Book review: Just One More Day by Jessica Blair
Seventy years after the Second World War was entering its final months, take a trip back in time to a sweeping wartime tale of love, danger and sacrifice.
Just One More Day is set amidst the action, tensions and perils of England’s crucial Bomber Command stations where air crews were briefed and de-briefed as they undertook life-and-death operations over Germany.
This moving, inspiring account of the young men and women who fought and died for their country comes from the pen of prolific author Jessica Blair who, in 2013, was unmasked as war veteran Bill Spence, now aged 90, who grew up in Middlesbrough.
Spence, who trained as a teacher and now lives in Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, became a full-time writer in 1977 and has penned more than 50 books under various pseudonyms.
When Britain declares war on Germany in 1939, Carolyn Maddison from a small village outside Middlesbrough is still a schoolgirl. Her older brother Alastair wastes no time in joining the RAF as a flying officer, and Carolyn decides that when she is eighteen she will follow him into the service by joining the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.
A year later, on her way by train to the Air Ministry in London, she meets charismatic pilot Charlie Wade who is currently employed in propaganda work. He recognises immediately that Carolyn’s calm manner, determination and resilience would make her a first class intelligence officer on a Bomber Station.
It’s a training course that proves ideal for the ambitious teenager and during the postings which follow, she becomes firm friends with Lucy Gaston from Ripon whose quick wit, sparky personality and self-confidence are the perfect foil for serious-minded Carolyn.
The young WAAFs are both assigned to the prestigious 5 Group Bomber Command in Lincolnshire where they carry out important active service and meet many men from the Lancaster bombers.
Lucy, an incorrigible optimist, falls head over heels for young pilot officer Peter Wilkins while Carolyn, who has already suffered one grievous loss, resists her feelings for another dashing pilot Rick Wood, deciding it’s not worth the risk of loving a man in wartime.
But making what seems to be a sensible decision will not be easy to stick to when Carolyn’s heart starts pulling her in another direction…
Lucy and Carolyn’s rollercoaster experiences on a bombing station bring home the drama, heartbreak, emotions and suspense of life, love and loss during the Second World War.
Written with genuine affection and personal insight into the dangerous wartime years and the grim realities of frontline service, this is a stirring tale to stiffen the sinews and warm the heart.
(Piatkus, hardback, £19.99)