Chocks Away!

ISBN 1-84683-038-9
RAF biography
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“… 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

by Wing Commander John Leighton Beck DFC*
The memoirs and letters of  a WW2 bomber pilot with 214 and 159 Squadrons

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 three miles to stop if unbraked – on its notoriously short airstrip.  Laden with two crews and their equipment he finally brought it to rest 10 yards short of disaster.

This is but one episode of the many described in his memoirs, which detail his illustrious and daring 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 scenes described include meetings with Air Marshal ‘Bomber’ Harris and Lord Louis Mountbatten, seeing 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. The pain of these cruel years is touchingly revealed in his letters home, which have been posthumously inserted by his daughter.

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