Enemy Coast Ahead-Uncensored  [9780859791182]

Enemy Coast Ahead-Uncensored
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Date Added: Tuesday 20. January, 2009
Enemy Cost Ahead

Guy Gibson wrote this book while being rested from operations in 1944. By then he had flown two full tours on bombing ops with 83 and 106 Squadrons, another one as a night-fighter pilot with 29 Squadron and, of course, the Dam Busters raid with 617 Squadron on 16 May 1943. It was serialised in the Sunday Express during the winter of 1944-45, by which time Gibson was dead, the Mosquito that he was flying having crashed near Steenbergen in Holland on 10 September 1944. It was first published in book form in 1946, to much critical acclaim.
There has been a certain amount of comment since then regarding the authorship. It is such a well-written book that there was speculation that Gibson was assisted by a ghostwriter. This contention has been comprehensively refuted by his biographer, who examined the original manuscript (Guy Gibson by Richard Morris, Penguin Books 1995).
This edition of the book, published by Crecy, has used that draft, restoring some of Gibson's more robust and less than tactful opinions and comments on personalities, tactics and the course of the war, which the censor and his original publishers omitted. It has the feel of authenticity, of Gibson's thoughts being poured out onto the page.
It is a highly readable, enjoyable and at times, moving account; giving a rounded picture of
just what it was like to be a young man at that time (Gibson was only a month over 26 when
he died). He was brought up when the Empire was a part of daily life, he grew to manhood
in the age of the dictators and the appeasers, joining the RAP pre-war when it was the best flying club in the world. The early years of the war seemed at the time to be an almost hopeless struggle against the odds with setbacks and disasters on all fronts. Gibson was part of the only force, which for a period of several dark years, seemed to be the only means of taking the war to the enemy. He recounts this learning process with great clarity, as he himself grew in experience and maturity, rising from rather bumptious Pilot Officer to a highly decorated Wing Commander, just as Bomber Command grew from its somewhat amateurish early days into mighty force bringing death and destruction to the enemy on a nightly basis.

The descriptions of the aircraft, preparations, operations and social life are well drawn and evocative. The character studies of individuals are brief but very much to the point. The bomber war from 1939 to 1943 is described with great insight and shows a penetrating, analytical mind at work.
Gibson was a remarkable, talented and forceful man, like many warriors he was at his best
when at the forefront of the battle, back in England he was hero-worshipped by many, respected, loved, feared and cordially disliked by others. He had immense responsibility thrust upon him and deserves to be remembered as a hero. I found that I had developed a
liking for Gibson as I read the book, he would not perhaps have been the easiest to work for
but he was to say the least an interesting person, whom it would have been rewarding to know.
The book itself is produced to a very high standard, with an excellent selection of crisply reproduced photographs, two useful appendices on the Dams Raid and an index (none of which were included in the Pan paperback which my father purchased in 1955). At £10.95 it is excellent value for money and I would recommend it highly.

Guy Warner
Ulster Airmail – Jan 2009
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]
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