Just Browsing: Vivid Tales of the Bomber Crews

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Lancaster Down. By Steven Darlow, (Grub Street, pounds 17.99).

Sixty years on from the Battle of Britain, the fighter pilots of the wartime RAF are still getting most of the glory.

But it was actually the bomber crews which made the much greater sacrifice through the Second World War, losing 55,000 lives and more men in one night over Nuremberg in March 1944 than all the British losses of the Battle of Britain.

Steve Darlow, grandson of a Bomber Command pilot, traces his grandfather's wartime career - from a sub postmaster's desk in Kent through training in Canada to the skies over Germany and France.

He tells the story with an eye for detail which vividly portrays the daily and nightly terrors which the bomber crews came to accept as routine.

The book describes well the day-to-day atmosphere of the bomber station, and the determined preparation for the raid as nightfall approached.

Arthur Darlow and his Lancaster crew enjoyed a charmed life, surviving raids on heavily defended Berlin and many other attacks deep into the Reich, before their luck ran out over the railway marshalling yards in Belgium.

Here Steve Darlow turns detective, drawing out memories from the Belgian community around Bon-Secours as Resistance workers tried to keep the men away from the German occupying forces.

Imprisoned in the East, Arthur Darlow kept a PoW logbook until the Americans freed him and flew him on a Lancaster which might have missed Norfolk and gone on to Norway if he hadn't spotted the defective compass.

Sadly Arthur perished in peacetime, on board a Dakota in 1947, but this book is a fine and often moving memorial to him and his crew.

Roads. By Larry McMurtry, (Orion, pounds 16.99).

What about the other small-town America which the British tourist on a package trip so rarely gets to see?

Pulitzer Prize winner Larry McMurtry is big in the States but less well-known in Britain, with 22 novels and over 30 screenplays under his belt before he became an antiquarian bookseller based in Archer City, Texas. …