This is not a tale of flying aces or great heroics. Set against the unfolding backdrop of the Second World War, it is the story of an ordinary young ground crew airman living through extraordinary times and a long way from home.
Told largely through his personal diaries and letters, The Flying Erk charts the highs and lows of Leading Aircraftman Ray Roberts’s war-time experiences. It shows why he volunteers for the RAF, leaving behind his family and his girl.
From his home town in Staffordshire, it follows Ray’s journey through basic training and a two-month circuitous sea voyage before recounting his contributions to the North Africa campaign and the relief of Malta (“the most bombed place on earth”).
Living conditions are harsh and illness rife, the work gruelling and often dangerous. But close friendships, shared humour and thoughts of a better future inspired by mail from home provide welcome respites from the hardships and toil. And then there’s Dim the Wonder Dog.
At its heart is a love story, revealing the stages of a budding romance between two people kept apart by war. At first glance it’s a familiar picture: boy meets girl, boy leaves for war, love develops at a distance. But things do not stay that simple: circumstances and people change.
It’s a love story with a difference.
World War 2 was a long and bloody conflict in which few lives were left untouched and whose outcomes reverberate to this day. From the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 to the Allied victory in 1945, the main developments of that conflict are tracked and their impact on Ray, his girl and their relationship clearly seen.