Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the winner of more than 20 literary accolades. For a complete list of her awards see: http://helenapschrader.com

Helena is represented by Laurie Blum Guest at the Re-Naissance Agency.

For readers tired of clich├ęs and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight to historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.

Friday, February 25, 2022

FORGOTTON HEROES: LEONARD CHESHIRE, VC, OM, DSO & TWO BARS, DFC

 In the course of WWII, 28 men won Britain's highest award for bravery, the Victory Cross, while flying with the RAF. All demonstrated remarkable devotion to duty and physical courage, and sixteen of them gave their lives so that we will never know what they might have done in peace. Of the survivors, however, one man stands out even in this distinguished company: Leonard Cheshire.

Cheshire stands out on three counts. First, he combined personal courage with devotion to the welfare and well-being of the men under his command. Second, he was unconventional and innovative in his thinking and approach to problems, significantly impacting Bomber Command tactics at a critical time. Third, he devoted his life after the war to helping people, first by learning nursing and personally caring for others, later by establishing foundations dedicated to aiding those with disabilities -- which still exist today. In short he combined courage with compassion to an unusual degree. A short biography follows.

 

Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire was born into the British ruling elite, the son of a barrister and legal scholar. He went to the best schools and attended Oxford University where he studied law, graduating in 1939 — albeit not with first class honors as was expected by his family. Yet more important than his academic activities in this period is that he won a bet that he could walk all the way to Paris starting only with a few pennies in his pocket. Equally important, he visited Germany in 1936 staying with Ludwig von Reuter, a highly decorated German naval officer responsible for scuttling the German fleet at Scapa Flow in June 1919. During his stay in Germany, Cheshire attended one of Hitler’s rallies and demonstratively refused to give the Nazi salute. Last but not least, while studying at Oxford, Cheshire joined the Oxford University Air Squadron and learned to fly. As a result, he already held a commission as a pilot officer at the start of WWII.

At the outbreak of the war, Cheshire was summoned for active duty and assigned (to his disappointment) to Bomber Command. After operational training, he was promoted to Flying Officer and posted to 102 (Whitley) Squadron in April 1940. Cheshire related in his memoirs that at the time he was afraid of not measuring up. He credits his later success to the intense mentoring he received from Hugh “Loffty” Long, with whom he initially flew as Second Pilot. In addition to giving him opportunities to fly while on operations, Long demanded very high standards and drilled Cheshire on procedures blindfolded while on the ground. Long also made Cheshire become familiar with the duties of the gunner, navigator and wireless operator, making him sit in their places and see the world from their perspective. Cheshire flew ten operational flights as “second dickey” to Long before being given command of his own aircraft in June 1940.

Cheshire earned his first decoration on the night of Nov. 12/13 1940. On finding the target (the synthetic oil plant at Wesseling) obscured by fog, Cheshire decided on his own initiative to drop his bombs on the railway yards of Cologne. Unfortunately, his aircraft was bracketed by flak. Cheshire was temporarily blinded and a huge hole was torn in the aircraft, igniting one of its flares. On fire, the aircraft went into a steep dive. While Cheshire regained control of the aircraft, his crew fought the fire. When the fire was extinguished, a hole stretched along the port side from the wing almost to the after hatch. However, both engines were still working and the aircraft seemed to be flying well enough, so Cheshire decided to make a renewed approach on the target and drop his bombs. His tour with 102 Squadron ended in January 1941 and he immediately volunteered for a second tour.

Cheshire’s next tour was with 35 Squadron, which had just been outfitted with the four-engine Halifax bomber. He flew on seven operations against Berlin in this period and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant in April 1941. When the squadron was stood down in May while Bomber Command attempted to redress design flaws in the Halifax, Cheshire took the opportunity to volunteer for a temporary posting to the Atlantic Ferry Organization. This gave him an opportunity to see a little of America. His return, however, was delayed by bureaucratic glitches, so when he finally flew a Hudson back to England, it was to discover on arrival that all but one of his crew had been killed on an operation during his absence. Although he was badly shaken by these losses, he formed a new crew and completed his tour with 35 Squadron in early 1942 with a total of 50 operational sorties.

Cheshire next served as a flying instructor at an operational training unit, but continued to fly on operations when calls were made for a “maximum effort” — something that happened frequently in this period shortly after AVM Arthur Harris took over Bomber Command. During a sortie to Berlin in which his brother was also flying, his brother’s aircraft went missing. Meanwhile, Cheshire had been promoted to Squadron Leader and flight commander.

