First Light

First Light

Paperback

By (author) Geoffrey Wellum

List price $14.04

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  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Format: Paperback | 352 pages
  • Dimensions: 129mm x 199mm x 25mm | 284g
  • Publication date: 1 May 2003
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0141008148
  • ISBN 13: 9780141008141
  • Illustrations note: 16pp b&w photographs
  • Sales rank: 420,044

Product description

'An extraordinary, deeply moving and astonishingly evocative story. Reading it, you feel you are in the Spitfire with him, at 20,000 feet, chased by a German Heinkel, with your ammunition gone' - "Independent". Two months before the outbreak of WWII, seventeen year old Geoffrey Wellum left school to become a fighter pilot with the RAF. He made it through basic training to become the youngest Spitfire pilot in the prestigious 92 Squadron. Thrust into combat almost immediately, Wellum found himself flying several sorties a day, caught up in terrifying dogfights with German Me 109s. Published more than fifty years afterwards, "First Light" is Geoffrey Wellum's gripping memoir of his experiences as a fighter pilot during WWII.

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Author information

Geoffrey Wellum joined the RAF in 1939 when he was just seventeen years old and served with 92 Squadron throughout the Battle of Britain. In 1942 he went to 65 Squadron at Debden as a Flight Commander and from there to Malta later that year. He led eight Spitfires off HMS Furious to Luqa during Operation Pedestal. He now lives in Mullion in Cornwall and has three children.

Review quote

'An extraordinary, deeply moving and astonishingly evocative story. Reading it, you feel you are in the Spitfire with him, at 20,000 feet, chased by a German Heinkel, with your ammunition gone' Independent

Editorial reviews

Early in the spring of 1939, Geoffrey Wellum applied to join the RAF. He was a sixth-former at a boarding school in the home counties, oddly unaware that war was only a few months away, and as keen as mustard to fly fighter planes. This book is his diary, the record of a teenager hastily trained and then hurled into the most devastating war in the air that the world has ever seen. Flying school is quickly dealt with, and early in 1940 the 18-year-old finds himself posted to a squadron on active service. Once he wins his coveted 'wings' he becomes part of a peripatetic outfit, 92 Squadron, and soon the squadron is in the thick of things. Wellum's enthralling memoir appears to be stitched together from notes written in the dispersal hut while edgily waiting for the order to 'scramble' and take off in a Spitfire after marauding enemy bombers and their vicious fighter support. You never, he wrote at the age of 19 (and a virgin), lose the feeling of fear, but you do become reconciled to it. 'Ops' could happen up to three times a day, and the stress on the young men was terrible, increased by the regular flow of pilots who failed to make it back to base. Once the Battle of Britain was won (and hard won, at that), Wellum went on to escort bombing squadrons into mainland Europe, with more narrow escapes that are deeply harrowing to read. When, as an old hand, he was retired from front-line service as a Flight Commander, he was just 20 years old. This is a wonderful and moving memoir: 'I feel so grateful for being one of this band of fighter pilots in this hour of our country's history,' he writes. And so should we. (Kirkus UK)