This is a fighter pilot's memoir of four tumultuous years, 1938-1942, when he was first trained, then fought and survived in not one but two of the biggest aerial campaigns of the war, the Battle of Britain and the equally epic, but lesser known, Siege of Malta.
When the Germans were blitzing their way across France in spring 1940, Pilot Officer Tom Neil had just received his first posting - to 249 Squadron. Nineteen years old and fresh from training, he was soon to be pitched into the maelstrom of air fighting on which the very survival of Britain would come to depend. By the end of the year he had shot down thirteen enemy aircraft, seen many of his friends killed, injured or burned, and was himself a wary and accomplished fighter pilot.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Tom was then shipped off to the beleaguered island of Malta to face a second Luftwaffe onslaught. Again heavily engaged, he shot down another enemy fighter and survived a number of engine failures and other emergencies.
Now ninety-six, he is one of only a handful of Battle of Britain veterans still alive and this vivid memoir is his last word on his fighter pilot experiences.
Tom Neil joined 249 Squadron flying Hurricanes just before the start of the Battle of Britain. His first victory was an Me 109, followed in quick succession by twelve others. Tom was awarded a Bar to his DFC in November 1940. After the Battle of Britain, he was soon in action again in the skies over Malta where he gained another victory. His other books include The Silver Spitfire and Gun Button To Fire. He is the Chairman of the Battle of Britain Fighter Pilot Association. Now ninety-five, he lives in Norfolk and has three sons, two of whom carry on the tradition of flying. His wife of over seventy years, Eileen, herself an RAF Flight Officer during the war, sadly died last year. James Holland, historian and broadcaster, is the bestselling author of The Battle of Britain and Dam Busters. He lives in Salisbury.