Darren Baker takes a look at a book release from Pen and Sword titled 'Airmen’s Incredible Escapes'


The following introduction is taken from the Pen and Sword website:

Allied air power made a major, arguably decisive, contribution to victory in The Second World War both in the European and Pacific theatres.

The cost in men and machines was horrific with Bomber Command suffering 50% aircrew casualties. While many perished, others shot down over enemy territory or water survived only after overcoming extraordinary danger and hardship. Their experiences often remained untold not just for the duration of the War but for many years. 

The author has gathered together a wealth of unpublished stories from airmen of many nationalities, be they British, Commonwealth or American. Some involve avoiding or escaping from capture, others surviving against all the odds, braving extreme elements and defying death from wounds, drowning or starvation.

Importantly the accounts of those who survived the battle in the skies cheating the enemy and the grim reaper give the reader a chilling insight into the fate of the many thousands of brave young men who were not so fortunate.

The result is an inspiring and gripping read which bears testimony to human courage and resilience.


This offering from Pen and Sword is a hard back book, that offers 320 pages covering the stories of Allied air crews, who survived against the odds from guile, the enemy and death, through skill determination and luck. Written by Bryn Evans, the book covers a very large number of these survival stories, and dotted throughout the book are eighty black and white illustrations that more often than not show the people who survived. The contents of the book are spread over 37 chapters, and covers a broad selection of survival stories, of the British, Commonwealth and American crews. Included within the book is a broken down list of the included photographs, a selection of maps and an acknowledgement.

As I don’t know how many of you know the procedures of aircrews in Europe, I will provide a generalisation. The British and Commonwealth bomber pilots would attack at night, which gave them the protection of darkness against enemy defensive countermeasures, but this did mean that bombing was not as accurate as it could be, and was reliant on the work of the Pathfinders, to accurately mark the targets. The American bomber formations, flew during daylight hours which enabled them to hit their targets more reliably, but also left them facing every gauntlet that the enemy had prepared for them. All Allied air forces involved in bombing suffered heavy losses, which Britain’s Bomber Command had a 46% death rate, 8,403 wounded and 9,838 taken prisoner. I have been unable to find the number of losses of American crew, but with it being daylight raids - I dread to think.

This book presents the stories of those, that survived under extreme circumstances with the author providing a background story of the person/persons concerned. A brief outline of the mission/sorte that the aircraft was on, what type of aircraft that were used and lost during the mission and in the case of covering the stories of those who survived, the author has taken their words, and narrated them according to his understanding. This approach has made for clear presentation, but to my mind has taken away the emotion of the reports. I should be clear that I don’t object to this form of presentation, however using the persons own words would have been better I feel. In stories told in the book, make for interesting reading - however, the presentation style can make them a little clinical.


This offering from Pen and Sword, written by Bryn Evans presents the stories of a good number of persons who as a general rule spent their working shift in cramped, cold and dark locations and still managed for various reasons managed to survive situations in which normally they would have died. While I would have liked these stories to be presented in the words of those the story is about, I would still commend Bryn Evans for bringing them all together in one place, and making a clear well narrated story of the life in the lead up to the events that these crews survived and so rounded off the tale fully.



You may also like