‘Coming Down in the Drink”

“Coming Down in the Drink” is the (slightly misleading) title of an Irish airman’s full-blown war-time flying record. The book covers most of his life, from the bleak days of his youth in County Kilkenny, all through the 2nd World War, his service in the peacetime RAF and his subsequent civilian career.

PENSW_BrennanJohn Brennan emerges from this book as a sturdy, independent individual who ran away from home at 16 years of age, was successful in a number of civilian jobs in the late 1930’s and enlisted as an airman in the RAF during the summer of 1940. His preference was to be an air-gunner but, as a result of the twisted military logic that sometimes sends experienced truck drivers to a cook’s school, he ended up being trained as a wireless operator.

The book follows John through his training and his posting as a Sergeant to an operational squadron flying Vickers Wellingtons in the North African desert. It provides the reader with a graphic view of the desert war, as well as the dangers and mishaps that occurred during that hectic time.
Teething troubles with a new, Merlin powered version of the Wellington that caused loss of life, sand storms and maintenance problems in the desert and of course enemy action. During this tour, John becomes a member of the ‘Goldfish Club’ as his Wellington has to ditch near the African coast and the crew has to paddle to safety.

At the end of his ‘desert tour’ (40 operational missions as an air-gunner / wireless operator) John is posted to an OTU in Kinloss (Scotland). Frequent crashes caused by the combination of bad weather, mountainous terrain and inexperienced aircrews make this assignment nearly as lethal as fighting the enemy. In November 1943 John is promoted to officer. His two years of instructing end in mid-1944 and he is assigned to an operational bomber squadron equipped with Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers. He completes a second tour of twenty missions in March 1945, surviving raids on heavily defended targets in Germany and France. John is awarded the DFC in September 1945.

The book is well written and gives a personal view of the war, interspersed with statements by John. It is also very detailed – down to the serial numbers of individual aircraft mentioned in the narrative. I recommend this book to those who are deeply interested in the history of bomber command.

Published by Pen & Sword Aviation (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
ISBN 978 147389153 1
190 Pages

Reviewers note on “The Goldfish Club”.

C. A. Robertson, the Chief Draftsman at the PB Cow & Co., (manufacturers of air-sea rescue equipment), decided to form an exclusive club for airmen who owed their lives to their life jacket, dinghy, etc. The club was formed in November, 1942 and named The Goldfish Club: gold for the value of life, and fish for the water. Each member was presented with a heat-sealed waterproof membership card and an embroidered badge. Uniform dress regulations prohibited the wearing of the Goldfish Club badge on British and American uniforms but many RAF & USAAF airmen placed their badge under the flap of their left hand uniform pocket.


About Kingsleyr

Thank you for visiting my blog! The posts you find here are a direct result of my research into aviation and military history. I use the information I gather as a foundation and background for my books. You may call the genre historical fiction, a story woven into a background of solid and verifiable historical facts. However, the period and region I have chosen to write about (late 1930's - 1950's in South-East Asia) are jam-packed with interesting information and anecdotes. If I'd used them all I would swamp the stories. So this blog is the next best thing. It is an "overflow area" in which I can publish whatever I think will interest you. And from the reactions I get, I deduce I am on the right track. A lot will be about aviation in the former Dutch East Indies. This, because my series of books ("The Java Gold") follows a young Dutch pilot in his struggle to survive the Pacific War and its aftermath. But there's more in the world and you'll find descriptions of cities, naval operations and what not published on this blog. Something about myself; I am a Dutch-Canadian author, living in, and working out of the magical city of Amsterdam. My lifelong interest in history and aviation, especially WW2, has led me to write articles and books on these subjects. I hope you'll enjoy them!
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3 Responses to ‘Coming Down in the Drink”

  1. GP Cox says:

    Thank you for the tip. This sounds like a very good memoir, and first hand stories bring the war into perspective.


  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    He was a survivor!


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