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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


V Force Boys

Tony Blackman & Anthony Wright                 Grub Street, July 2017

Given that the three British V bombers have had their own Boys volume, one might be permitted to be a bit sceptical that there was enough material left to reap for another volume. But not so. Tony Blackman, the former Avro test pilot, is an established author in this series. Anthony Wright was a nav radar in the V Force, and eventually OC a nuclear training squadron.


The book has a rather dry and dull start with early chapters focussing on training and navigation methods.  Bear in mind that these leading edge jet bombers, often with nuclear bombs (or inert versions thereof) aboard, were navigated with equipment and techniques that had barely evolved from those used over the Ruhr in 1944. The resultant techniques are described in some detail, and may lose the lay reader. I thought I knew a little about aerial navigation but, for example, sandwich fixes anyone?!


As with other books of this ilk published recently, there are plenty of stories of aircrew trying to outwit the customs men at their home bases after they have been to away to such cardinal sources of cheap booze such as Akrotiri (Cyprus).


In my view this book lightens up, and warms up from about page 90, and reaches the pace with which we are accustomed with this series. Any bomber boy of the time would agree that the epic episode of the whole RAF V-bomber era was the infamous 1 Gp Dining-In Night. V Force Boys has a very good retelling of this extremely rowdy evening. However I would advise the reader to do some prior research into Air Chief Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst  (CinC of Bomber Command at the time), and his accident at Heathrow, to learn the full reasons why the dining-in night descended into anarchy.


Vulcans in particular were used to spread the message of British military strength around the world, and were sometimes sent to display on the US circuit. Although the authors do not explain the well-known fatal Vulcan crash at Chicago, Tony Thornthwaite describes a hair-raising near-miss at another North American display at the same time.


Overall not a classic of the genre, but worth ploughing on from an unpromising start.

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