A Lancaster bomber required a crew of seven men. Van, the pilot is American, Jock, Flight Engineer a Scot. Piers, the hopeless navigator is a foppish aristocrat – ‘Frightfully sorry, Skipper, not absolutely sure where we are’. The bomb aimer is an Aussie. Wireless operator a London cockney who was ‘older than God’, a mid-upper gunner with terrible eyesight, and the most heartrending of all, the rear gunner, dragged backwards in a fishbowl through the sky, a seventeen-year-old who had lied about his age to get into the air force. They are all appalling at the beginning of the book. The pilot nearly crashes them on the first landing, they don’t get on all that well with each other. They all loathe Piers, the toff, and they don’t cohere as a team at all. Then, slowly, as they begin their first real gut-dropping bombing raids over Germany they begin to develop as a real crew, depending on each other, becoming more proficient. Charlie’s young widowed mum comes to live in a cottage near the airfield in order to be near ‘her boy’. Inevitably a romance develops between her and the ‘older than God’ wireless operator (over thirty!). Other women become involved, love them, lose them. One of the crew is killed at the end…which one? A wonderful emotive, gripping, heart wrenching novel of men, and women, at their best.