I find that as I grow older, I find myself drawn more and more into a genre of writing that I call ‘living history’. Nothing can beat a first hand account. Our school text books are crammed with the ‘official’, historically correct, and impeccably ‘politically correct’ versions of our past. I find little information or knowledge in these books. Real information and learning comes from people who were there when the event happened.

Ray Parker was a young man when America entered WWII, a navigator with a dangerous mission, navigating bombers on their route to destroy Hitlers evil empire.

Now at age 86 he has released a memoir Down In Flames, it is a wonderful book, one that deserves to be read. It was my honor to have him on as my guest on my Week In Reviews program.

I was not born until 1955, but even I can remember the scars left by the war. As a child I visited my relations in Newcastle, a coal, iron, and shipbuilding city in the North West of England. A blue collar city, maybe the bluest of blue collar ever. Street after street in a relentless procession of row houses, tall and narrow. The only privacy, or ‘front yard’ being a 6 foot slab of concrete between the house and the sidewalk. To show the demarcation of where one ended and the other began a 5 foot Iron fence. All identical, it mattered not which street you walked down, every house was the same. Only one thing was missing, the fence itself. Every last one had been cut down 2 inches to the ground. The iron needed for the war effort.

I was humbled when I read Down In Flames, it is a true story of courage, and also cunning. Ray found himself a ‘guest’ of German hospitality after being shot down on his 12th mission. The officer capturing Ray explained that for him the war was over. For some men that might have been true, but not for this man. You can put a person behind barbed wire fences, half starve then, make life intolerable, but you can not kill their spirit.

Ray became editor of the highly illegal camp newspaper, one copy per day. That one copy was the sole source of news for 9000 people. Prior to Ray’s untimely arrival at Stalag Luft I some enterprising soles from the RAF had installed a hidden radio. It was built into a wall and activated by putting a wire between two exposed nail heads. With this radio tuned to the BBC the folks in Stalag Luft I were actually better informed about what was going on than their captors!

I admire Ray Parker, this man has a wonderful and compelling, and most of all, important story in Down In Flames.

You can catch the whole interview here. And once you listen to it I know that you will want to buy the book, Amazon has it. Ray also has a web site.

The second world war happened a long time ago, yet in historical terms it was just yesterday. Six decades is nothing in the calender of history.

Simon Barrett

Be Sociable, Share!