Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Groove Book Report: "Day After Day" by Max Lambert - Harper Collins - $44.99

This Transcript was broadcast on Thursday 23 June 2011.

There is no denying Max Lambert's follow up to his bestselling 'Night after Night' is an exciting collection of a ripping yarns. In the earlier effort Lambert covered tales of courageous New Zealanders in Bomber Command. This time he's profiling their daytime counterparts - those pilots of single-engined day fighters - Fighter Command. I was amazed how many New Zealanders, some of them still in their teens, flew in the many air battles of the earlier parts of WWII, such as Norway and the Battle of France. This volume essentially covers the period from 3 September 1939 until the very last sorties in May 1945. And, of course, we're familiar with Kiwi's contributions to the historic and decisive Battle of Britain when Spitfires and Hurricanes fought the Luftwaffe. Not to mention those long years of attacks against the fringes of German-occupied northwestern Europe followed. After the invasion of France in 1944 Kiwis were climbing into the cockpits of the new Spitfires Typhoons Tempests and trying out Mustangs from French Belgian and Dutch airfields and finally from German bases as the Allied armies marched deep into the into the heart of the Third Reich's territory.

'Day after Day' is the story, or rather retold stories and tales of Kiwi participation in Fighter Command, and later, in the Second Tactical Air Force (2TAF). I say 'retold' because many of these stories have been reported or written about elsewhere, something Lambert, the good scholar he is, is keen to bookmark. He recounts in detail what some of the men who took part in these defining events - about what they achieved in the air and sadly how they died. And there were many who died, too. Lambert mines present and past literature, newspapers and the like to build up profiles of these individual piots. But like writers for the 'Boys Own' his reportage stays sterile. He really only gives us the facts and we never really learn much about the indivdual personalities, save for a brief history about which town they cam from and what they did before the war. Sadly, also missing is much in the way of first hand interviews or accounts from realatives. Partly this is a timing issue, many have already passed on, or are too mature to provide comprehensive interviews. Yet, I would have like to have seen more personal histories from the realtives, co-workers or anyone who was around at the time these magnificent men flying their machines.

That is not to put any kybosh on Lambert's splendid work. It seems for the first time this is the most comprehensive look at Kiwis in Fighter Command. And like a good Commando Commic, it's smashing!

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