Diary of a Bomb Aimer: Flying with 12 Squadron in World War II
Campbell Muirhead

The title say it all really, as this diary shines a very personnel light on the authors experiences, from initial aircrew training in North America, through to active operations over occupied Europe and the German homeland.

The book is split conveniently into two. The first part concentrates on the author’s experiences in the United States where he underwent his flight training. He imparts his wide-eyed thoughts about the contrasts between a darkened blackout Britain, and brightly light nights of American towns. The contrasts are continued with the differences between British streamlined steam-engines and the more industrial American ones being more colourfully brought to light.
He notes his failure to become a pilot in a way that many modern diarists would fill with need for self fulfilment, resentment, counselling and anger. His was a mood of one door closes, another opens. After finally finishing his bomb & gunnery course the author heads home, though the trip home isn’t covered and neither is the period where the author undergoes training at No1 Flying School. Maybe this break was enforced for security reasons. This rather unnatural break in the diary leads us into the second part of the book, which deals with his operational experiences.

The second part opens up with the authors arrival at 12Squadron at RAF Wickenby, where he finds out that an operational tour is 30 flights and that the chances of completing it are only around 30%. Also he finds out why 12Squadron is referred to as the Chop Squadron-A reference to the Squadrons early actions in May 1940, when it was equipped with the rather useless Battles, which were slaughtered in large numbers by the German Luftwaffe. He makes note here of his contempt for those peace at any price brigade, which he saw as partially to blame for Battle airplane and the subsequent slaughter.

Operations themselves are dealt with in a formulaic manner. Each op is listed out accounting for Target, bomb load, flak and other pertinent details. It is then followed by the author’s observations. In many other such diaries these observations are normally limited to the odd line or two, but not here. The diary accounts are detailed and give the reader a real understanding of how he was feeling on each mission.
As his operational tour total nears the magical 30, its noticeable how its meaning, both good and bad, filter into his entries.

Diary of a Bomb Aimer stands slightly above others of this genre mainly through the authors sheer detail in his entries, where the mundane and seemingly uneventful boring small nuances of life seem to have an intrinsic enthralling life of there own.

The book itself is sparsely illustrated, but given the context it doesn’t detract from it. The notes at the end of each chapter help fill out the specific referenced points. (This maybe due to the annotation in some cases)There is no bibliography obviously and the index is sparse, but again this is not unexpected.

(Reviewed by Andy H)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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