An RAF Officer's Memoir of the Battle of France 1940
By Alastair Panton & Victoria Panton Bacon
A vivid and unique memoir of life as an RAF reconnaissance pilot in France during the summer of 1940. A must for general readers, history fanatics and military enthusiasts alike.
“The clarity of this book … is as surprising as its humanity; it rattles along as both great drama and poignant social commentary … [his story] deserves to be told.” The Times
“What I assumed might be a dutiful skim through yet another war memoir, rapidly turned into one of the most enthralling accounts of a campaign I have ever read.” Best of British
“One can’t help feeling awe and reverence for people like this. There are enough adventures here for a lifetime, let alone six weeks.” Louis de Bernières
“The story is beautifully written … and it is difficult to put down once started. This really would make a wonderful Christmas present.” Iain Carter, Blenheim Society Journal
Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer is the story of the Battle of France through the eyes of an RAF Reconnaissance pilot. This was a battle lost; beginning with the occupation of Belgium and the Netherlands early in May 1940, it ended just six weeks later when the Germans finally took France, by which time thousands of the Allies had been killed, captured or fearfully injured.
The pilot was my Grandfather, Flying Officer Alastair Panton, captain of a Bristol Blenheim light bomber. There is no doubting the moving nature of his book; there is much grief as he recalls the loss of many of his comrades, his brother, those who perished on the Lancastria and finally, when he is shot down for a fourth time, the death of his gunner. However, in spite of sadness and uncertainty all around him, Grandfather writes, too, of friendship, sunrises, bully-beef sandwiches, refugees, washing naked in a river, candles burning in Chartres Cathedral and of course, the joy of flight. It is a barn-storming page turner of a book which recalls, in his words "the stinging heat of a burning Blenheim; smells, tastes, expressions, sounds of voices, the difficulties of landings, and most of all the fear that gripped deep inside him."
I found the book amongst my own father's belongings after he died, a couple of years ago. My father had often tried to teach me key facts about the Second World War, but it wasn't until I read Blenheim Summer - my dear Grandfather's own words, describing the painful reality, that I began to appreciate the horror of war, and then facts, too, started to sink in. I am sure my Grandfather wrote his memoir in the hope that eventually it might see the light of day, and serve as a tribute to those who died and suffered alongside him.
Strategically, the Battle of France was very important; vital, but expensive, lessons were learnt and, thankfully, the Battle of Britain that started so soon after France was occupied, ended victoriously. Next year we will commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War Two, and the seventy-fifth anniversaries of both the Battles of Britain, and France. The Battle of Britain is a well-known, celebrated episode of World War Two that will no doubt - rightfully - be commemorated in all its glory, whilst remembering too those who fell. However, the Battle of France also deserves its rightful place in history and we must remember those who died and suffered during those six weeks too. Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer helps us remember those important, forgotten days.
*Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer is our eBook offer of the day, and is available for just £1.99 until midnight tonight. The hardback is available for just £12, with free UK delivery up until January 5th 2015.