Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pathfinder Cranswick - Michael Cumming

This is something new for ABR - a digital edition of a book. I'll be the first to admit I very much prefer a hard copy as it adds to the enjoyment of the experience but, particularly in this case, I am very excited at the prospect of an online book.

Squadron Leader Alec Panton Cranswick DSO DFC was shot down on what his log book recorded as his 107th op. A slight man who spent some of his wartime service suffering the effects of malaria, Cranswick flew his first tour with 214 Squadron in 1940. Not wanting to be rested, he volunteered to head to the Middle East. This was successful as he 'book-ended' a role as a ferry pilot in West Africa with a significant number of ops on Wellingtons. He returned to the UK in early 1942 but could not fly due to ill health. It was not until the end of the year that he converted to Halifaxes prior to a short stay with 419 Squadron (a Canadian 6 Group unit). By October 1943, he had been a Pathfinder with 35 Squadron for six months and was due another rest. Taking this reluctantly, his goal to return to operations was achieved in April 1944 when he returned to the PFF squadron. He was killed three months later in early July.

To anyone interested in the remarkable achievements of the aircrew who flew in WW2 - indeed, to anyone fascinated by the indomitable human spirit - the life of this man is one that astounds. I first learned of him when I read Chris Ward's 6 Group Bomber Command (one of the biographical 'snippets' I mention in the review of that book). Subsequent research revealed a book written by a journalist and first published as a hardback in 1962. A condensed second edition appeared in 1963. It was not until 2006 that a revised and updated paperback was released and remained in print until 2009.

Based on the above, you'd think it would be relatively easy and affordable to obtain a copy, wouldn't you? In all of my searches I have only ever been able to turn up copies of the 1960s editions with the first hardback invariably being listed for $100 or more. Pathfinder Cranswick became something of a holy grail for me.

So, imagine my utter glee when it was announced a digital version of the latest print edition would be available through Amazon in the UK and US. I have since been in contact with the author, Michael Cumming, who stumbled upon Cranswick's achievements, or at least a hint of them, when reading Don Bennett's autobiography Pathfinder for a newspaper review. He is delighted to have the book available again and added that a number of the illustrations, through the joys of the digital medium, are now reproduced in colour for the first time. Incidentally, Bennett, in the foreword to PC wrote 'to look back at a boy-man so simply courageous and so selfless is an inspiration both rare and elevating'. Great words from a great leader.

This latest edition is a truly exciting development for what was a previously unobtainable - more or less - and desirable title.

As mentioned above, the book is available through Amazon on their 'Kindle' system. This does not mean you have to have one of those digital 'book readers' as you can download the software to read the book on your PC or laptop (which is what I will be doing). The ease and speed at which this new edition was produced was advantageous for the author who wants to keep the memory of Cranswick's acheievements fresh for today's readers. Considering the exhorbitant costs of self-publishing, this digital publishing game is certainly an enticing option. If embracing (even temporarily!) this 'new' technology means I finally get to experience Cranswick's remarkable story (and Cumming's classic biography) then bring it on. If you're similarly enamored, go for it.

***Sept 23, 2011 - Please note the Kindle edition of Pathfinder Cranswick is no longer available pending the March 2012 release of the 50th anniversary edition (with new material and photographs) by Fighting High Publishing. As exciting and accessible as the Kindle book was, the new print edition promises to bring this absolute classic of Bomber Command literature to a whole new audience (and an existing audience that couldn't afford the older print editions!) and generation. The man who attended the same school as Sir Douglas Bader and Guy Gibson VC deserves to be as equally well remembered.

4 comments:

  1. Every reader of military aviation has the book he considers his Holy Grail for myself it is "War Pilot Of Orange" for you it was "Pathfinder Cranswick" and what a Great book it looks and sounds like to! I envy you! I'll be adding this book to my list thats for sure. I agree with with you though I would also prefer a hardback even paperback copy if only, But I guess thats to much wish for oh well its way better to read a rare biography on my PC then never at all. Thanks for telling us about the book, were all looking forward to your next few book review.

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  2. Thank you for your kind comments and I completely agree with you sentiments. I have come across "War Pilot Of Orange" on my travels but, as you suggest, it's never been affordable. Here's hoping it goes digital or appears in a new print edition in the near future.

    Cheers

    Andy

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  3. Loggie911





    Thursday, November 3, 2011PATHFINDER CRANSWICK BOOK REVIEW
    We have the hardback book Pathfinder Cranswick, 1962. My wife's father, Regionald Herbert Kille was the navigator for Alan Cranswick on that fateful day, 5 July 1944. We have been to the town where their plane was shot down, Villecresnes, France several times and we met the Mayor who was a young boy when he saw the plane come down and landed near him and others from the village. He said as the plane came down it was sputtering before the crash. Only one crew member, Wilfurd (a gunner) survived and we took him back to the annual ceremony in Villecresnes in 1996. The whole town celebrated our attendance. Susan Jacqueline Burton-nee Kille (my wife) was only 16 months old when Reg was killed and her brother, Stephen was born on 17 July 1944, just 12 days after his father was killed. There is a lot more to this story but I don't want to bore anyone and since this is the first time I have blogged (ever) I am not sure this will find anyone even interested. You do not say in the book how Reg. Kille became the Navigator for Alex Cranswick. Was he the navigator for a long time or only on the ill fated flight on 4-5 Jul 44 when my father-in-law died along with all the crew except Horner (whom I met and took him to Villecresnes on 8 May 1997 for the commemorization of 8 May 1945.
    Posted by Loggie911 at 3:33 PM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook0 comments:

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  4. Hi Loggie

    For a first-time blog post you have done well! I must stress that the piece about Pathfinder Cranswick above is not a review but more of a discussion about the (then) new digital edition of the book. This is no longer available due to the forthcoming 50th anniversary edition to be published by Fighting High Ltd in March 2012.

    I am in regular contact with the author of PC and will pass on your message. He has already added new material to the 50th anniversary edition. Drop me an email - see the top left of the site to find my address - and I'll try to put you two in touch.

    Cheers and thanks again for taking the time to comment.

    Andy

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