Angus Findon, Thunderbolts over Burma (Pen & Sword, 2020)
Angus Findon was almost too late to the party. As a newly trained pilot, only joining his squadron in 1945, Findon knew the war was all but done. In Europe, it was, but in the Far East, not so much. The RAF shipped Findon out to Burma to fly Republic P-47 Thunderbolts as the British and their allies winkled out the Japanese. That led to the Battle of Sittang Bend, which effectively ended the Burma campaign. Thunderbolts over Burma is Findon’s memoir, ably assisted by Mark Hillier.
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Findon’s memoir follows the usual arc of enlisting, training, joining his squadron, combat, then the war ended. Two things make this memoir stand out, however: Findon flew Thunderbolts and did so over Burma, both quite unusual circumstances for the World War II bookshelf. I should add that all his active service took place over seven months. The RAF replaced their Hurricanes with Thunderbolt IIs just as Findon joined 34 Squadron, one of sixteen to fly ground attack operations against the Japanese. It was an effective warplane, which the Japanese army quickly grew to fear. Findon’s second stroke of luck was arriving in Burma in time to develop his skills before taking part against the attempted mass Japanese breakouts at Sittang Bend and Pegu Yoma in July 1945. Unfortunately for them, the British had been tipped off and a slaughter ensued. For hours at a time, Findon flew missions, bombing and strafing Japanese troops and positions, throughout July and into August until there were no Japanese left to hunt. After the War, Findon flew jets, though he didn’t like them much, and he ended his service in England. That is where he also ends his memoir. The rest of the book, nearly half of it, is taken up by appendices on summaries of operations, extracts from despatches on Sittang Bend and Operation Birdcage, and reproductions from Findon’s pilot’s logbook.
Although his memoir is short, Findon is an engaging storyteller. He is perhaps too self-effacing at times, and he was clearly a better pilot than he describes. Findon also does not sugar-coat some of the more unpleasant aspects of his time in the RAF, particularly when it comes to over-officious senior commanders. My only quibble with this book was the lack of attention to accurate proofreading, but that doesn’t detract from the story. Indeed, Findon’s memoir is worth reading for his narration and description of service life in Burma and India, and aviation enthusiasts will undoubtedly enjoy it.