First Light

First Light : The Centenary Collection

4.49 (1,997 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

In 1918, the RAF was established as the world's first independent air force. To mark the 100th anniversary of its creation, Penguin are publishing the Centenary Collection, a series of six classic books highlighting the skill, heroism esprit de corps that have characterised the Royal Air Force throughout its first century.

Two months before the outbreak of the Second World War, eighteen-year-old Geoffrey Wellum becomes a fighter pilot with the RAF...

Desperate to get in the air, he makes it through basic training to become the youngest Spitfire pilot in the prestigious 92 Squadron. Thrust into combat almost immediately, Wellum finds himself flying several sorties a day, caught up in terrifying dogfights with German Me 109s.

Over the coming months he and his fellow pilots play a crucial role in the Battle of Britain. But of the friends that take to the air alongside Wellum many never return.

The Centenary Collection:
1. The Last Enemy by Richard Hillary
2. Tumult in the Clouds by James Goodson
3. Going Solo by Roald Dahl
4. First Light by Geoffrey Wellum
5. Tornado Down by John Peters & John Nichol
6. Immediate Response by Mark Hammond
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Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 111 x 181 x 21mm | 221g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 16pp
  • 0241984343
  • 9780241984345
  • 90,100

Review quote

Amazing fresh and immediate . . . absolutely honest, it is an extraordinarily gripping and powerful story * Evening Standard * Vivid, wholly convincing, compelling. One of the best memoirs for years about the experience of flying in war -- Max Hastings * Sunday Telegraph * A brilliantly fresh, achingly written memoir. Thrilling and frightening on virtually page . . . Wellum takes you into battle with him. A book for all ages and generations, a treasure * Daily Express * An extraordinarily deeply moving and astonishingly evocative story. Reading it, you feel you are in the Spitfire with him, at 20,000ft, chased by a German Heinkel, with your ammunition gone * Independent * No other account of flying in the Battle of Britain has been articulated as well as Geoffrey's in First Light * Daily Express * Wellum's story is astonishing . . . moving yet startlingly clear-eyed * Telegraph * One of the most gripping personal accounts of aerial warfare ever written * Guardian * There have been countless books about the Battle of Britain. But the combination of immediacy - Geoffrey Wellum had jotted down notes in an exercise book at the time - and distance - another 35 years would pass before he expanded his notes into a narrative - gives this account extraordinary depth and resonance . . . First Light will rank among the finest of Second World War memoirs * Independent * Amazingly fresh and immediate . . . absolutely honest, it is an extraordinarily gripping and powerful story * Evening Standard * A brilliantly fresh, achingly written memoir. Thrilling and frightening on virtually every page . . . Wellum takes you into battle with him. A book for all ages and generations, a treasure * Daily Express * An extraordinarily deeply moving and astonishingly evocative story. Reading it, you feel you are in the Spitfire with him, at 20,000ft, chased by a German Heinkel, with your ammunition gone * Independent * An intimate account . . . rich in detail * Wall Street Journal, 'Five Best World War II Memoirs' * It took him 35 years to turn his notebooks into a narrative, and the result is a highly personal account of what it is like to face mortal combat, day and night, and what it does to a man who is barely more than a boy -- Ben Macintyre Vivid, wholly convincing, compelling. One of the best memoirs for years about the experience of flying in war -- Max Hastings * Sunday Telegraph *
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About Geoffrey Wellum

Geoffrey Wellum was born in Walthamstow, and educated at Forest School, Snaresbrook. Aged seventeen, he joined the RAF on a short-service commission in August 1939 and served with 92 Squadron throughout the Battle of Britain. In March 1942 he went to 65 Squadron at Debden as a Flight Commander and from there to Malta later that year. He led a group of eight Spitfires off HMS Furious to Luqa during Operation Pedestal.

Returning to England, Wellum became a test pilot on Typhoons at Gloster Aircraft. He later became a gunnery instructor until the end of the war. He stayed in the RAF after 1945, serving in Germany as a staff officer, followed by a four-year tour of duty with 192 Squadron. Wellum left the RAF in 1961 to take up a position with a firm of commodity brokers in the City of London until his retirement to Cornwall. He died in July 2018, aged ninety-six.
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Rating details

1,997 ratings
4.49 out of 5 stars
5 63% (1,249)
4 27% (538)
3 8% (165)
2 2% (30)
1 1% (15)
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