Air Chief Marshall Sir Derek Hodgkinson

KCB, CBE, DFC, AFC, (Retd).

Ted Rayner captures well the spirit of the thousands of young men who joined the Royal Air Force as Volunteer Reservists at the outbreak of the 1939-45 war. I must admit that as a regular I was a bit apprehensive at their advent, but they settled down to service life remarkably quickly and played their part in front line squadrons so gallantly that we were soon filled with admiration and respect. Certainly, in No. 220 squadron, where Rayner and I were together, they pulled in more than their weight and became an invaluable part of the unit.

Operating the Hudson, a converted airliner, at long range under the noses of the Luftwaffe fighter bases in Denmark and Norway was quite often a daunting experience. The aircraft was no match for the ME109 and ME110 which it came up against, and many were shot down. Nevertheless, morale was high and the squadrons gave a good account of themselves and caused the enemy considerable damage.

Operating from Iceland and Greenland was no joke either, due to the atrocious weather conditions the crews had to contend with on most of their patrols. It says a lot for their training and their guts that they managed so well.

The story of all of this, and much else, is well told in this book with perception and humour. I recommend it, not only to those who took part in these or similar operations, but to all who might be interested in the part the Royal Air Force played in a largely unsung and forgotten aspect of the 1939-45 war.