Whether by chance or intent, shortly afterward, the RAF saw fit to appoint Cheshire CO of his brother’s former squadron, No 76. He took over at a time when the squadron had been badly decimated and morale was low. Cheshire tackled the moral problem by employing an extremely personal leadership style. He made a point of knowing the names of everyone on his squadron — officers and other ranks, air and ground crew both. He took time to talk to them, to become familiar with their personal lives. This approach earned Cheshire praise, particularly from the “other ranks” who served under him. Despite the RAF’s vaunted meritocracy, many men without wings felt keenly that the RAF was still a pilot’s club. Cheshire, they claim, was one of the few senior officers (he was by then a Wing Commander) who showed as much interest and respect for a gunner or a rigger as he did for a pilot.

Furthermore, although ordered to fly no more than once a month unless “absolutely necessary,” Cheshire ignored those orders and flew every difficult operation. When flying, he either flew Second Pilot to a sprog pilot to help build the confidence of the newcomers, or he flew first pilot with an experienced crew while leading a particularly risky operation. Just as he disobeyed orders about flying less, he also ignored orders he thought were stupid — such as flying at 2,000 feet over concentrations of flak.

Yet Cheshire distinguished himself from other conscientious commanders by going beyond good leadership and setting a good example. Cheshire also tried to solve the increasingly worrying design problems with the Halifax. Halifax losses were excessive. Few could return on three engines (unlike, for example, the Lancaster that could fly on two quite well and occasionally made it home on only one engine). Equally dangerous was that the Halifax appeared unstable in a “corkscrew,” the standard evasive tactic for bombers attacked by fighters. Cheshire personally joined the test pilot looking into the problems in an effort to understand the situation better. After this experience, he ordered modifications to his squadron’s Halifaxes to make them lighter and so able to fly higher and faster.

At the end of his third tour, Cheshire was promoted to Group Captain at the age of 25; he was the youngest Group Captain in the RAF at the time. Effective 1 April 1943, he was appointed Station Commander at Marston-in-Marsh. It may have seemed like an April fool’s joke to him, as he immediately encountered difficulty with red tape and a bureaucratic mentality among the permanent staff that was alien and anathema to him. He had hardly started his new job before he started trying to get out of it again — and back to operational flying. Maybe out of frustration, he wrote and published his first book, Bomber Pilot, during this phase of his life.

In September 1943, the C-in-C of 5 Group Ralph Cochran asked Cheshire if he would be willing to assume command of No 617 Squadron, famous as the “Dambusters.” Although such a posting would require him to surrender his promotion and revert to the rank of Wing Commander, Cheshire jumped at the opportunity. Cochran required him to do a conversion course onto the Lancaster before starting, which Cheshire did with marked humility. Other trainees remember him meticulously asking questions especially of men flying in other trades (e.g. Flight Engineer, Bomb Aimer etc.)

Cheshire had been recruited by Cochrane to help solve a pressing problem. With their backs increasingly to the wall, the Germans had unleashed their creativity to develop four devilishly advanced and potentially game-changing weapons. Two of these were early forms of missiles, or “flying bombs,” the familiar V1s and V2. The third was huge, long-range guns being installed in the Pas-de-Calais, and the fourth was the mostly battery-powered XXI-type submarines with underwater speeds faster than most merchantmen. All of these super-weapons were being constructed and installed in “hardened” sites protected by reinforced concrete meters thick. The RAF had to find a means to penetrate those concrete walls and destroy the weapons underneath. The engineering genius Barnes-Wallis, famous for developing the bouncing bombs that had destroyed the Ruhr Dams, had already come up with a new bomb. This so-called “Earthquake” bomb if dropped from 18,000 feet or more could reach supersonic speeds and penetrate meters thick concrete. The problem was that the bomb was only effective if delivered very precisely — within 12 meters of the target.

Cheshire’s challenge was to find a way to mark a target so precisely that bombs could be delivered within 12 meters from 18,000 feet or more. The marking techniques then in use were woefully inaccurate as an attempt by 617 to take out a V-1 site in January 1944 proved. 617 Squadron led by Cheshire succeeded in dropping all their bombs within less than 100 yards of the target, but the Pathfinder that had marked the target had dropped the flare 350 yards off the target and all the subsequent accuracy had been in vain.

