RAF Liberators Over Burma...

...flying with 159 Squadron, from Fonthill Media

Title: RAF Liberators Over Burma
Author: Bill Kirkness DFM and Matt Poole

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-656-6

 

At the heart of this book are the memoirs of Bill Kirkness DFM, a Wireless Op/Air Gunner who served in the RAF during WW2, with additional historical information from Matt Poole, a specialist in the history of 159 Squadron.  He tells us of when he joined the RAF in 1940 with his friend Arnie and how after training he was posted to a Wellington unit, and then tasked with ferrying a Wellington to the Middle East in 1942.  This turns into a story by itself as during a stopover in Malta he reports on the conditions he experienced there and where he was delayed after their aircraft was destroyed in a raid, before they continued in a replacement aircraft.  Then after his return to the UK he was not only reunited with his friend Arnie, but sent to a conversion unit where he was introduced to the American made B-24 Liberator.  This also includes an account of how the bomber crews then formed themselves into their individual groups.  After their training and the crew members showing their individual characteristics, then they are prepared to fly a Liberator out to the Far East, knowing they are set to be there for 3 years or more.  On arrival with 159 squadron, their aircraft brought the operational establishment of the squadron to just 3 serviceable aircraft, and all the older Mk II version, highlighting the reputation of 'The Forgotten Air Force' as they were not then provided with the newest aircraft, though apparently this was to change in time.

It goes on to not just give details of individual missions they went on, but also the times of boredom, such as a pause in operations for the monsoon season (March to October!).  Added to this are how he found himself in demand for painting individual aircraft nose art and how he coped with losing his friends, through combat losses or simply from flying accidents.  I goes on through his experiences flying from India in long missions over Burma, and later his second tour, which involved flying air sea rescue missions, in both Liberators and Catalinas.  Included in the book is a set of the author's wartime photos, which illustrate a number of the stories in the text and have some detail that modellers will appreciate I am sure.  Then to round things off, a number of appendices, including the detailed log of all of Bill's operational flights and the citation for his DFM as well as a couple of others.

Bill Kirkness survived the war, and finally passed away in 1994.  Sadly he didn't live to see his memoirs published but I found them very interesting reading, so well done to Matt for seeing this project through and Fonthill for publishing them.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.

Robin