Thunderbolts over Burma

By Angus Findon, Mark Hillier

A very special book. It shows us the life of a British fighter pilot, but not in the usual way where young men jump into the Hurricanes and Spitfires and fend off Hitler’s Luftwaffe over the Channel. Nope, this young lad was too young in 1939 and did not get to fly operational missions until very late in the war, over Burma.
But more in particular than telling us of the bombing and strafing runs, it shows us what life in England, Canada, and India was in those years, and away from the actual war in Europe and elsewhere.
Findon tells us about his days in the Air Force in England, and later in Canada, being changed from a boy into a pilot. It shows that there was a ‘regular’ life, just as we all have that now, in spite of the global issue of war and destruction. The war was not everywhere, and not everybody was affected by it 24 hours a day. That may sound logical but reading books about the war this isn’t always obvious, most of them being about ‘action’ in battles or leading up to such.

It is often forgotten that all those millions of soldiers on all sides had to be trained, instructed, cared for, and organized into teams, battalions, armies, before being operational in any way.
Books that show us what went on ‘behind the scenes’ and away from the actual battlefield greatly interest me personally, because it completes the picture of what the world looked like in the time of the global wars. It also shows that life could be boring,

Apart from the above, Findon also provides us, aviation geeks, with some interesting insights into the flying of the Thunderbolt, which isn’t such a well-known aircraft to most of us Spitfire lovers. And he shows us in detail the intricacies of flying in often very challenging environmental conditions without the luxury of radio navaids, let alone electronic GPS displays. Always when reading this I cannot but awe at the skills of these pilots, finding their way around and returning to their base.

This book gets 4 stars from me, out of 5. Why not the fifth !?
Well, to be honest, the first part was a bit confusing, with a Foreword, an Introduction, and an Acknowledgement that were so exhausting that I thought I had read the bulk of the story already before Chapter 1.

The second half of the book consists of Appendices. The first three being interesting, covering the action reports and adding to the more personal story of Findon. The last one shows his pilot logbook, with one page photographed on each page of the book. I feel that just showing a few pages as an example would have been sufficient. Now it feels a bit like ‘ filling’ the book for lack of other text.
But, all in all, it was an excellent and most intriguing read and recommended for learning more of life in the war and in the Far East. The book can be bought directly from the publisher, just click here to go to their webshop.

Thunderbolts over Burma (Hardback)
A Pilot’s War Against the Japanese in 1945 and the Battle of Sittang Bend
By Angus Findon, Mark Hillier
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 50 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526779663
Published: 17th September 2020

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