Using this example, Cheshire convinced AVM Harris to allow him to develop his own marking techniques. Eventually, after intensive experimentation on the bombing range, Cheshire and the pilots working with him developed a technique involving a combination of illuminating flares that enabled a low-flying aircraft to deliver a marking flare very precisely by dive-bombing down to 100 feet. Cheshire proved the concept with — of all aircraft! — a Lancaster.

Cheshire and 617 Squadron demonstrated the effectiveness of the technique in a raid on the aero-engine factory in Limoges, France. Cheshire first flew over the factory at 20 feet to warn the French workers. They got the hint and ran out. Then he dropped the marker flare on the roof of the factory and called in the remaining aircraft of 617 one at a time. The factory was obliterated without a single casualty on the ground.

Further experience showed that the marking could be accomplished better by a lighter and more maneuverable aircraft such as the Mosquito, and Cheshire was loaned several that he then employed highly effectively on a variety of raids including Munich, V1 and V2 sites, and E-boat pens. When the RAF later took Cheshire’s borrowed Mosquitos away, he obtained a Mustang from the USAAF — and flew it for the first time on June 25 to lead a daylight raid against a launch site for V1 flying bombs. His ground crew literally finished assembling the Mustang after the Lancasters of 617 had already taken off. Cheshire climbed into the Mustang and took off without a test flight to overtake his bombers and place the marker flares. He arrived on schedule and succeeded in marking the target accurately. The V1 site was destroyed.

On 6 July 1944, Cheshire led 617 in an attack on the V3 site and utterly destroyed it, removing this “wonder weapon” from Hitler’s arsenal altogether. The following night, July 7/8 Cheshire flew his 100th operational sortie. In his Mustang he marked a V1 and V2 storage site hidden in the caves at St. Leu d’Esserent, and 617 Squadron using Barnes-Wallis “Tallboy” bombs caused the caves to collapse. Immediately following, he was taken off operations on Cochrane’s orders and command of 617 Squadron was turned over to another officer.

Cheshire was awarded the Victoria Cross for his four years of outstanding service and four operational tours. Characteristically, as his investiture at Buckingham Palace, which did not take place until Oct. 1945, Cheshire told King George VI that the warrant officer receiving the VC at the same time, Norman Jackson, should receive his VC first. Jackson, a Flight Engineer, had crawled out of the cockpit of a damaged Lancaster with a fire extinguisher in order to put out a fire to one of their engines that threatened to reach the fuel tanks. He was badly burned in the attempt and blown off the wing, but survived in German captivity.

Cheshire served as one of the official British observers at the bombing of Nagasaki, and six months later in January 1946 resigned from the RAF due to disability. Immediately, he became involved in an unstructured charitable venture, namely turning his home into a “colony” for veterans and war widows, in which the inhabitants lived together in a community to help transition back to civilian life. Demand for space was great, so he bought a mansion from his aunt, but the communal experiment did not work out and closed in 1947. One of the participants, however, had developed cancer and asked Cheshire for land where he could park a caravan until he “recovered.” Cheshire instead invited him into his home and learned nursing skills to look after him as he was, in fact, dying.

Soon there were others. Some came because they were terminally ill. Some came to help. Finances were improvised. Cheshire realized the situation was not sustainable and so sought to institutionalize his work by registering a charitable organization, the Cheshire Foundation Homes for the Sick. The concept was that volunteers in a community would come together, identify suitable accommodation and raise funds. Today known as the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity, the registered aims are: "to provide effective and efficient community-based services to disabled people that respond to their preferences" and to "campaign in partnership with disabled people, allies and supporters for a society that provides equality to disabled people."

Cheshire devoted the rest of his life to this cause. This included founding a second foundation with his wife Sue Ryder, the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation dedicated to the rehabilitation of the disabled and the treatment of tuberculosis. In 1953 he also founded the Raphael Pilgrimage to assist pilgrims to travel to Lourdes. In 1990 he founded the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief. He died 31 July 1992.

My novels about the RAF in WWII are intended as tributes to the men in the air and on the ground that made a victory in Europe against fascism possible. 

