Troubador We Did What We Had To

Released: 28/01/2018

ISBN: 9781788037976

Format: Paperback

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We Did What We Had To


Aged 95, John Hill looks up to the skies from his garden in Leigh-on-Sea, as he hears the unmistakeable sound of Merlin plane engines: two vintage Lancasters roar overhead and John can’t believe their closeness. It feels like his own personal flypast, an acknowledgment of his wartime service in the RAF.

In 2015, he told his niece, Pamela, the  story of his RAF training in England and Canada, leading to his active service as a navigator, with 107 Mosquito Squadron, in the later stages of WWII. It is a vividly told account, remembered across the years as if it were yesterday. 

Recorded and transcribed, this account formed the inspiration for We did what we had to. John and his Canadian pilot, Court, flew 46 missions over Occupied Europe and Germany in the famous 2-seater, wooden combat plane, The Mosquito, which contributed so much to the Allies’ success in the air. John recalls details so clearly, for example, the occasion of a brief leave in London, when he arrived at the tube station and read the billboard headlines ‘Monty crosses the Rhine’.

I was there last night, I thought to myself. I was up there in the skies looking down on the Rhine. It seemed surreal. Details like this, together with serious comment and many humorous anecdotes, make this book so personal, and reflect the character of Flying Officer, John Hill, who passed out as top cadet in his class, gaining him an immediate commission. 

The title of the book refers to John’s characteristic understatement when describing his part in momentous events of history, the years in which he, along with so many others of his generation, accepted the hazards of war to serve their country in the cause of freedom. 

Lest we forget.  

My uncle, whose story is told in 'We did what we had to', was 96 in January. He is so pleased with his book and has distributed it to a wide network of friends, including many in Canada where he trained as an RAF navigator in the war. The feedback has been exciting - one reader saying his story should be made into a film! He is going to give some copies to the De Havilland Air Museum where there are many of the original Mosquito planes. They also commissioned a documentary in which my uncle took part, one of five veterans who saw active service in the Mosquito in WW2.

Modestly but entertainingly written. Anyone interested in World War 2 history should read this book. It is accurately described on the publisher's website. A treasure.

by Malcolm Story

Pamela Howarth

Pamela lives in Rutland with partner, Les, and their labradoodle, Sheba. She has 3 adult sons and 2 small grandsons.In her working life she taught English at secondary level, then specialised in dyslexia tuition and became a study adviser at the universities of Lincoln, Leicester and the OU. Now retired, she has discovered how much she enjoys writing. She has published a biography of Shakespeare - 'Befriend the Bard!' - and a book on English language, called 'Winning with Words'. She describes helping her uncle to write 'We did What we had to' as one of the most worthwhile things she has done. His story should be told... lest we forget. She would very much like to help others to tell their stories: so many people are interested in family history and have done a lot of research which could become a book. Find out more about Pamela's books and writing services from her website:

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