Book Review – No Ordinary Pilot
No Ordinary Pilot – One Young Man’s Extraordinary Exploits in World War II by Suzanne Campbell-Jones
Several decades after the end of World War Two, the amazing memoirs of RAF fighter-bomber pilot Robert Neil Grieg Allen ‘Bob’ Allen CBE DFC were hidden away in a black tin box. Now his daughter Suzanne has liberated the former locked and tightly sealed typewritten story of his wartime life and turned it into a well-crafted must-read biography.
Bob grew up in Gillingham, Kent, and his family had close links to the Short Brothers aircraft factory in nearby Rochester. He joined the RAFVR in the spring of 1940, aged 19, but missed the Battle of Britain, because he “was learning to march up and down and polish brass buckles”!
August 21, 1940 saw fair-haired Bob jump into a Hurricane cockpit for the first time. He had also recently married his sweetheart, Alice Arnold. He was proud to have been posted to the prestigious 1 Squadron on 1 June 1941 and by the time the book’s author was born in November 1941, her 21-year-old father Acting Flight Lieutenant Allen was flying a Hurricane in his first dogfight over the English Channel.
Soon afterwards he joined 95 Squadron in Sierra Leone and met his new CO – John Ignatius ‘Killy’ Kilmartin DFC – who had already served gallantly in the Battle of France and in the Battle of Britain. Bob’s piloting skills were in demand and he was also testing newly assembled RAF aircraft. Bob converted to Spitfires, which proved highly effective at photo-reconnaissance work and in Gambia he flew with the famous RAF ace Billy Drake.
After being shot down he was interrogated by the Germans, and later moved to three different camps including the notorious Stalag Luft III. After surviving the gruelling ‘long march’ under guard at the end of the war in Europe, the half-starved pilot was rescued and started the journey back to England. By May 1945 he was home.
Suzanne writes: “We knew there was a big story, but my father never spoke about it. When he died in 2008, aged 88, I inherited a black tin trunk of memorabilia including his logbook.” Group Captain Bob Allen CBE DFC was buried at Haycombe Cemetery, Bath.
This book is not only a superb memoir, it is a compelling love story of hope and forgiveness.
Information: Publisher: Osprey www.ospreypublishing.com
ISBN: 978-1472828279. Hardback, and eBook 320 pages
- Illustrations – yes
- References/Notes – yes
- Epilogue – yes
- Index – yes