Lack of Moral Fibre, A Stranger in the Mirror and A Rose in November can be purchased individually in ebook format, or in a collection under the title Grounded Eagles in ebook or paperback. Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/grounded-eagles


Where Eagles Never Flew was the the winner of a Hemmingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction and a Maincrest Media Award for Military Fiction. Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/where-eagles-never-flew

 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

FORGOTTEN HEROES: THE LAST OF THE LANCASTER SKIPPERS - SIDNEY "STEVIE" STEVENS

 Sidney “Stevie” Stevens achieved brief fame in the UK in 2017 as one of the last surviving Lancaster pilots — and because of his story struck a chord in the British public in part because his wife of more than 70 years was part of his wartime story. Yet he was in many ways more representative of than exceptional in his generation. He exemplifies many features of what it meant to fly for the RAF in WWII. 

Yet what appeals to me most is that Stevie — like Wilf — was not just a “war hero” but a man with skills more suited to peace.

Stevie was born poor — on December 14, 1921. His father worked for the Railway and his mother in a factory, and Stevie (then still known as Sid) started his first job at the age of eight, delivering goods for the local grocer. But life wasn’t all bad. Stevie belonged to a choir and joined the Boy Scouts. Meanwhile, his father was determined that he would get a better, cleaner job that the one he had and encouraged Stevie to be good at school. This paid off in a scholarship to a grammar school in the larger town of Bideford. He commuted the eight miles daily, walking two and half miles each way, and covering the remaining distance by rail; because of the train schedule, he was rarely home at night before six pm — often cold and wet.

In 1933, Stevie’s family moved to London, where his father had a better job as an engineer on electrical locomotives. Stevie was allowed to transfer to the Henry Thorton grammar school in Clapham Common, where (he says) some of the students were “fairly posh, but not too posh.”  At fifteen, he obtained his school leaving certificate with commendable results and would have liked to continue in the sixth form — but his father could not afford to keep him in school. It was time to start “earning his keep.”

With good recommendations, Stevie landed an office job in the Estates, Housing and Valuations Department at Croydon in 1937 earning 17 shillings and 6 pence (less than a pound) a week. Already convinced a war was inevitable, in 1938 Stevie tried to join the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) but was turned down because he didn’t have the right accent; the RAF preferred “public school types.” So he joined the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Service instead. He was on duty the night his own house suffered a direct hit during the Blitz. His parents and an uncle, who had stopped by for a cup of tea had all survived in the shelter, but Stevie lost everything he owned except the clothes he was wearing.  Stevie later claimed:

“I looked up at the empty sky and said to myself: ‘You bastards, what a bloody awful thing to do, I’ll get my own back on you for this.’ I knew straight away I wanted to be a bomber pilot; not many people wanted to fly bombers, but I knew that I did and I was determined that I would.”

 In April 1941, Stevie again applied to the RAFVR and was accepted as an “Aircraftman” and mustered for pilot training — after he’d completed the induction process and, of course, survived six weeks of “square bashing” learning to salute and march, while also receiving instruction in morse code, theory of flight and navigation, aircraft recognition and more. Stevie remembers the course as “demanding” and failure meant “remustering” for a trade other than pilot. At the end of six weeks, only 60% passed. Further training, including clay pigeon shooting, followed. It was October 1941 before Stevie arrived in Carlisle for “Elementary Flying Training” and his first ever flight in an aeroplane. One month later, Stevie was among the lucky candidates not to be “washed out” and could proceed with pilot training.

 To Stevie’s astonishment, he was slated for training in the United States. Mid-December he was aboard the SS Bergensfjord found for Halifax along with hundreds of other aspiring pilots on their way to training establishments in Canada as well as the U.S. At Halifax they were taken to a central “dispersal unit” for assignments. Here, even in the middle of the Canadian winter, Stevie enthused about the quality of the accommodations, the abundance of food and the lack of black-out. In early January, Stevie proceeded to “No 2 British Flying Training School” in Lancaster, California. Despite it’s designation as a “British Flying Training School,” the school, “War Eagle School,” was a civilian flying school established under the U.S. government Civilian Pilot Training Program. All the instructors were civilians, although RAF personnel had administrative and disciplinary responsibility for the RAF trainees, and an RAF flying instructor did the final testing of candidates.

