In this enjoyable and informative military memoir, Dennis Spencer recalls his experiences as an observer/navigator in the two-man crew of a Bristol Beaufighter ~ the twin-engined, long-range, heavy fighter aircraft that served with such distinction in a variety of roles during World War II ~ in which he clocked up over 200 operational hours whilst on active service with 211 Squadron, of 224 Group, Third Tactical Air Force, South East Asia Air Command.
Alongside his flying partner, pilot Geoff Vardigans, Dennis undertook 52 hazardous sorties over Japanese-occupied territory in Burma and Siam (now Myanmar and Thailand) during 1944.
In Beaufighters armed with under-wing rocket projectiles in addition to their usual cannons, the aircrews of 211 Squadron were given the task of seeking out and attacking enemy road, rail and waterborne transport of all kinds, which required them to fly long distances at low level over hostile territory, often for many hours at a stretch, with little hope of escape or rescue in the event of mechanical failure, pilot fatigue or being shot down – all of which were distinct possibilities.
About the only thing in their favour was the Beaufighter’s remarkably silent approach at a low level, enabling surprise attacks to be achieved and earning the aircraft its macabre nickname "Whispering Death".
Flying long-range missions at low level, over hilly jungle terrain, presented numerous challenges to both pilot and navigator and Dennis does well to describe the mixture of excitement and anxiety he experienced on operations, with much of his time spent facing backwards, in the Beaufighter’s swivelling navigator’s seat, keeping a watchful eye for enemy fighters – hence the doubly apposite title of his memoir.