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Adventures of a Cold War Fast-Jet Navigator: The Buccaneer Years by David Herriot

Thanks to AG and his contacts at Pen and Sword for supplying this book which I spotted in a mailed catalogue. My interest was piqued because I spent quite a substantial portion of my early life working on Buccaneers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which due to it not yet being available in print was supplied in electronic format; however it wasn’t without its problems.

But let’s look at the positives first.

The book is about far more than life as a Buccaneer navigator in the RAF. Roughly the first third of the book is dedicated to the author’s childhood and schooling. Whilst I’m a few years younger than the author, I could relate to quite a lot of his experiences; in fact his writing brought back many memories of my own childhood. I had to smile at the idea of the author ‘drawing’ the living room fire by using the Glasgow Herald: I was doing the same a couple of years later but using the Nuneaton Tribune.

It’s these little things, the personal memories that make biographies so interesting, and we need to continue recording these everyday experiences for the future generations to enjoy.

As the author progresses into the RAF and training on the Bucc’s, I was captivated by the thoroughness of everything. His tales made me smile, they made me respect and admire the rigours that aircrew are subjected to. I had more than a grin as he described the rear cockpit as an ergonomic slum: I’d spent many an hour or two installing that slum!

I found the tales from Red Flag and Maple Flag enthralling. In fact, most of the exercises mentioned were worth reading about. In truth, I learned something from every one of them.

However, the book wasn’t all plain sailing and at times it was a real struggle to keep on with it. As the author’s career developed it seemed to become nothing more than, training exercise, drink and sleep: repeat ad nauseum. The latter stages of the book really did start to become boring. Many of the pranks became rather tame and unfunny.

A few chapters were overly long and often poorly formatted into suitable paragraphs. – I accept that some of my complaints about formatting might be due to my electronic copy. Early in the book the author made comments about not using too many acronyms. I think he told a few fibs there, the text is littered with them and although a glossary is provided (impracticable with an electronic version) it would have helped massively had the normal convention of spelling them out during first use been adopted.

Amazon product

I’ll rate this book at 3 1/2 anchors but with a little effort it could be so much more. In my opinion, Pen and Sword are selling this one short. To summarise, it’s like the Curate’s egg: very good in parts, not so good in others.