From February to August 1942, Stevie advanced steadily through the various challenges of Primary and Advanced Flying training, including night flying, instrument flying, cross-country navigation, aerobatics and more. On 4 August, Stevie received his “wings,” symbolizing his qualification as an RAF pilot. Yet Stevie’s letters of this period talk as much (if not more) about the lavish hospitality he enjoyed from Americans. He was invited into people’s homes, taken sailing and riding, given tours, introduced to celebrities, and enjoyed the chaste company of nice American girls charmed by him (and his accent, no doubt!). He describes barbeques and scrimp cocktails, swimming parties in private pools and swimming in the Pacific, horse shows, films and shooting. He tells of a host with a private airplane that allowed the (not yet qualified British cadets!) to fly back to their airfield, when it looked like they might be late on weekend. He would never live so well again!

At the latest, when Stevie boarded the Queen Mary in her grim wartime camouflage paint and wartime fittings as a troop transport, reality started to set in again. He arrived back in England on September 11 1942 and less than two weeks later had his first flight in a twin-engine aircraft as part of his next stage of training. In October he was sent to an Operational Training Unit (OTU) to start learning to fly operational aircraft, in this case the Wellington. It was here that he “crewed up” with a navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator and rear gunner. Six months later, the entire crew advanced to the Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) where a Flight Engineer and a mid-upper gunner joined them. At the end of them month, they were posted to an operational squadron, No 57 at RAF Scrampton. Stevie started his operational tour as a Sergeant Pilot.

1 May and 20 October 1943, Stevie flew a total of 31 operations. Targets included: Duisberg, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Bochum (2x), Cologne (3x), Krefeld, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg (2x), Manheim (2x), Nuremburg (2x), Munich, Stuttgart, Leipzig, Essen, Hannover (3x), Berlin (3x), Turin and Milan (2x). Stevie was flying at the height of the so-called Battle of the Ruhr (Happy Valley) and the beginning (or prelude) to the Battle of Berlin. He was flying in a period when Bomber Command losses were at their peak. On 57 squadron in this period, only 20% of crews survived an operational tour. In the RAF as a whole, 669 aircraft were shot down over enemy territory, while others crashed on landing as a result of damage sustained on operations or due to poor weather. Others were lost in collisions due to the very dangerous conditions of operating at night without navigation lights in a loose “bomber stream.” Although occasionally one or two men survived being shot down or crashing, the loss of all seven men on board was more common.

Stevie later described the experience as follows:

An operational tour seemed like a series of thirty very testing examinations, requiring skill, intelligence and a grim determination to succeed. A momentary failure to concentrate and react swiftly usually resulted in death…Yet morale was invariably high.”

 On another occasion he wrote:

 “I was always astonished by the lack of panic among the aircrew who flew on tours. … It was pretty obvious that we couldn’t all survive, and when you looked around the table at a briefing for 18 – 20 crews, you knew darn well the next day that at least two or three wouldn’t be coming back, and perhaps more. As the Captain, you would come out and tr to make a joke or a comment just to lighten the mood and to keep up the morale of your crew.”

For Stevie, it was this concern for his crew that dominated his thoughts and determined much of his behaviour. A deeply spiritual and devout man at heart, he prayed before each flight: “God grant that I may never fail my crew and that I may ever fulfil the trust they place in me.” His concern for his crew manifested itself in how conscientiously he did his job, but also in the fact that to the end of his life his lost comrades remained spiritually with him. His son remembers that the first time he went to vote, his father (Stevie) told him: “A lot of my friends gave their lives so that we can do this, and a lot of them were younger than you.” On another occasion he wrote:

“The world we did our bit to bring about is, for all its problems, an infinitely better place than the world subjected to Nazi tyranny. That is Bomber Command’s legacy to the young men and women of today, and it is a true memorial. They laid down their lives so that you could live yours in peace and freedom.

But Stevie showed his respect and concern for his crew in other ways too. When his rear gunner suffered from PTSD following a particularly harrowing sortie in which the Lancaster had sustained severe damage, Stevie could not risk flying with him, but he would not hear of him being posted for “Lack of Moral Fibre” (LMF) as was then common. Instead, he not only asked the Squadron CO to stand him, in his own words, he: “I suggested to my CO that [the gunner] might be commissioned and so avoid being discharged and demoted as LMF. The CO tore me off a might strip for being so bloody impertinent….”  But he was successful. The gunner was commissioned and later returned to operational flying.

