Friday, 15 March 2013

Piece of Cake - Derek Robinson

The real character of (sea) officers cannot be masked from each other; and I wish to be judged by that test.
                                                                                                Lord St Vincent, 1789
Title: Piece of Cake
Author: Derek Robinson
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Pages: 569

Content: This is a very interesting and entertaining book. Dark humour underscores a theme throughout that speaks to the characters means of dealing with the realities of war. It follows the progress of a Squadron of Hurricane pilots as they transition from peace to war. The period of the book, September 1939 to September 1940, encompasses the beginning of World War 2, the ‘Phoney War’ in France, the Fall of France and the Battle of Britain. Its strength lies in its development of its characters and its insights into the human psyche. The Commanding Officers and Flight Commanders struggle with the changes that war brings in their relationships within the Squadron between themselves and the young line pilots. Conversely, the line pilots struggle themselves as they grapple with the deadliness of their chosen profession and the responsibilities that this entails. Maturity comes to all but slowly. Leadership strengths and weaknesses make themselves felt far more keenly and shortfalls are quickly less tolerated or forgiven. This novel captures the essence of the effects of combat on unit cohesion and command. It is stark and uncomfortable but it highlights lessons that are best learned and understood before the guns start firing. Unfortunately, too often, these lessons are not retained nor reinforced.

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