The best books on British Bomber Command in World War 2

Who am I?

Sean Feast has been a journalist and PR professional for more than 35 years and is a Director of a global marketing consultancy, Gravity Global. He is the author and co-author of more than 20 books on Bomber Command (seven with Grub St) with a particular specialism in Pathfinder Force. He co-authored the books that went with the opening of the Bomber Command Memorial and the International Bomber Command Centre. He is a Trustee of the RAF Pathfinder Archive.


I wrote...

Halton Boys: True Tales from Pilots and Ground Crew Proud to be Called 'Trenchard Brats'

By Sean Feast,

Book cover of Halton Boys: True Tales from Pilots and Ground Crew Proud to be Called 'Trenchard Brats'

What is my book about?

The RAF Halton Apprenticeship Scheme has a deserved reputation for excellence. The brainchild of MRAF Hugh Trenchard, the founder of the Royal Air Force, it took the ‘traditional’ idea of an apprenticeship and interpreted it in a novel way. It allowed teenage boys from any social background or geography to learn a technical trade that would equip them for their future lives, within and beyond the RAF. It also gave the best an opportunity to become pilots and break into the once public-school-dominated officer class. This is the story of Halton told through and by the boys who were there and who are still proud to be called ‘Trenchard Brats’.

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The books I picked & why

Yesterday's Gone

By N.J. Crisp,

Book cover of Yesterday's Gone

Why did I love this book?

The book tells the story of the fictional Squadron Leader David Kirby, from the slums of Southampton, to flying training in Oklahoma, to his final operation in command of a Lancaster. Crisp was one of the most prolific stage and TV writers of his generation (credits include Secret Army, Colditz, and Enemy at the Door), and his novel has all of the authenticity of a man who clearly went through many of the experiences he describes. If you know nothing about Bomber Command and want to bring some meaning to the experiences they went through and the places they trained, and distinguish between your ITWs and OTUs, this is a great way of doing it with a fabulous story besides.

By N.J. Crisp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Yesterday's Gone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The faded pages of a bomber Command pilot's log book have a powerful ability to evoke the events of forty years ago: like and death in another world and another war. It is the log book of Squadron Leader David Kirby, DSO, DFC, pilot of a four-engine Lancaster in the RAF's perilous and deadly night-after-night pounding of Germany, that triggers this absorbing novel.


Pathfinder

By Don Bennett,

Book cover of Pathfinder

Why did I love this book?

My personal favourite is the book by the man himself – Pathfinder by Air Vice Marshal Donald Bennett. No-one could be better placed to chart the history and success of PFF than the C-in-C 8 Group himself, and his brilliantly direct style and merciless assassination of some of his contemporaries makes me wince and smile every time I read it. His thinly veiled attacks on 5 Group, 617 Squadron and Sir Ralph Cochrane (whose name is misspelled throughout!) are well-worth reading, though he is rather economical with the truth on occasion to support his own arguments and prejudices. If you never knew about the conflict between Bennett and Cochrane, and how betrayed Bennett felt by Harris when the latter supported the 5 Group method of target marking later in the war, this will open your eyes. And see if you don’t laugh out loud as I did when Bennett says he considers Cochrane a friend! Genius.

By Don Bennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pathfinder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett was one of the most outstanding figures of the 2nd World War and the creator and leader of the legendary Pathfinder Force of 8 Group. His record as a brilliant pilot and navigator made him the obvious choice as leader of the Pathfinders, the elite force designed to carry out pioneering target-marking and precision-bombing of Nazi-occupied Europe. From the date of its inception almost every RAF Main Force attack was led by the Pathfinders. Night after night they spearheaded Bomber Command's assault on major German targets using increasingly sophisticated devices including radar, to increase the efficiency…


Book cover of Eighth Passenger: A Flight of Recollection & Discovery

Why did I love this book?

My favourite autobiography is The Eighth Passenger by Miles Tripp. First published in 1969, the book charts the author’s journey to re-discover his former crewmates 30-years after they had last met and flown operations. He seeks to discover how they felt both then and now, and whether his experiences were shared. What really comes across is how extraordinarily ‘ordinary’ they all were, and yet how they gelled into an expert crew. One of their numbers is black, a rarity at the time and adding a certain significance today, and another proves particularly elusive such that you wonder whether he will ever be found. The author very cleverly weaves in the past and the present, their experiences as a Lancaster crew, and what happened after demob and a return to civilian life. It’s a very intelligent book that will ultimately lead you to the identity of The Eighth Passenger.

By Miles Tripp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eighth Passenger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a first-hand account of World War II combat-flying, enhanced by the addition of a series of notes in which the author reappraises, in the light of information learned since the first edition was published, some of the events described and the views expressed. Seven young men, brought together by chance from, almost literally, the four corners of the earth, wake up day after day - or are woken up in the middle of the night - fully aware that the odds on their seeing the sun rise again are not good. The author has been a novelist for…


Night Bombing

By Hector Hawton,

Book cover of Night Bombing

Why did I love this book?

My favourite reference book is another wartime publication, the little-known Night Bombing by Hector Hawton (who also wrote The Men who Fly). First published in 1944, the tiny volume looks at the history and principles of air bombing, including the technical aspects, and goes on to explore methods of attack, targets, and the effectiveness of enemy defences including the ballistic characteristics of various flak guns. It feels and reads like a contemporary handbook for bomber captains, and the fact that my copy still bears the signature of the original owner, a Flight Lieutenant with the DFC, probably tells you everything you need to know about its authenticity and importance.

By Hector Hawton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Night Bombing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Night Bombing


The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany 1939-1945

By Sir Charles Webster, Noble Frankland,

Book cover of The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany 1939-1945

Why did I love this book?

There is really only one book that is essential reading, and that’s the Official History of the Strategic Air Offensive against Germany 1939-1945 by Charles Webster and Noble Frankland. First published in 1961, the history, over three volumes with a further dedicated volume of appendices, is a true Magnum Opus, a very detailed account of Bomber Command’s part in the war, from the first, costly daylight attacks on enemy shipping to the final onslaught when the Command could regularly lay on a force well in excess of 1,000 bombers over Germany virtually at will. Brilliantly researched and wonderfully written, the read is well worth the investment in time and money.

By Sir Charles Webster, Noble Frankland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany 1939-1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The theme of this first of four volumes of the official British history of the Second World War devoted to the RAF's strategic bomber offensive against Germany is in its sub-title 'Preparation'. Beginning with the lessons learned from air bombing in its infancy during the Great War, the authors divide their book into three parts: strategy; operations; appreciations and results. No aspect of Britain's role in the war, as the authors acknowledge in their preface, has been and remains more controversial than the air war against German cities. These books, the product of ten years' research, are an essential repository…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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