05 July 2012

Wellingtons Over The Med - Richard Stowers

Hi, remember me?  I'm the bloke who runs this site and has been MIA for a bit.  There's a lot happening in the book world relevant to Aircrew Book Review.  While I haven't had the chance to write anything of substance for the website I have briefly discussed some of the new titles on the new ABR Facebook page (as if I don't have enough to do).  One title I haven't mentioned though is one 'discovered' in mid-June by an author who has previously featured on ABR.

Richard Stowers is a prolific New Zealand author who has turned his hand to biographical works of Kiwi airmen of late.  His Bomber Barron and Cobber Kain titles were well-received and his latest, Wellingtons Over The Med follows the same expansive landscape paperback format.  This book is much closer to home, however, in that Richard writes about his Dad, Bob Stowers, and his time as a Wellington bomber pilot over North Africa and Italy.

This will be a most worthy addition to the greater 'Mediterranean Wellington bibliography' and will join the likes of the recent Bombers Over Sand And Snow by Alun Granfield, Kenny Ballyntyne's Another Dawn Another Dusk and the modern-day classic that is Hewer's In For A Penny, In For A Pound (not to mention the long-standing classic Out Of The Italian Night by Maurice Lihou among others).

The text of the press release provides all you need (assuming you need more!) to whet your appetitie.  The link to the WOTM listing is below and I note it is also available on Amazon.  Thanks to Dave Homewood for permission to use the cover photo below from the Wings Over New Zealand forum.

A Kiwi bomber pilot’s story from the Mediterranean

NZ415793 Flying Officer Robert Ernest Stowers DFM

Bob Stowers, at the age of just 21, was Wellington bomber pilot with 70 RAF Squadron in the Mediterranean theatre during 1943. While with the squadron Bob flew 42 operations against heavily defended ports, railways, airfields and troop concentrations in North Africa and Italy.

For his bravery and devotion to duty, Bob was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM).

A full and accurate description is given of each operation, as well as airfield life in the North African desert.

Stuck in the desert with little to no contact with Britain, the airmen of Bob's squadron had to overcome the belief they were fighting a “forgotten war.” The lack of coverage the Mediterranean theatre received in British media, which included the BBC news and the London dailies – as opposed to what Bomber Command received – caused many of the crews to feel that they were in a backwater. Even today many historians consider the Mediterranean theatre a lesser campaign.

Wellingtons over the Med is authored by Bob Stowers' son Richard, of Hamilton, New Zealand. In his own words: “When I was a boy I found an old leather suitcase tucked in the rafters of the woolshed. It took me a while to realise the significance of the contents, but I established that my dad had been a bomber pilot in the war. To me he instantly became a real hero in a real war.

“No combat role in the war was easy. Dad witnessed death at 10,000 feet and on the ground. He knew the emotions of combat and the toll it took on the human soul. Like any other bomber pilot, he felt happiness and relief when he sighted his home airfield after returning from combat.

“Dad never talked much about his war experiences. There were bits here and there. But the war certainly defined him. Throughout his life he was known as a quiet, loving and modest man. Many believed he was a perfect gentleman. One would struggle to think he was once a bomber pilot.”

Recommendation for the Distinguished Flying Medal [with 70 RAF Squadron]:

“This N.C.O. has carried out a most successful tour of operations comprising 41 night sorties amounting to 250.35 hours flying during which time he continually displayed a most praiseworthy determination, cool courage and devotion to duty in the face of the enemy. During the Tunisian campaign, he carried out a number of highly successful attacks on the enemy’s heavily defended landing grounds and on the troops and transport concentrated in the battle area. During these attacks, often in adverse weather conditions, he showed great determination in seeking out, illuminating and bombing targets allotted to him. Throughout the Sicilian campaign which included attacks on the heavily defended ports of Messina, Palermo and Catania and during the blitzing of the Italian ports, railways communications and aerodromes, he showed the same undaunted spirit and cool courage, pressing home his attacks with great determination, no matter how stiff the opposition was from the enemy defences. From the very beginning of his tour, this N.C.O. has set a high standard and proved himself to be a steady and excellent operational Captain. I have no hesitation in recommending that his courage and devotion to duty be recognised by the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal (non-immediate).”

An attractive book with 144 landscape pages plus laminated soft cover (244mm x 210mm). The book has over 110 excellent photographs – most of them previously unpublished, plus two maps.