Darren Baker takes a look at a Pen and Sword offering covering the career of Wing Commander R A Wellington DSO, OBE DFC titled “Pathfinder Pilot”.

Introduction

The following introduction is as provided by Pen and Sword:

During the Second World War, 55,573 RAF Bomber Command aircrew were killed, a shocking 44.4% death rate. A further8,500 were wounded and 9,800 became prisoners of war. 

The author of this thrilling memoir defied the odds becoming one of the few Lancaster Captains to survive his quota of sixty bombing missions. ‘Wimpy’ Wellington’s skills must have been exceptional. After serving in 106 Squadron under the legendary Guy Gibson, he and his crew moved to the elite 83Pathfinder Squadron. As readers will discover, they nightly diced with death surviving enemy fighters, intense flak and mechanical problems.

On completion of flying duties Wellington was sent to the USA and South America to bolster support for the Allied cause.

The prolonged strain of constant mortal danger, night-time sorties to distant targets such as Milan and the steady loss of comrades must have been immense. Yet the tone of this vivid flying memoir remains positive and modestly understated. His numerous decorations and achievements speak volumes and it is a huge privilege to publish Pathfinder Pilot.

Review

This offering from Pen and Sword is a hard backed book written by Wing Commander R A Wellington DSO OBE DFC. This is the story of his time prior, during and until shortly after the end of World War 2. The author unfortunately did not live to see his story in print having died on the 7th April 1992 and it is thanks to the efforts of his daughter and others that we get to read this mans’ story.

This offering covering the life of a man who had an interesting life it would seem is written in the style of a story rather than bullet point diary entries and that has allowed the story to flow and so keep you reading. He spent a good portion of his flying career at 106 Squadron under Guy Gibson VC DSO + bar DFC + bar and while the two men did not get along as people there was a high degree of respect for each others abilities.

It may seem unusual, but aspects of this life lived well that captured my attention did not involve flying at all. There is the story of he and a friend being sent on training runs where they would sprint ahead and spend a couple of hours playing snooker before re-joining the group and returning ahead of them all to utilise the showers. I also liked the story of the cows that made escapes for a past time, on one occasion kicking their way out of a train transport truck, jumping a five bar fence and then going for a ramble to see what they could wreck.

While the dark side of the War and effects it had on this man are touched upon he does a very good job of playing them down for the most part. His story about sneaking his father onto the airfield and then onto the aircraft so that he could take him over a town to perform a Wings for Victory show and extending the display by 30 minutes with a fighter tight on his wing tip all make for some light hearted content in what I am sure was really a dark time.

Conclusion

If you are interested in the lives of men who fought in World War 2 then this offering is well worth taking the time to read. I particularly enjoyed that he tells his story in a down to earth way with a good mix of light hearted content to keep the reader attached to the person. He does of course cover the rough with the smooth telling the reader about a landing in a badly shot up aircraft and members of his crew being ambulanced away from the aircraft, he typically lightens the story with alcoholic coffee. This book is one of those that makes me really want to have met him as he had an interesting life during the war and after it would seem. It is a real shame that the people who took part in this war are leaving us with just their written memories.

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