RAF Bomber Command in fact, film and fiction, UK First Edition, 1996
Subject of the book
This is a thoroughly researched and well-presented exposition of Bomber Command during the war and beyond. It's not simply a history; rather, it's a broader analysis of how the organisation and its flyers and technologies have been represented, both during wartime and subsequently. One particularly interesting aspect of the book is its examination of how Bomber Command was represented in literary and movie fiction. Naturally, Len Deighton's 1970 nove Bomber, which focuses on the crew of a fictional Lancaster bomber on a raid over Germany, is covered by Falconer.
In the section of the book covering novels and stories touching on the exploits of bombers during wartime, Falconer describes Deighton's novel as "a quite exceptional examination of life on an RAF bomber station."
Deighton providing a foreword to this book seemed an obvious choice and he was, by all account, very pleased to be approached by Falconer to do so, noting that he wished something akin to this book had been available in the late 'sixties when he began work on his classic novel. Deighton references his frequent focus on hard and reliable research as essential to the success of his writing and his fastidious approach to getting details right, not just in his novel but in the later radio adaptation of it by the BBC.
This fastidious approach is referenced when Len writes about his desire to include the Junkers Ju 88 nightfighters in the novel, a plane which was more difficult to research than he expected. However, he recounts how, with thanks to the historians at the Imperial War Museum, he was given access to a box of unmarked and uncatalogued German 16-mm training films, from which he was able to learn as much as he needed to about the plane. In return, all he was asked to do was catalogue what was on each reel.
Deighton's foreword necessarily also touches on some of the controversies surrounding the portrayal of Bomber Command in the media and in fiction, and concludes that the history of Bomber command and its exploits over Germany is something on which few historians will totally agree.
'Every day, at the crack of dawn, I was at the door of the museum impatient to get to the editing bench. Eventually I found boxes filled with Luftwaffe aircrew training films concerning the Ju 88. By the time I had been through it all I felt qualified to build a Junkers Ju 88, let alone fly one, land one, extiguish fires on one, or escape from one by parachute. Later, the RAF let me climb around inside a Junkers Ju 88 that they discovered in a storage hangar.'