________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 6 . . . . November 12, 1999

cover Crumbs!

John Ough.
Burnstown, ON: General Store Publishing House, 1999.
170 pp., pbk., $19.95.
ISBN 1-894263-02-2.

Subject Headings:
World War, 1939-1945-Aerial operations, British.
World War, 1939-1945-Personal narratives, British.
Fighter pilots-Great Britain-Biography.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Alexander Gregor.

*** /4

Crumbs, a childhood nickname given the author by an unimpressed sister, is what might be labeled a fortunate war story. Although anxious to be part of the fray, and doing all he could to speed his progress, the author, John Ough, in the end found that his age limited his experiences to preparation and spared him ultimate conflict. The book is engagingly and humorously written, starting with a very interesting informal social history of life in pre-war England: one boy's comparatively happy and carefree elementary school life during the nineteen thirties, and an adolescent's-eye-view of the darkening skies of that decade. The advent of war in London (albeit in a suburb) and direct experience with the Blitz are detailed, but still with the enthusiasm of youth. The war, although at times frightening, was on balance an adventure for Crumbs - not the eclipse of civilization that might be seen by his elders. This same innocent romanticism soon left him impatient with civilian war work and dreaming about joining the elite Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. This service required far more than a mere desire to enlist, however; it involved a rigorous training and winnowing process leaving only a few chosen at the end. This process took the author not only through naval basic training in Britain, but ultimately to Canada and the Commonwealth flight-training program there. The training is itself described in detail, as is life on and off the base, in the company of a wide cross-section of nationalities: British, American, Canadian, South African, Australian, New Zealander, and European. This training finished in tandem with the war in Europe; and the author's subsequent assignment to a Pacific-bound Seafire squadron as a petty officer pilot coincided with the conclusion of war in that theatre. Nonetheless, an interesting picture is drawn of navy life awaiting demobilization.
     Although some British references might be a bit mysterious, the book could be easily enough read and enjoyed by a high school student. On a general level, it could be used to provide a light overview of life during the war; on a more specific level, it would be appealing to anyone interested in naval and air training during that conflict. For a younger reader, however, the author's unacknowledged luck in avoiding actual conflict does lend the story a rather jollier image of World War II than a balanced assessment of that experience might warrant.


Alexander D. Gregor is the Director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364