Of Ploughs, Planes & Palliasses

RAF World War II
ISBN 1-873203-21-7
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by Percy Wilson Carruthers | A 223  squadron pilot's  experiences in North Africa with the Desert Air Force and as a prisoner of war 

There is much to enjoy in this lively memoir of a wartime pilot who later became a prisoner of war. Whether he is describing the adrenaline rush of aerial combat, the heartbreak of losing his best friend and crewmate in one such action, or the harsh treatment meted out to him and his POW comrades later in the war, Percy does a splendid job in conjuring up the emotions he felt at the time, making for a compelling reading experience. There's a good deal of historical detail and some excellent photographs which may be of interest to historians and researchers but his story is one that can be appreciated by anyone with an interest in World War II or who has a sense of adventure.

Percy Carruthers recollections of his experiences during World War II are divided into two sections.

The first covers his eventful operational career as a pilot with No 223 Squadron, part of the Desert Air Force. He flew Blenheims, Bostons and Baltimores in North Africa, and saw action at Tobruk, Mersa Matruh, Benghazi and Alam-El-Halfa until his battle-scarred Baltimore was finally shot down over enemy territory.

Percy, the only survivor of the crash landing, was taken prisoner.

Thus began a new chapter in his wartime experiences...

The hardships, indignities and cruelties he and his fellow ‘kregies’ endured at the hands of their German captors  make for harrowing reading. He was imprisoned at Stalag Luft 1 (Barth) and then at Stalag Luft 6 (Hydekrug)  – from where he briefly escaped  but was recaptured  –  and endured the further ordeals including a nightmarish Baltic Sea crossing aboard the SS Insterberg and gruelling forced marches during winter conditions as the war drew to a close and the German guards tried to keep their prisoners from being liberated by the advancing allied armies.

But Percy also fondly recalls the camaraderie and defiant sense of humour that enabled the POWs to survive their many ordeals and undermine the authority of their captors and his descriptions of the numerous pranks he and his comrades played on their German guards  provide a humorous contrast to the more serious aspects of his recollections.

details softback | 140 x 205 mm | 300 pages | b/w photos
genre biography | military history | true war and combat stories | air forces and warfare
keywords RAF, World War 2, 223 Squadron, Egypt, Stalag Luft 1