The Courage of Isolated Rear Gunners in the RAF During the Second World War
‘The rear gunner’s domain was a tiny Perspex-encased turret – there was not even enough room for a parachute. Casualty rates were exceptionally high for these exposed and vulnerable men who shouldered the heavy responsibility of providing protection from the Luftwaffe who preyed upon his crew’.
Once again my works are composed from Flying Log Books written by these gallant men during the war. These books detail the operations which are supported by in depth research explaining how the Royal Air Force and her Commonwealth Allies were thrust into war in 1939 with an ill equipped structure of aircrew and aircraft. There had been pre-war plans in place to formally train ‘Air Gunners’ but these only materialised after the realisation that ‘Air Gunners’ were required in significant numbers. The Second World War saw a remarkable recognition of the role undertaken by these exceptional young men, all of whom volunteered for service. Many later climbed into small cramped and isolated Perspex turrets that were perched at the extremity of Whitley – Wellington -Lancaster and Halifax bombers. ‘Glorious in Solitude’ explores stories of these ‘Rear Gunners’ taken primarily from original material and recommendations for gallant action. These brave young men were totally exposed, removed from their crew and charged with providing the ultimate protection from marauding Luftwaffe night fighters – they experienced dangers unique to their chosen trade. ‘Glorious in solitude’ also explores the historical aspects of equipment, uniform and the medals awarded to ‘Rear Gunners’.
My hope is that this book has created a fitting tribute to those men who endured such isolated hardship and to those who lost their lives in solitude. The book is extensively illustrated with many previously unpublished photographs and Philip Jackson CVO DL MA FRBS, the masterly sculptor who created the seven nine foot figures depicting the crew of a heavy bomber within the Bomber Command Memorial, has kindly allowed me to utilise the image of the ‘Air Gunner’ which has created the book cover. The memorial was unveiled in Green Park, London on 28th June 2012 by Her Majesty the Queen to great critical acclaim.