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New Book: "Amazing Airmen": "Canadian Flyers In The Second World War"

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  • New Book: "Amazing Airmen": "Canadian Flyers In The Second World War"

    What an excellent website. On October 25th author World War Two researcher and Kitchener Record writer Ian Darling held the book launch for the official release of his fascinating new book entitled "Amazing Airmen": "Canadian Flyers In The Second World War". Canadian and British airmen engaged in fierce and deadly battles in the skies over Europe during the Second World War and those who survived often had to overcome incredible ordeals to do so. Now in it's second printing after only 3 weeks "Amazing Airmen" is a splendid tribute to RCAF veterans preserving over 18 amazing true stories of RAF aircrew survival and is sure to be a must read for RAF historians interested in RAF losses and WW2 buffs alike. Published by Dundurn Press full details about Ian Darling's exciting new book release "Amazing Airmen" can be found by visiting...

    Books launch from the Kitchener Record...

    New Book Release:

    "Amazing Airmen": "Canadian Flyers In The Second World War"

  • #2
    "Amazing Airmen" book review by, Andrew Hunt associate professor of history at the University of Waterloo.

    Our 20th century warriors grow old and leave us

    November 10, 2009

    Remembrance Day falls on a Wednesday this year – November 11 – and offers us a moment to reflect.

    I grew up in the United States, where it’s called Veterans Day. But the two holidays are remarkably similar. In both countries, Nov. 11 is a day to pay respect to the heroic soldiers – living and dead – who sacrificed so much for their country.

    It was not long ago that First World War veterans celebrated the day with us. Today, there is only one living Canadian veteran of the First World - John Babcock, age 109, who resides in Spokane, Wash.

    Second World War veterans are also decreasing in numbers with each passing day. Those who are still alive have reached their 80s and 90s. When they gather for reunions, they speak fondly of the comrades they’ve lost.

    One of the noblest undertakings of historians – whether they teach at universities or pursue history in other settings – is to keep the memory of these veterans alive.

    Local author Ian Darling has done exactly this with his new book, Amazing Airmen: Canadian Flyers in the Second World War, just published by Dundurn Press.

    This is Darling’s second book. It is a riveting read. And it brings to the fore the experiences of Canadian airmen who put their lives on the line every day in the skies over Europe.

    The idea for the book was born after Darling attended the funeral on Remembrance Day 2002 of his uncle, George Darling, a bomb-aimer aboard a Halifax bomber during the war. Ian wanted to find out more about his recently deceased uncle.

    “I knew he had been shot down in Europe and that he had been a prisoner of war,” Darling writes in Amazing Airmen, “but I didn’t know what happened to his bomber or what ordeals he had suffered.”

    What originated as a newspaper article about Darling’s uncle soon morphed into a splendid history book.

    Each chapter of Amazing Airmen tells the story of a different Canadian airman. We meet some truly incredible Canadians along the way, each with his own fascinating story to tell.

    In these pages, we encounter Frank Cauley, whose plane was sprayed with bullets by a German submarine gun. A crew member on the plane was able to patch a larger hole, but there were numerous smaller ones that needed to be filled. So the airmen, including Cauley, began chewing their way through countless packages of gum and sticking it inside the smaller holes.

    Later in the book, we meet Harry Denison, a crewman who narrowly survived a horrifying crash in his Halifax bomber, only to be captured by Germans on the ground and taken to a prisoner of war camp. We follow Pat Brophy after he emerges from the wreckage of his Lancaster, only to end up encountering the French resistance and learning about the fate of his comrades.

    There are so many unforgettable stories in Amazing Airmen that it is impossible to tell all of them here. Deftly combining interviews with veterans, archival sources and earlier histories, Darling accomplishes an impressive feat with this work: He humanizes the airmen in a way that the reader can instantly connect with them. Best of all, Darling is a master storyteller who allows the drama to unfold at a riveting pace in each chapter.

