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Of Sons and Skies

About the book

Of sons and skies reveals the extraordinary, dangerous and deadly activity that took place over Europe and the Far East during the Second World War.


Seventy years on, the British public have settled into accepting a simplified, sanitised perception of how airmen successfully resisted the menace of German aerial aggression. Celebrations of the Battle of Britain and the Dambusters, alongside TV programmes compressing six years of deadly challenge, have caused people to think the whole thrust of aerial activity was neatly straightforward and wonderfully fruitful.

In fact, it was extremely difficult to convey armed planes across the sea to try to damage enemy forces, factories or civil facilities; a terrifying prospect in bad weather, facing guns on the ground, or aboard fast fighter planes determined to inhibit your passage. More than 70,000 of the young men who volunteered to impose aerial aggression on our enemies died in the process.

Of sons and skies by Robert Arley explores amazing activities with staggering consequences for the exponents of the flying and the recipients of the ordnance, as experienced by men and women right across the world shortly before we were born.


So far, we have gained these endorsements:


 'Fascinating and accessible'   Kay Stevens, Ledbury Book Group

'Brilliant'  Air Vice Marshal Paul Robinson, International Bomber Command Centre, Lincoln 

'Tremendously engaging'  Bernard Cartwright, TV documentary maker

                                 'Excellent’ Gerald Brookes, historian and broadcaster                                

'Boldly tells a story differently'  Kate Barker, literary agent

‘Terrific’  John Elkington, Malvern U3A

'Has filled in some of the silences my father took with him to the grave'  John Milton Whatmore, TV director

‘I couldn’t put it down’  Ian Beer, ex-Headmaster, Harrow School

'distinct, thorough - a very interesting, different slant'  Aviation News, NZ

'Magnificent… I heartily recommend it'  Christine Sylvester, President, Worcestershire History Society



1. Something in the air – evolving aircraft achievements and political priorities across a fractious Europe prior to 1939; the chilling gap between boastful Hendon air show displays and preparations for the real thing.


2. What a start – four frightful months of clumsy British endeavours against a vigorous enemy. Scattering leaflets across Germany; dropping bombs over naval vessels in the North Sea to avoid harming civilians.


3. Luftwaffe overhead – Churchill challenging the advance of Germany in 1940; the Daily Express perspectives on the issues of the day; Hitler pops in to Paris; aerial dog-fights over Kent and London, followed by exposure to night bombing around the UK – the Blitz – for which there seemed no effective deterrent.


4. What will stop this? – 1941 Daily Mirror reports & comment; troubled UK defence endeavours, possible scientific solutions. The Luftwaffe are directed towards Russia while Britain attempts to take the explosive experience to Germany. Then the Japanese attack the USA, abruptly changing belligerent parameters.


Read a Sample from Chapter 4


5. Where on earth are they? – the mushrooming of conflict across the globe and the deployment of RAF squadrons to distant theatres in 1942. The cost of domestic damage; the role of women in air forces; Italian intentions across the Mediterranean; air-sea rescue efforts; commentary from The Times.


6. Across the North Sea again and again - RAF and US bomber fleets develop industrial systems of ordnance delivery. 1943 Daily Mail headlines; poor ‘Dambuster’ results; improving equipment; hammering Hamburg; becoming a prisoner-of-war; tackling hornets’ nests of Japanese resistance.


7. Shifting frontiers – 1944 attempts to damage Berlin and kill Hitler; American aerial theory and practice; wrecking Italian railways; Pacific aircraft carrier operations; preparations for D-Day; Daily Telegraph encouragement; the arrival of vengeance rockets.


8. When will this end? – crescendo of endeavours to break the will of the enemy with explosives in 1945; observations on the final days from the above publications.


9. So what have we learnt?’ – reflections on the repercussions: the ruins and rubble across Germany; the legacy of Hiroshima; harrowing events that resulted in a very peaceful and prosperous Europe.


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