Available in all good bookstores from June 1 2014.
With Victory, New Zealand Airmen and the Fall of Germany, journalist and author Max Lambert completes an extraordinary chronicle of the part young New Zealand men played as pilots and aircrew in many theatres of the second world war.
This latest book by Lambert focusses on the period from the allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944 to the final collapse of Germany in May 1945. The book in fact is being released to bookshops in New Zealand on 1 June to mark the anniversary of the D Day landings.
Flying in Lancasters, Halifaxes, Blenheims, Sunderland Flying Boats, Stirlings, Mosquitos, Buffulos, Glider Planes, Typhoons and even unarmed Dakotos, the young kiwi pilots, some even teenagers, created a history of service and fortitude that Lambert has managed to research with skill and present in a no nonsense narrative of the kind you would expect from such an experienced and acclaimed journalist.
There are stories of aircrew who came through unscathed. There are more, unfortunately, where the tiny black cross against their names in the index, indicates that they did not survive. Many were wounded, some taken prisoner, a number lost without trace. The latter are all remembered at the Air Forces Memorial at Runneymede.
Some of the New Zealanders were involved in the heavy bombing of Germany’s industrial centres and cities such as the Ruhr, Dresden, Hamburg and Berlin. A training crew in a Sunderland Flying Boat depth charged and sank a U-Boat off the coast of Norway, while it was on its way to impede the allied landings.
Pilots were often told to steer clear of the air above the massive invasion force because the “navy is not good at aircraft recognition” and there was an ever-present danger of being shot down by friendly fire.
Les Munro, aged 23, the kiwi pilot in the famous Dambusters raid earlier in the war, flew as second pilot to the famous squadron commander, Wind Commander Leonard Chesire. They were leading the squadron in the highly skilled dropping of “chaff”, strips of aluminium that helped confuse German radar − leading them to believe that the landings were going to be at the Pas de Calais instead of Normandy. Other kiwis, West Coaster Terry Kearns, 23, and John Barclay, also 23, from Dunedin were also involved in that vital exercise.
Many of the battles which the kiwi airmen played a part are familiar, D-Day Landings, Arnhem, the crossing of the Rhine, even the landings in the South of France. He also touches on the surrender of German forces. But Lambert’s book traces all of these through “new eyes”, those of aircrew who were far from their country but played a very significant part in World War 2.
It is not only the accounts of key battles and events which are recorded by Lambert. The backgrounds and personal details of many of the kiwi aircrew are also included along with very interesting, sometimes scary, sometimes funny, accounts of their exploits.
Many families in New Zealand may well find Victory can be added as an important addition to other memorabilia recording the roles their forebears played in history.
Reviewed by Lincoln Gould
Victory, New Zealand Airmen and the Fall of Germany
by Max Lambert
Published by HarperCollins NZ