    I’ve chosen to spotlight Darling’s book because it shows how one individual with a deep love of history can bring the past to life. By telling the stories of the veterans in such a gripping and poignant way, Darling’s Amazing Airmen keeps the memory of these brave veterans alive.

    Andrew Hunt is an associate professor of history at the University of Waterloo.
    New Book Release:

    "Amazing Airmen": "Canadian Flyers In The Second World War"


    • #3
      Here is an excerpt from "Amazing Airmen" that was featured in the Toronto Star newspaper...

      The Man Who Fell To Earth - And Lived

      Allied bomber explodes over Germany in the final weeks of World War II

      Harry Denison, a Canadian air force veteran, recently marked the 62nd anniversary of the day he almost lost his life on a mission to Germany. His ordeal is a remarkable story of survival.

      As Flight Sgt. Harry Denison settled into the gun turret of Halifax bomber NP799 on March 5, 1945, he heard that the plane that had taken off ahead of him had crashed. Ice may have formed on its wings. It was a cold, misty night at the air base at Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire, England. Despite the weather, Denison's pilot, Flight Lieut. Jack Kirkpatrick, rolled the Halifax down the tarmac runway after the crew had checked their equipment. Denison, a farm boy who grew up near Vernon, B.C., checked to make sure his parachute was strapped to the plane's fuselage near his turret.

      Kirkpatrick, Denison and the rest of the crew were with the Royal Canadian Air Force's 426 Squadron. That night, they were flying to Chemnitz, an industrial city in eastern Germany.

      As NP799 left England, the weather improved. Denison looked out of the dome above his turret in the middle of the plane. He was watching for German night fighters.

      It was a routine flight, until, suddenly, Denison heard an explosion. Something hit the plane. The dome above the gun turret was damaged. A piece of the heavy plastic in the dome fell onto Denison's head, cutting him from his right ear to his chin.

      Bleeding profusely, Denison slipped out of his turret seat and dropped to the floor. He wanted to get his parachute and attach it to his harness, which he was wearing.

      Denison didn't know what had caused the explosion. He didn't know if a night fighter had fired on the bomber or whether another bomber had accidentally collided with NP799. He also didn't know that the plane was completely breaking up. He was rapidly descending in the centre section of the bomber's fuselage.

      Denison was completely immobile. As the bomber hurtled toward the ground, the inertial forces pinned him to the fuselage floor so that he couldn't reach his parachute.

      He thought about his crew: Kirkpatrick, the pilot; Sgt. Ian Giles, the flight engineer; Flying Officer Bob Fennell, the navigator; Flying Officer Bud Stillinger, the bomb-aimer; Pilot Officer Jack Larson, the wireless operator; and Pilot Officer Roald Gunderson, the tailgunner. Were they still alive? Denison couldn't see or hear any of them.

      Then, he thought of his family: his father, Norman, and mother, Ethyl. How would they feel when they learned that their son had been killed?

      After the fuselage came crashing down, Denison lay unconscious on the floor near the turret for seven or eight hours. Snow swirled around him.

      When the sun came up, Denison slowly regained consciousness. His entire body was bruised. Denison crawled outside. He was in a pine forest west of Chemnitz.

      He looked for his crewmates, but couldn't see them. In fact, he couldn't see much of NP799. He could see only the section of the fuselage in which he had been trapped. The nose, cockpit, tail and the two wings had become separated from the fuselage some time after the explosion.

      Later that morning, Denison wandered along a trail and found a stream. He wanted to drink from it. He was so weak, however, that he collapsed into the stream and had to pull himself out.

      He thought he was alone, but then he heard noises. He screamed for help.

      Some men wearing grey pyjama-like uniforms approached. They were slave labourers who were cutting wood. They carried him to their base, which was a German army camp. The commanding officer took Denison to a nearby hospital where German doctors treated his head wound and a broken rib.

      When the hospital released Denison, a guard escorted him on a train to an interrogation camp at Frankfurt. After a few days, he was taken to Dulag Luft III, a prisoner-of-war camp near Nuremberg.

      In early April, after Denison had been at Dulag Luft III about a week, the German troops at the camp told the prisoners to pack their belongings. They were going on a forced march.

