First Light (Penguin World War II Collection) Paperback – International Edition, September 22, 2009
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|Paperback, International Edition, September 22, 2009||
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 9.9 ounces
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0141042753
- ISBN-13 : 978-0141042756
- Product Dimensions : 5.06 x 0.84 x 7.77 inches
- Publisher : Penguin UK; 48435th Edition (September 22, 2009)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #271,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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1) His exhilaration for flying. He always had an excitement about flying, whether it was his first flight or his last combat mission, and his descriptions of his time in the cockpit provide plenty to envision.
2) There were many close calls on practically every flight. As he describes his various missions, there is a sense of danger from the moment he takes off until he touches down. Death came quickly to those who let their guard down.
3) The psychological toll constant air operations took on Wellum. In today's military memoirs, we hear a lot about PTSD and psychological problems from the type of warfare going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it was also a real problem in WW2. We just don't usually read about it in their memoirs. It becomes apparent in Wellum's memoir as well.
Like most WW2 memoirs, the book is written for consumption by teenagers as well. A well-written, enjoyable read.
I would have given 5 stars, but the typesetting is bad. Someone just didn't review the book.
Occasionally, there are books that strike all the right notes and become timeless classics. Such books are exceedingly rare.
This is such a book.
"Quartered Safe Out Here," John Masters' "The Road Past Mandalay", Leckie's "Helmet for a Pillow ", Sledge's "With the Old Breed", and Richard Franks' "Guadalcanal" are the best of the best. This book belongs in that exalted company.
These books can and will be read fifty years from now, not because they contain statistic or explanations about battles, but because when one reads these books, one can see and feel and smell what war truly was like.
Read this book.
In today's military, student pilots wouldn't be allowed near an airplane until completeing four years of college. It's remarkable to see what Geoffrey Wellum and his contemporaries did in their teens. Anyone wishing to know what it was like to fly a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain will find their curiousity satisfied by reading this outstanding book.
Geoffrey's stream of consciousness style is insightful, honest and captivating.
His recollections give a clear account of the day to day existence of those who fought and died. While these stories have been told many times before Wellum's honesty gives this reader a strong connection with the man and his motivations (and likely those of others)
Wellum captures and contrasts the humour of the time with the cost of the stresses it masked.
His descriptions of flight captures and conveys the joy and emotional connection of an aviator with this realm in a clear understated style that anyone who's ever flown can connect with.
Combine this with his accounts of aerial battle the reader will finish wanting more.
The Kindle content only allows one font, no bold, and no "time left in chapter", (only "time left in book").
Top reviews from other countries
There have been many first-hand accounts of what it was like to fight in the Battle of Britain, and I have read a number of them over the years, but I cannot think of one I prefer to this well-crafted true story. Perhaps it reads so well because the author waited a long time to set his thoughts down? Or maybe he is simply a gifted writer. Either way, he really gives a feel of what is was like to fly and fight a Spitfire in 1940. This includes some very human moments. For example, pursuing an unsuspecting German plane in bad weather over the Channel at low level, he wonders whether he is justified in destroying an effectively helpless opponent who at that point is simply trying to get back to his base.
Very highly recommended for all readers of aviation books, and especially those about the Battle of Britain.
It's a personal story: a 17-year-old growing up; mastering the complexities of flying basic trainers; accepting the discipline of hard study; learning to fly and fight as part of a team of young men; dealing with the death of friends and with his own terror; learning the visual, physical, and mental skills that keep him alive in combat; falling in love; and finally physically burning out.
The book has other, complementary, dimensions.
It's a vivid and technical description of the terrors and challenges of learning to fly those 19030s/1940s piston-engined planes.
It's an insight into the (very British) bonds that held a team of pilots together and kept them fighting through death, disaster, and constant fear.
It's a historical record of the technicalities of flying and navigating those planes that culminates in a hymn to the glorious Spitfire – there’s a beautiful passage describing his return from combat, slipping alone high above the murk, the sky darkening as the sun dips below the horizon.
It's a testimony to the ground mechanics whose patience, hard work, and ingenuity kept the fighter planes flying through thick and thin.
It touches on the enormous and highly successful engineering effort at Supermarine and Rolls Royce as their engineers rushed to fix the Spitfire’s problems as revealed by the first battles, and gives insights into how the ground crew and pilots worked as part of that process.
It provides insights into minds of the German pilots flying at the limit of their range to fight an unexpectedly better organized and better equipped enemy.
And finally, it describes his sadness at surviving the great battle and realizing that his life will never again burn so bright.
Whilst of course a historical book because its set in that time when the UK was at most risk, it is not a dry hard to read thing. Its a colourful portrait of men and machines in a time of crisis that does better than any other book I've read in its ability to transport you to grimmer - but in most ways simpler and better - times.
Wellum, despite the fact that he did have success in the air comes across as a modest man whom takes no pleasure from the act of shooting down a Luftwaffe aircraft. He gets caught up in the excitement of course but very much writes about the sadness of the act afterwards. I contrast this with a book I've read recently about the Luftwaffe perspective with many interviews of German pilots and they come across as far more arrogant and dismissive. Not all of course, but the contrast between the two sides when reading first hand accounts is a stark one.
For me, having enjoyed a wonderful childhood with my grandfather - a man of similar attributes to Wellum - this book is a wonderful tribute to that best of generations.
I can't say enough good things about this book and I'm sure that thousands feel the same. Its a fabulous read and one that every child should read to get an understanding of WW2.