Stirling to Essen...

...the Godmanchester Stirling, from Fighting High Ltd, via Casemate Books

Title:  Stirling to Essen

Author: Roger Leivers

Publisher:  Fighting High Ltd

ISBN:  978-0-9934152-8-9

...The Godmanchester Stirling, a Bomber Command story of Courage and Tragedy.

This is an interesting book and one I can appreciate in terms of how you can get interested in a particular story.  For me it was the history of RAF Chilbolton when I found my work meant I was a regular visitor to the farming operation which now occupies much of the old airfield. In a similar way, the author moved to a new house in Godmanchester, and having an interest in history, became caught up with the story of a Stirling bomber which crashed there during the war, and a desire to find out more about it, and the men who made up her crew.  He was intrigued by the interest of the modern owner of a rare Squire 1.5l supercharged sports car who had been making enquiries about one of the original owners, who had apparently been killed in an air crash at Godmanchester during the war,

There is a lot of detail about the pilot, Matthew Drummond Henderson Wilson, from his wealthy upbringing and fast cars and flying.  His record details a lot of early flying experience with the RAF, leading to work as an instructor, a ferry pilot and air testing new aircraft which are detailed in the book before his posting to XV squadron flying one of the early 4-engined bombers of the RAF, the Short Stirling.

Once flying Stirlings there was more training and testing work alongside operational missions over France and Germany.  It tells us about the problems of operations, and when weather hid the targets with 10/10ths cloud, icing, or simple mechanical problems which meant aircraft had to return before reaching their targets.  It is also a good reminder of how a bomber needed a crew, not just a pilot.  Having survived one earlier crash landing, the climax of the story details the events of what was another raid on Essen in the Ruhr valley when the aircraft came down near Godmanchester.  This was the final mission for Squadron Leader Matthew Drummond Henderson Wilson.  It is not the end of the story though, as it expands on the stories of each of the individuals in the crew and their stories for the rest of the war.  Within the book, two sections of archive photos illustrate the story showing aircrew and their families, the bombers and even the Squire motor car which helped to inspire the research in the first place.

This is an interesting story which puts the pieces of a jigsaw together, the individual stories of a bomber crew during WW2 along with the missions of XV squadron, the targets that were attracting the attention of bomber command at that stage of the war and a local aspect of what it meant to follow up the story of a wartime crash at Godmanchester.

Distributed by Casemate Books, who kindly provided my review copy.