Stevie ended his tour as a Pilot Officer, having been promoted on 4 July 1943 after eight operational sorties. He received an immediate DFC, more for his entire tour than for an individual act of bravery. He was 22 years old and planning to marry in December.  His wife was a WAAF, a Radio/Telephone operator in Flying Control. She was one of the first women trained and posted for this trade and the RAF was still adjusting to it. When diverted to a different field due to a shortage of fuel, Stevie received instructions to land from a woman the first time in his life. On landing, he went straight to the Control Tower hoping to make a date with the WAAF — only to find her surrounded by pilots much more senior than himself. (He was still a sergeant at the time.) Luck was on his side, however, because just days later the WAAF R/T operator was soon transferred to his own station. When her voice again gave him instructions, he recognized it at once, and went straight to the tower to ask her out! Her name was Maud “Maureen” Miller.

Shortly after her transfer, Maureen was on duty the night 617 Squadron returned from the raid against the Ruhr dams. She talked in all the returning aircraft of the squadron, something that made her a “celebrity” later in life although to the end, she consistently pointed out she was only doing her job. While she was friendly with many of the 617 pilots, she fell in love with Stevie. Maureen remembers him saying: “If I’m still alive at the end of the year, we’ll get married.” He was, and they did. They stayed together more than seventy years until Maureen’s death the day before their 74th wedding anniversary in 2017.

But they could not know that in December 1943 — a dark period of the war. The bombing offensive against Berlin was at its peak and taking a terrible toll. The Allies had not yet landed in Normandy. The end of the war was not in sight. Stevie, however, was due for at least a break from operations and his next assignment was as an instructor at an OTU, training pilots on the Wellington. (Note: the photo below was taken just six months after the one above.)

Stevie recalls that the reception at the OTU was cold and he was at first found the Wellington a bit of a comedown after flying Lancasters, but he soon came to appreciate the flying qualities of the Wellington and its suitability for training pilots on the principles of night operations and preparing pilots to fly the heavy bombers. Training was dangerous. Roughly 5,000 RAF aircrew died in training accidents in the course of the war. Many instructors became victims of student pilots’ mistakes. But Stevie proved a gifted instructor — unlike many former operational captains. He was so good at instructing that he was not asked to return for a second tour and did not volunteer himself. He had found his niche.

Stevie was sent to the instructors course to become an instructor of instructors. When the war ended, he was not released but instead promoted to Flight Lieutenant. He was also sent on additional training courses after which he was assigned as Wing Adjutant, Station Adjutant and Chief Ground Instructor. Increasingly, however, his students were not young pilots learning their trade but returned POWs. These men were often highly experienced pilots, many of them much more senior than Stevie, some of who had been in POW camps for years. Those who had been prisoners of the Japanese had often suffered malnutrition, physical abuse and psychological torture. Some recognized the need for a “refresher course” in flying; some didn’t. It was not until October 1947 that Stevie was “demobbed” with the rank of Flight Lieutenant on the condition that he remain in the RAFVR.

Stevie, however, had his eye on turning his proven talents as an instructor into a career in teaching. He attended a teacher training college and, after qualifying, took up work at secondary schools teaching Science and Maths. It was a career he was to pursue successfully for nearly forty years with great success — as the testimonials of many of his former pupils attest.

Stevie’s RAF career was exemplary in more ways than one. He came from a humble background, bucked the prevailing class prejudices of the era and took advantage of the RAF’s comparatively merit-oriented culture to attain first command and then rank and recognition. He “did his job” as a bomber pilot, yet it was as an instructor that he really stood out and it was as a teacher that he impacted the lives of thousands for the better.

(The information in this bio is drawn from Tomorrow May Never Come: The Remarkable Life Story of ‘Stevie’ Stevens, Lancaster Pilot and Beloved School Teacher by Jonny Cracknell and Adrian Stevens. This biography is available for purchase at: https://jonnycracknell.com/tomorrow-may-never-come/ )

My novels about the RAF in WWII are intended as tributes to the men in the air and on the ground that made a victory in Europe against fascism possible. 

Lack of Moral Fibre, A Stranger in the Mirror and A Rose in November can be purchased individually in ebook format, or in a collection under the title Grounded Eagles in ebook or paperback. Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/grounded-eagles


Where Eagles Never Flew was the the winner of a Hemmingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction and a Maincrest Media Award for Military Fiction. Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/where-eagles-never-flew