‘The Mallon crew’ is the extraordinary result of four years of research. My decision in 2012 to write a blog about my father’s war-time experiences as the Flight Engineer of a Lancaster bomber took me on an incredible voyage of discovery and unearthed some remarkable stories of courage, sacrifice and betrayal.
As a child growing up in the 1950s I never tired of asking my dad about what he did in the war. I wanted to know all about his role, what flak was like and even how aircraft were able to fly. By the time I left primary school my interest had started to wane and, when he died in 1974 at the age of just 55 I thought I had lost any chance of discovering more about his life. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
Nearly forty years later, with just a handful of photographs, his flying log book and the name of his New Zealand pilot, Bill Mallon, my modest research project into ‘Bob Jay’s war’ uncovered more tragedies than I could have imagined possible and connected me with the families of all but one of my dad’s crew. It even gave me the opportunity to talk to a man of 94 who had flown with my dad and to find a photograph of my dad’s aircraft flying to his last target.
This book is not about a squadron, nor is it about individual acts of heroism, it is about the Mallon crew, a small group of unremarkable men thrown together briefly during the last few months of the war and the amazing way in which their stories have unfolded seventy years later. I defy anyone not to be moved by their experiences nor to marvel at the power of the internet to bring people together.