The thing that cuts into your mind when you read remarkable books like this is age.

The age of so many of the men who served their country during war.

Young ages.

Like a young Lancaster bomber pilot with 75 (NZ) Squadron by the name of Ron Clark who was just three weeks short of his 23rd birthday, and making his debut as second pilot before getting the nod to fly with his own crew, who ended up scrambling for his life after the bomber was shot down by a German fighter.


But Clark was lucky.

He had been able to bale out as the aircraft began to come apart in flames.

The aircraft's bomb aimer, a lad by the name of Stephen Cook from Gore, was not so lucky and lost his life.

A young life ... he was just 21.

It is a cruelly common and eventually familiar theme throughout this book which is the third in a series by writer and historian Max Lambert.

The earlier works, Night After Night (bombers) and Day After Day (fighters) were equally gripping and equally capable of making the reader stop to take stock of what they had just read.

Like the respect and honour accorded to a young man called Bob O'Kane who became good mates with a lad called Bruce Barton after they entered the RNZAF together.

They were in the same squadron and served on the same numerous operations.


And they died together after their Liberator bomber was shot down.

It crashed on O'Kane's 23rd birthday and his body was the only one found - washed up on a beach near Brest in France.

Locals built a coffin and had him buried in in the Poullan cemetery, and a little 5-year-old boy who witnessed the coffin being built and the burial never forgot it.

He wrote "In November every year, for many years, I went with my grandfather to the grave of this young airman who died for peace, far from his native country not even threatened by war. A small act to honour his sacrifice".

This powerful and meticulously researched archive covers the final chapters of World War II.

The years of 1944 and 1945 as the allies edged toward victory.

A victory which took so many sacrifices, and which resulted in so many remarkable stories - which the author has captured.

The run-in to D-Day and the coastal squadrons which went in search of U-boats.

And the great airborne push into Arnhem which resulted in some terrible statistics.

Among the many names are a couple of Hawke's Bay veterans - Noel Sutherland and Trevor Mullinder - with Mr Sutherland recalling the remarkable sights on D-Day.

"There were so many landing craft they churned up the sea, making it look like Cook Strait in a strong northwester."

This was published to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day on June 6 and it does that superbly.

The boys in the aircraft of war attained their victory, and Mr Lambert has attained his own victory in telling their stories so very well. And we are all the richer for it.