Friday, October 28, 2005

Memories of WWII air war.

A Walk In The Valley, by Robert C. Kensett, General Store Publishing, Burnstown, 120 pages, photographs.

Each time one reads a memoir by Allied veterans of the bomber war over Europe during World War Two, one is struck by their astonishingly matter-of-fact attitude about their bravery and what they accomplished. The title refers to the Biblical "valley of the shadow of death;" highly appropriate, considering that more than 10,000 Canadian airmen died during the British air offensive against Nazi Germany.
One of the lucky survivors was Robert Kensett, who volunteered to join the Royal Canadian Air Force and served three years as a navigator aboard Halifax bomber aircraft. Navigators were considered the "brainy" members of aircrew, with their requirement for mathematical and map-reading skills. They were responsible for directing the aircraft to target destinations and finding the way home again. Navigators did so despite their relatively primitive equipment and having to cope with foul weather, most often in darkness. Kensett was typical of the young volunteer flyers of his era, and recounts his dangerous experiences with modesty and humour.
Some of the impact of his book is lost early on though, by the way he starts with a sort of family history preamble. It gives the initial impression of a personal memoir aimed primarily for his relatives and friends. However, once he does get into his wartime service, interest quickens, and he is wise enough to include a good deal of minutiae about military aircraft routine.
The reproductions of pages from his actual flying operations and target charts convey rare details seldom available today. Though numerous other memoirs of Second World War experiences have been published, the specific details included in A Walk In The Valley will be of particular interest to air combat buffs.
-- Sidney Allinson.