Fire by Order
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this book is the fact that it has waited fifty years to appear for, as Sir Martin Farndale points out in his foreword, the debt owed by 14th Army to 656 Air OP Squadron in the reconquest of Burma was immeasurable. From 1943 until the end of the war, these three flights of five tiny Auster aircraft provided air observation for the whole of the Army fighting the Japanese in the jungle below. A likely explanation, if Ted Maslen- Jones is typical of his colleagues, is that they were essentially modest men who, in their own eyes, were only doing their job and were in fact rather privileged to be sailing above the canopy while the ground troops were slogging it out somewhere below them. Several times the author refers to the sheer exhilaration of flying over that beautiful but still unhappy country.Now, at last, thanks to the recollections, as well as the diligent research of Ted Maslen-Jones, the true contribution of these 'daring men in their flying machines' can be properly appreciated. As one of the pilots, his own memories are naturally of his flying time, but he never loses sight of the fact that it was the efforts of the fitters, signallers and drivers who kept these flimsy aircraft in the air and rightly points out that the record of serviceability of 656 Squadron was truly remarkable.
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