Luck of a Lancasterlancastercover

by Gordon Thorburn

“….During her career, well over two hundred airmen flew in J. None were killed while doing so, but ninety-six of them died in other aircraft. This is their story, and the story of one lucky Lancaster…..”.

200 pages, hard cover. That may not seem like much. It is less than one page for every man that served on the Lancaster bomber with registration W4964, WS-J, aka J-Johnny Walker. Still, it took me quite some time to read the book. Where ‘read’ is probably not the proper word. I rather ‘researched’ it. And that takes time.

Lancaster W4964 beat all the odds, seeing that it performed well for over 2 years – from April 1943 till October 1944, made 107 operational flights in that period, and survived the war….. and even the century ! Average lifespan for a Lancaster in front-line duty at that time was 22,75 flights only !

Gordon Thorburn has researched the book well and takes the reader on a chronological trip through the aircraft’s life, explaining backgrounds of missions, telling the story of quite a few of the crew members, sidestepping every once in a while to tell more about the war that was going on and also mentioning other flights and aircraft that Johnny Walker crews served on.

When I said I ‘researched’ instead of read, I mean that it takes concentration to read the book. I put it down a few times because just continuing to read of one mission after the other can get tedious. Also, I found that it worked best to look up some of the places described when going through the chapters. The places they flew from and the places they flew to and over! The book has quite a few good and interesting photographs itself, but I used some other sources next to it to see where it all happened.

Apart from a huge range of bare facts and figures that could be read as a timetable of operations, Gordon also describes a lot of the action in such a way that the sheer magnitude of the operations is made clear to the reader.

After finishing the book one cannot but admire these pilots and crews for their bravery, and in most cases, yes, their sheer luck to survive. In that respect W4964 sure beats them all ! A remarkable tale of history!

In short:

Luck of a Lancaster
107 operations, 244 crew, 103 killed in action

by Gordon Thorburn
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
200 pages
ISBN: 9781781590737
Published: 20 May 2013

£15.99 instead of   £19.99

You can get it direct from the publisher here !

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