      The Allies were pressing on all fronts, and Germany's leaders were getting worried. German authorities wanted to move the prisoners away from the Allies so that they could be used as hostages during any peace negotiations that occurred.

      Still limping, Denison started walking through the German countryside in wet, miserable weather.

      Some of the prisoners were exhausted. Others were so sick with illnesses such as dysentery that they stopped walking. German guards used their rifle butts to encourage the prisoners to keep marching.

      While on their march, Denison and his fellow prisoners were taken to a railway siding and herded onto open rail cars such as might have been used to carry gravel.

      Suddenly, the prisoners heard planes coming toward them. There were a total of 17 aircraft, and they were flying fast and low. The planes were American fighters.

      Denison ran from the train as quickly as he could. He got about 100 metres away and started looking for any kind of shelter. He fell into a ditch. The planes dropped bombs on the train and then, moments later, came back firing cannon shells. Denison felt something warm hit his head. It was an empty shell case.

      German troops on two flatbed rail cars fired anti-aircraft guns at the planes, but the fighters destroyed the train, killing the gun crews. From then on, Denison and the other prisoners insisted they travel only on roads.

      The prisoners scrounged food such as potatoes and sugar beets, and they slept wherever they could. One evening, Denison slept in a barn next to a family of pigs.

      After marching for 17 days, the prisoners arrived at Stalag VIIA, which was near Munich.

      On Sunday, May 6, the prisoners woke up to find the German guards had left. They had fled in advance of the arrival of American troops.

      Denison soon flew back to England. At Bournemouth, he sent a telegram to his parents to tell them he was alive. Until then, they knew only that he was missing.

      Denison returned to Canada on the ocean liner Ile de France. When he arrived at Halifax, he boarded a train with other servicemen who had been prisoners of war. He got off the main train at Sicamous, B.C., and boarded another train for Vernon, where his family met him.

      Years later, Denison learned that the bodies of all the members of his crew except Giles were found in Germany and buried at a military cemetery near Berlin. Giles, the flight engineer, remains unaccounted for.

      Denison left the military to work on the family farm, later going into construction and the transportation field. He lives today in a home near North Bay, overlooking Lake Nipissing.

      He still wonders about the cause of the explosion and suspects that an Allied plane collided with NP799. He thinks his crew would have spotted a night fighter.

      Denison, now 82, drives around North Bay with a small reminder of his ordeal. The licence plate on his forest-green Toyota van contains the letters "NO CHUT." It sums up how he fell from the sky above Germany.

      This is a condensed version of a story for a book about the air war against Nazi Germany being written by Ian Darling, an editorial writer at the Record in Kitchener.
      New Book Release:

      "Amazing Airmen": "Canadian Flyers In The Second World War"


      • #4
        Help needed researching the history of the Halifax bomber on the cover of "Amazing Airmen".

        What is known to date;

        She was named "F" for Freddie and was based with 35 squadron RAF at Graveley.

        The photograph was taken in 1942.

        Aircrew on cover from left to right...

        George Darling, Roy Macdonald,Tom Lane, Peter Jackson, Jimmy Janes, Don Alexander and Jimmy Rogers.

        Thank you in advance.

        New Book Release:

        "Amazing Airmen": "Canadian Flyers In The Second World War"


        • #5
          Delighted to find out through crewman Tom Lane's log book the Halifax on the cover of "Amazing Airmen" is W7749(F). Tom flew on W7749(F) for 16 trips to continental Europe starting on August 11/1942 with a trip to Le Havre and ending with a trip to Turin on December 9/1942. The “F” in the serial number explains why the plane was called “F" for Freddie.” This Halifax was retired from operations and placed with 35/1659 BCU, which i believe is a training unit. It was “struck from charge” which i believe means no longer used as of August 6/1944. Very interesting to learn that Halifax W7749(F) actually survived several operations and was retired.
          New Book Release:

          "Amazing Airmen": "Canadian Flyers In The Second World War"


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