By: Norman Hanson
Patrick Stephens Ltd. (1979)
Silvertail Books (2016)
This book is considered by many notable authors and critics to be one of the best pilots’ memoirs of the Second World War.
The author, Norman Hanson, served in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) as a pilot of Vought Corsair fighters in the Pacific Theatre of Operations and this book follows him from recuitment into the service to commanding officer of a fighter squadron.
He gives very good insights into the various aircraft he flew from the basic trainers he experienced in America to the Fairey Fulmar that he trained and qualified for carrier operations in. Ultimately, the Corsair fighter itself gets the spotlight and it’s a very enlightnening look at real life operations with the legendary carrier borne fighter in both shipboard and land based operations.
The book balances levity and poignancy particularly well. Efforts made to break up off duty boredom are interspersed well against sad tales of losing friends in battle or to accidents.
The unforgiving nature of the Corsair fighter is highlighted many times. Very clearly, it was not a machine that tolerated a lot of cockiness or complacency from the pilot.
The book is a very enjoyable read overall; the only thing I can bring against it is that it contains a fair bit of slang that is either period or service specific and some explanatory footnotes would not have gone amiss for those not familiar with it.
I definitely recommend this book for carrier aviation fans, Fleet Air Arm fans and those who like a well written combat memoir.
This link will take you to the book’s page on the Silvertail Books website: