The Last Torpedo Flyers
Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, Arthur Aldridge left Oxford University to volunteer for the RAF at the age of nineteen. He became a torpedo pilot, airmen who were sent on raids to bomb enemy shipping. The missions were incredibly dangerous, with most men never returning. Now in his 90s, Mr. Aldridge has produced a book of edge-of-the-seat action and unimaginable grief and terror that puts most novels in the shade.
The story builds beautifully, drawing the reader in from his first-hand experience. Mr. Aldridge’s accounts of his training show his pure love of flight and the joy that it brings, but we know that there are very dark days ahead. Mr. Aldridge’s stories of his missions are nothing short of masterful; getting lost at night over France, not knowing if an enemy gun is trained on them, and flying over the sea near the Dutch coast under heavy gunfire, and seeing his friend crash to his death into the waves. Equally engaging is the portrayal of Mr. Aldridge’s relationship with his gunner, Bill Carroll. Mr. Carroll contributes much to the book, again with first-person accounts. The two men couldn’t be more different, but they developed a close bond that has lasted for seven decades.
The highly-decorated Mr. Aldridge says he never spoke of the war because ‘there didn’t seem to be any reason to go on about it.’ I am so pleased that, with the impeccable assistance of Mark Ryan, he did. A wonderful, heart-wrenching read that I cannot recommend highly enough.