His profound respect for the RAF aircrews of the Second World Warhas led aviation historian Pat Cunningham DFM to record the experiences of ten of those who volunteered to hazard their lives when bombing operations were Britain's only effective method of striking back. The young men who engaged in flying duties came from disparate backgrounds but, having qualified in their specialist categories, were skilfully merged as interdependent crew members.The fact that 8,305 of the 55,573 men killed in RAF Bomber Command, died in accidents alone, highlights the perils they faced. Others included technical malfunctions, notwithstanding that each had implicit faith in their supporting ground personnel. Then again the pressure to get them operational meant that many completed the required 30 bombing sorties with less than 500 hours' experience. Even so they were required to navigate over hostile, blacked-out terrain, in uncertain weather, and with few radio aids, in machines packed with highly volatile substances. 'We were buoyed up,' as one reflects wryly, 'with the supreme confidence of ignorance.'
Any ignorance, however, did not blind them to the odds against them, so there was always fear to contend with. 'I cannot conceive,' says another, 'that anyone who flew on ops did not feel afraid at some time.'Bomber Command experiences over Central Europe feature largely, but operations over Italy, the Indian Ocean, and Burma have their placeThis tribute by the author, offered as the Aircrew Association fades away, is backed by the perspective given by 20,000 hours of operational and non-operational flying, gained in 40 years of Service and Civil aviation.