Band of Eagles

Written by Frank Barnard
Review by Melinda Hammond

Summer 1941. Malta is held by the British and is strategic for supplies and defence in the continuing war effort. Englishman Kit Curtis and American Ossie Wolf are both flight commanders and seemingly complete opposites, the one fair-minded and chivalrous, the other implacably ruthless, but they are both striving to prevent Malta falling into enemy hands. The pilots dream of Spitfires but manage with Hurricanes that their ground crews keep going with a cheerful philosophy of make do and mend, salvaging what they can from old planes to keep the pilots in the air.

This is Barnard’s second novel, and it gives a vivid picture of the RAF’s struggle to defend Malta. There’s enough technical detail to give an authentic feel to the art of flying ageing Hurricanes, but it never gets in the way of the story. Barnard’s short, snappy style gives pace to the narrative and excellent scene-setting takes the reader into the hot and uncomfortable world of the besieged island, while flashbacks to give the reader some insight into the characters’ former lives. A fascinating story told with verve and affection.