Inspired to write by RAF hero father's experiences
Historian and writer Patrick Otter never met his father, who was killed over the skies of Berlin on December 16, 1943.
Patrick, who was born in Gainsborough and now lives in Immingham and has just released a new book entitled 1 Group Swift To Attack; Bomber Command's Unsung Heroes, says his father's experiences have always been a motivational factor.
"My father was with Bomber Command," says Patrick. "But before the war he was a quantity surveyor, firstly in Gainsborough and then in Scunthorpe. He joined the RAF in 1939 and initially trained as a pilot but had a problem with his eyesight so was sent to Canada to retrain as a navigator. He spent nearly two years in Canada and the USA as an instructor, and the only way to get back to England to my mum and sister, who hadn't seen him for all that time, was to volunteer for operations.
"So he returned in April 1943 and ended up joining 9 Squadron at RAF Bardney. He was killed on the night of December 16, 1943 over Berlin in an air collision with another Lincolnshire Lancaster bomber six months before I was born. So I grew up with a picture of my dad on the wall and that's the only father I knew."
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From an early age, especially as a young journalist working for the Grimsby Telegraph, Patrick's interest in the airfields of Lincolnshire and their history grew and grew.
"Over the years I have built up a considerable collection of information and read a lot of books," he says. "Then in the 1980s I ended up writing a series of three books under the title of Maximum Effort. I launched an appeal for information through the Grimsby Telegraph and Lincolnshire Echo and within matter of weeks I was inundated with material. This coincided with a time when men who served in Bomber Command were all reaching retirement age and many had never talked about their experiences. People get to an age where they start to reflect on pivotal times in their lives. Over the years I have carried on doing this research. Then in 1995 I had a big heart attack and had to take early retirement at 52.
"I was approached by Countryside Books who were doing a series on county airfield history and I did a book for them called Lincolnshire Airfields in the Second World War in 1997 and it's actually still selling. And I did another on Yorkshire's airfields."
Despite offers to write other titles, Patrick had his heart set on focusing on the stories of a group in Bomber Command which went on 57,900 operational sorties resulting in 8,577 aircrew losing their lives.
"I knew a lot about 1 Group but also there's a plethora of books already about 5 Group, lots about 4, 6 and 3," says Patrick on his decision to write this latest book.
"Between 1940-1944 the only real way Britain had to hit back at Germany was through Bomber Command. The Germans had to devote huge resources to combating Bomber Command and most of their aircraft were involved in operations against them. But it was enormously dangerous. The average life expectancy was about six weeks. My father was killed on his fourteenth operation and that was very typical."
1 Group Swift To Attack is illustrated throughout with images of aircraft and pilot profiles.
"My book is about people rather than the nuts and bolts so to speak. I am a journalist and interested in people so you won't find a lot of statistics in this book.
"I have told the stories through the recollections of a lot of the men who flew. After I did those early books I was still left with hundreds of letters from veterans from all over the world and I have tapped into those again. This was an extraordinary generation that did extraordinary things."
1 Group Swift To Attack: Bomber Command's Unsung Heroes by Patrick Otter. Publisher: Pen and Sword Aviation, hardback, £25.