Chocks Away!

RAF World War II
ISBN 1-84683-038-9
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by Wing Commander John Leighton Beck DFC*
The memoirs and letters of  a WW2 bomber pilot with 214 and 159 Squadrons.

Illustrated with many historic photographs, this well written memoir by highly experienced and twice decorated RAF pilot contains a wealth of information which could prove valuable to historians or researchers but is also a compelling narrative that can be enjoyed by anyone with a general interest in the history of the RAF in World War II or who appreciates a well told real-life adventure story.

"In Spring 1942 Squadron Leader Beck was ordered to fly to Gibraltar en route to the Middle East and thereby to be the first to land the huge new American B-24 Liberator – an aircraft which could take up to three miles to stop – on its notoriously short airstrip.  Laden with two crews and their equipment he brought it to rest just 10 yards short of disaster."

This is but one episode of the many described in his memoirs, which detail his illustrious flying career in RAF Bomber Command from 1936 through WWII, ending as a twice-decorated Wing Commander.

After flying Wellingtons with 99 Squadron in raids over Germany against appalling odds, he joined the newly-formed 159 Squadron, which operated initially in Egypt against Rommel’s Africa Korps, before being transferred to India to target the Japanese in Burma.

The many episodes described by the author include his meetings with Air Marshal ‘Bomber’ Harris and Lord Louis Mountbatten, watching Major-General Orde Wingate (founder of the Chindit Special Force in Burma) take off on his fateful final flight, shooting a rogue leopard with his service rifle in Poona and witnessing the front line troops in jungle combat during the Siege of Imphal.

Yet his flight to Gibraltar marked the start of a long separation from his wife and small daughter, whom he was not to see again before their reunion in the Savoy Hotel on VE Day in 1945. His distress he felt at this separation is poignantly revealed in his letters home, some of which have been posthumously inserted by his daughter.


"…unquestionably an exceptional operational pilot and leader … this book is a remarkable story of one man’s decade of hazardous service in almost every theatre of operations during World War II…" 

Air Chief Marshal Sir John Cheshire KBE CB
Former Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey

details softback | 140 x 205 mm | 200 pages | b/w photos
genre biography | military history | true war and combat stories | air forces and warfare
keywords RAF, World War 2, 214 Squadron, 159 Squadron