Group Capt. Leonard Cheshire

If you want to find the real Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC you have first to read the brilliantly written biography "Cheshire VC" by Russell Braddon. Like Bader, Cheshire captured the imagination of the public, and after the war his change of role from master bomber to organiser of good works continued to keep him in the spotlight, to the extent of his being recommended to the Pope for a sainthood. He is dead now, and that may improve his chances of getting it, but his chestful of medals may not have impressed the other saints up there, even though his VC is accompanied by a DSO and two bars, plus a DFC.

Succeeding Wing Commander Guy Gibson as commander of the 617 Dam Buster Squadron, he helped to perfect new bombing techniques and with what has been described as an ice-cold brain and hair-raising tactics won the admiration of his crews. A daring pilot, he flew so low at times as to have guns firing down on him. His V.C. citation read: "He has a reputation second to none in Bomber Command."

Russell Braddon, endeavoured to find out what made this outstanding air ace tick, and aided by Cheshire himself told the whole story from his childhood, his love of adventure and fast cars: The account of his war years was compiled from operational reports and diaries, up to his flight with Sir William Penney to watch the atom bombing of Nagasaki.

After the war Cheshire suffered a serious breakdown. He went to Canada where he "roughed it" for a while and then met a man who changed his whole outlook. His Cheshire Homes became famous but he was still not without his problems.

When the book by Braddon came out it received rave reviews. General Sir Brian Horrocks wrote of it: "I honestly believe that this is one of the most brilliantly descriptive pieces of writing I have ever read."

The Sphere said it was likely to prove one of the most discussed and publicised of books, and there were many similar comments by the literary critics.


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