Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lifting The Silence - Sydney Percival Smith

This year continues to reveal exciting books published over the past few months dedicated to the experiences of Commonwealth aircrew during the Second World War. Each has its own charm and, without exception, the quality of production is high.

One book that meets all of these criteria is Lifting The Silence by Canadians Sydney Percival Smith and his son, David. In his own words "an everyman named Smith", the author was a Wellington pilot with 115 Squadron based at East Wretham in Norfolk. He had trained on Hampdens at OTU and even flown two operations before being posted to 115. In early December 1942 (twelve ops later), on the way to Turin on the other side of the Alps, over France in a Wimpey struggling for height, the author and his crew were shot down. Parachuting safely, Sydney was helped by sympathetic civilians who set him on a complicated and harrowing journey via the famed Comete Line (the Belgian Resistance network that rescued more than 750 Allied servicemen and got them out of Occupied Europe).

The title alludes to Sydney's - and many veterans' - reluctance to talk about their wartime experiences. Indeed, this book may not have been written had it not been for David Smith finding a post-war letter from one of his father's resistance saviours. This led to Sydney returning to the places of his rescue and meeting again, some six decades later, the people to whom he owed his life.

An attractive and deceptively slim-looking book (250+ pages), LTS will be read and reviewed later this year as it moves up the list/pile. The various 'flick-throughs' I've conducted already reveal a well-written, descriptive story and what appears to be a journey of discovery for both father and son alike. My gut-feeling is this will compare favourably to Stephen Harris' enlightening Under A Bomber's Moon.

LTS is available from the publisher - Dundurn Press - Lifting The Silence - and, of course, Amazon (I note Amazon Canada, UK and USA are offering this book at a good discount).

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