It is impossible not to be captivated by the stories in this book. All are truly wonderful tales of the way that animals help humans, often in the most difficult of circumstances, and the recognition of their achievements with the award of the Dickin Medal which was instituted in 1943 by Maria Dickin, founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), to honour the work of animals in war.
Dogs, with their exceptional sense of smell and intelligence, have long been used to sniff out explosives. Cats have kept food stores free of rats and horses have not only carried soldiers into war but also carried them to safety. In this book, the author sets out to reveal the story of every Dickin Medal recipient, told from first-hand accounts and the citations themselves.
The NATO-led forces that overwhelmed Gaddafi’s regime in the spring of 2011 achieved what can only be described as a model victory. Unlike the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns which, though initially militarily successful, led to unsatisfactory outcomes, the Libyan war ended without recrimination and without the loss of a single British life in combat. Yet, following David Cameron’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which included severe cuts in the UK’s defence capability – most notably the axing of the Harriers – the potential for disaster was all too obvious.
This, the second in the series about Bomber Command individuals and crews that failed to return from operations, follows the same high quality format as the previous publication. Steve Darlow has gathered together a number of historians who each provide one or more chapters, each being the moving story about specific incidents resulting in a failure to return.
The subjects include the loss of a Blenheim in a wood near Zeist in Holland in 1940 and the discovery of parts of the aircraft that have been recovered; the conversion of one pilot from Fighter Command to fly Mosquitoes with Bomber Command but who failed to return from a patrol over the Paris/Lille area in 1943; of operations in support of the French Resistance; and of the disastrous main force raid on Leipzig on the night of 19/20 February 1944 – amongst many others.
As Ian Ronayne writes in his introduction, the motives behind Channel Islander Clarence Ahier’s meticulously written journal are unclear. Did he write so that others would learn about the terrifying experiences of ‘modern’ war, or so that long after the war had ended it would help him remember all that he had endured?