I am delighted to share my review today for Pathfinders by Cecil Lewis. This is a wartime classis that is being republished by the Imperial War Museum.
I wish to thank Anne at Random Things tours for my spot on the Blog Tour and for arranging my copy of the book.
Here is some information about the Imperial War Museum…
IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts
involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.
Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas
and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our
five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to
look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and
consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.
IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, which will open
extensive new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries in autumn 2021; IWM North, housed in an
iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation
museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret
headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS TO PUBLISH ANOTHER NOVEL IN THEIR WARTIME CLASSICS SERIES FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE FAMOUS MEMOIR SAGITTARIUS RISING
In May 2021, IWM will publish two more novels in their Wartime Classics series which was launched in
September 2019 to great acclaim, bringing the total novels in the series to ten. Each has been brought back
into print to enable a new generation of readers to hear stories of those who experienced conflict firsthand.
First published in 1944 and set over the course of one night in 1942, the story follows the fate of six crew
members of a Wellington bomber ‘P for Pathfinder’ thrown together by chance from different corners of the
world. They each reflect on the paths of their own lives, as they embark on a fateful mission deep into the
heart of Nazi Germany. Cecil Lewis’ novel examines the life of every man in turn, rendering a moving
account of each as not merely a nameless crew member, but as an individual with a life lived, ‘a life precious
to some, or one… these men with dreams and hopes and plans of things to come.”
Cecil Lewis was a flying instructor for the RAF during the Second World War where he taught hundreds of
pilots to fly, including his own son. It was while doing this training that he wrote Pathfinders. Pupils were
graded by the time it took them to fly solo – the best became fighters and then bombers. The RAF’s Bomber
Command was the only branch of the armed forces that could take direct action against Germany and in
1942 the strategic air offensive changed from precision to area bombing where whole cities were targeted in
order to destroy factories as well as the morale of those who worked in them.
The ‘pathfinders’ of the story were needed because often the bombers could not find the towns and cities
they were destined to attack at night, let alone the industrial centres within. The crew used coloured marker
flares to guide the bombers to their targets and the crews selected (often from the USA, Canada and NZ as
well as Britain) were the best night flying crews who were able to find the target unaided. As a pilot who
took part in both World Wars, Cecil Lewis brings his unique experience to bear, shining a light on this vital
and sometimes contested aspect of Britain’s Second World War focusing on the sacrifice made by the Allied
airmen it depicts.
IWM Senior Curator, Alan Jeffreys, has written an introduction to each book that provides context and the
wider historical background. He says, ‘researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable
projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and
helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.
I am so glad that The Imperial War Museum has republished this book. Originally published in 1944 I was expecting a book that focused mainly on World WarII, instead, I got a great book that told me of individuals and their personal lives.
Pathfinders is a fabulous read and the focus is on the crew of P for Pathfinder, a Wellington bomber. The crew are of mixed nationalities from as far afield as Canada and Australia. The author begins this book with quite a sombre opening and gives details of where the war is at, or at what stage it is at. He then goes onto delve into the background of each of the crew.
Each crew member gets a chapter and the author gives a brief history of the parents and living conditions or lifestyles of the time. It then goes into more detail about the crew member and how or why they made the journey to join up.
This is a very insightful and quite a poignant book that has some wonderful descriptions and observations, at times it leans toward a literary fiction style and I found these sections to be such a pleasure to read. It is not an action-packed book as such but it does feel very personal.
There is an introduction at the beginning of the book from one of the historians of the museum. I didn’t read this as I just wanted to get straight into the story, but I did glance over it afterwards.
This is a book that I really enjoyed, it gives each crew member a face and a story rather than just being part of a bomber. It is a book that readers who like WWII accounts, stories and historical fiction readers will enjoy. Something a little different for me compared to my usual reads and one I would recommend.
About the Author…
Cecil Lewis (1898 – 1997) was a British fighter ace in the First World War and his
memoir Sagittarius Rising became a classic of the literature from that war, considered by many to be the
definitive account of aerial combat. He was a flying instructor for the RAF during the Second World War where he taught hundreds of pilots to fly, including his own son. After the war he was one of the founding
executives of the BBC and enjoyed friendships with many of the creative figures of the day, including George
Bernard Shaw, winning an Academy Award for co-writing the 1938 film adaptation of Shaw’s Pygmalion. He
had a long and varied career but retained a passion for flying all his life. In 1969 he sailed a boat to Corfu
where he spent the remainder of his life, dying two months short of his 99th birthday. He was the last
surviving British fighter ace of the First World War.
Check out the other stops on the Blog Tour…
Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx