Historian, Writer, Commentator, Consultant.

Air Battle Europe, 1939-45

Posted by on Jan 18, 2012 in Books | 0 comments

Air Battle Europe, 1939-45 (Time-Life, Sydney, 1987)

What became Air Battle Europe represented yet another John Ferguson project. With his eyes on the 1988 Bicentenary of European settlement John negotiated a deal with the international publisher Time-Life to publish a multi-volume series on the history of Australians at war called – inevitably – Australians at War. On the strength of the massive scholarship on the air war I had displayed in Bomber Command, he invited me to write the volume on Australia’s apart in the air war over Europe called – equally inevitably perhaps, Air War Europe. As was customary with Time-Life contracts, this one involved a healthy fee but no royalties and, as part of the deal, virtually a free hand on the part of the editors to do what they liked with the text (including make it available in other versions and forms; not that that ever happened. The healthy fee at least enabled my then-wife and I to put down a deposit on a house.

I enjoyed the experience of researching the subject intensively, of organising the material systematically and of writing the manuscript, which I did, in longhand, in a reasonably short time in 1985-86. I wish I had taken longer – I contracted a nasty case of what was called at the time Repetitive Strain Injury, which for a time necessitated physiotherapy. The process of editing by Time-Life turned out to be equally painful. Someone, either in John Ferguson’s empire or in Time-Life, decided that my work needed to be spiced up a bit, and they engaged Kit Denton to judiciously add some colour. This entailed Kit – whom I never met, unfortunately – adding some of his own recollections of the Second World War, notably of being involved in a V1 attack in 1944. I contested the need for much of this additional material, at one point even considering asking Ferguson to take my name off the title page. After a weekend of meetings in Sydney our differences were resolved amicably. Re-reading the book, I can’t see that Kit’s contributions were very noticeable, but I think that the book made a worthwhile contribution.

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