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For Christmas in 1942 my Mum and Dad gave me a book by Noel Monks. That book changed my life. 

Noel Monks  was the Daily Mail War Correspondent with the RAF in France, who told the story of the RAF fighter pilots in No 1 and No 73 Fighter Squadrons which were attached to the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF) from September 1939 to the eve of France’s capitulation in June 1940. I was a young boy eager to read about my heroes. 

Australian Les Clisby and ‘Fighter Pilot’ Raul Richey served with 1 Squadron and New Zealander Cobber Kain with 73 Squadron.

The opening chapter commences innocently enough …

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I continued to read. I was in " the book. " 

When first I read this book, as a 10 year old at Christmas time in 1942, I was excited.

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The book went on and I flew and fought with my heroes. 

 My book went on and I eagerly read what happened next.

But things went wrong. My heroes died.

“The young officers lift their dead comrade from the wreckage. A mechanic climbs into the cockpit of the Magister. He switches off the engine” 

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The stark finality of the last five words escaped me. Now, almost 80 years later, I cannot read them without tears.

 

 

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I have read many books that have inspired me.

But none like the one from my childhood.

I have gone on to read such books as The Cruel Sea; a 1951 novel by Nicholas Monsarrat. It follows the lives of a group of Royal Navy sailors fighting the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War. It contains seven chapters, each describing a year during the war.

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The novel, based on the author's experience of serving in corvettes and frigates in the North Atlantic in the Second World War, gives a matter-of-fact but moving portrayal of ordinary men learning to fight and survive in a violent, exhausting battle against the elements and a ruthless enemy.

A town like Alice by Neville Shute. Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman, becomes romantically interested in a fellow prisoner of World War II in Malaya, and after liberation emigrates to Australia to be with him.

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Being a pre teenager in those early years of WW 2 we were all immersed in the excitement of current events, although due to censorship we really were unaware of what was actually happening … no detail of the Darwin bombing for example.

The world is now facing many new challenges, but of a very different nature, and new skills will be needed to overcome them. If we can summon the same spirit of resolve, we will overcome.

But reading history makes me think we have a better chance. 

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