When I was very young, my father showed me a little blue felt-covered logbook. Dad also showed me some old black and white photographs of a handsome young man in an Air Force uniform. This, he told me, was my great great uncle Jack, who had been a bomber navigator in WWII. The logbook was Jack’s. He had been killed flying over France in 1944 – aged just 22.
As I grew up I became steadily more fascinated by the Man in the Photograph. Who was he? What was he doing in a Lancaster? Why didn’t he come back? My interest grew to include all things aeronautical as I finished school then gained a pilots licence, a degree in aviation and eventually a job in the industry.
Around the age of 23 I had a flash of inspiration. In part this came from the realisation that I was now older than Jack had been when he was killed, a thought that was suddenly quite confronting. I’d done a little bit of research around the age of 12 and again at about 18, but this time I had some proper academic research skills and a bit of spare time on my hands to get deeper into it. From this has developed Something Very Big. Over the last few years, I’ve uncovered a lot of information. I’ve traced the families of – to date – five of the seven men from Jack’s crew. I’ve gathered a worldwide network of contacts. I’ve even been overseas twice in an attempt to find out more.
Here were seven young men, from vastly different backgrounds, all by immense forces well beyond their control or understanding brought together to the one place at the one time – inside that Lancaster as it flew over Northern France in May 1944. They were normal, everyday lads caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I’ve realised that it’s a fascinating story and it’s one that deserves to be told.
I would like to be the one to tell that story. I’m hoping over the next few years to gather enough information to write a book. A book that will tell the story of the seven lads. Where they came from. Who they were. What they did. Why they were there. What happened next.
So, finally, I come to the point of the post. I’m hoping to use this blog to chart the course of creating the book. Not only should it be a straight record of the how and the what, but I’m also planning to use it to bounce ideas around in my head before committing them to paper – as a sort of jumping-off point. I’m not trained as either a historian or as a writer – so I will also use it to improve my writing skills as I go along.
If anyone wishes to inflict upon themselves the unrefined scribblings of an undeveloped author, I’d be grateful for any comments as I go along.
(c) 2010 Adam Purcell