp, 5/-.
"Spitfire Red Leader here. I have sighted our visitors."
__Once again Messerschmidts and Heinkels winged above the calm English countryside, but this time there was a difference...
__It was May 1968 and the stage was set for the spectacular flying sequences of one of the biggest, most costly films ever made.
__Leonard Mosley, the distinguished author and film critic who covered the Battle of Britain in 1940 as a newspaperman, spent weeks on location with the various film units in both England and Spain researching for this unique book which links the story of those fateful days to a fascinating account of how a film company recreated the dramatic events of one short summer, when the Few shielded Britain from the fury of the Luftwaffe.
__He tells of the difficulties encountered in obtaining facilities and assembling the necessary aircraft, of troubles with the stars, tensions among the pilots, political pressures and the recurring financial crises.
__How all of these problems were overcome by the oxygen of enthusiasm to produce a thrilling film that contains the most exciting and realistic aerial combat scenes ever screened, adds a new dimension and a new understanding to the Battle of Britain.

Squadron Airborne by Elleston Trevor (London, William Heinemann, 1955)
Pan GP76, 1957, 221pp, 2/6. Cover by Gordon Davies
This is the story of one squadron, one airfield, in the tense yet triumphant days of 1940. At R.A.F. Westhill men and machines are strained to the limit, but always at first light they are all on 'top line': Mason--'the Boss'--the calm, careworn C.O., the pilots, the armourers, the fitters, the aircraft hands, even Stuyckes the 'new boy' who in the timelessness of continuous action becomes an 'old boy' almost overnight. The long summer days are filled with toil and tragedy. Every hour brings one man nearer death, another to the breaking point, another to the excitement of his first 'kill'. There is no time for private fears and joys such as WAAFs Joan and Daisy share, for scarcely has the last machine been checked and refuelled than the Tannoy again calls: Squadron on Readiness! Readiness!
__The author himself served with the R.A.F. during the War. He achieved his first big success as a novelist with his story of Dunkirk The Big Pick-up (also a Pan book), on which the stirring film of the evacuation is partly based. With nearly a dozen books to his credit, he has established himself as a writer of high repute and big sales. Still in his thirties, he is married and lives at Hove, Sussex.

The Last Enemy by Richard Hillary (London, Macmillan, 1942)
Pan 397, 1956, 184pp, 2/-. Cover by Gordon Davies
----, 2nd imp., 1957.
Pan G402, [3rd imp.] 1960, 184pp, 2/-. Cover by Glenn Steward
The Last Enemy is recognised as one of the really great books that came out of the War. Richard Hillary was a young fighter pilot whose aircraft was shot down in flames off the Kent coast during the Battle of Britain. Trapped in the blazing cockpit, he managed to struggle free and baled out. He was rescued from the sea by a lifeboat, his face and hands horribly burned. Then began the long period of surgical operations, and a slow convalescence. He started to write this book, which with passion and urgency tells of his experiences in the turmoil of 1940 and of the companionship he had been privileged to share. It expresses in vivid words the mood of all the boys of his age who had been caught up in the crisis of the world; it attests the faith of the young men who had died (the title is taken from St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death"). Completed within six months of his having shown the first chapter to a publisher, it was immediately recognised as a work of extraordinary power. But Hillary was disquieted by his sudden fame: he had not wished for personal advantage from his book. Though obviously he was unfit for active service, he persisted in his determination to fly again and badgered the authorities until at last he was accepted for Night Fighter training. On January 7th, 1943, his plane crashed while landing at an airfield near Berwick and he was killed.
__Richard Hillary was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1919 and came to England as a small child with his father, who had been secretary to the Australian Prime Minister and was later appointed Auditor-General of the Sudan. The boy was sent to Shrewsbury School, and from the age of 13 spent many holidays on the Continent by himself. He was at Trinity College, Oxford, when war broke out. The full story of his life is told in Richard Hillary, by Lovat Dickson (Macmillan).

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