CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 6 . . . . November 12, 1999
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.
Alexander D. Gregor is the Director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and
Development at the University of Manitoba.
Alexander D. Gregor is the Director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development at the University of Manitoba.
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