Survival Against All Odds - Sunday 8th June 1942: Shot Down over France

by John Misseldine with Oliver Clutton-Brock.
Grub Street, London 2010.
ISBN 978-1-906502-75-1.
A5, Hard back, 208 pages, 59 black and white photos.


John Misseldine served with 611 Squadron and was shot down whilst operating from Kenley in Surrey whilst on Circus 191 with four other squadrons escorting twelve Boston bombers on a sweep over Northern France penetrating forty miles south of Calais. John goers into great detail about crossing the French coast at Boulogne at 16,000 ft as he flew as 'Tail-End Charlie' as they approached St Omer. He brings together in graphic detail the horror of aerial combat, the split second decisions required and what it is like to fall to enemy guns.

The book is much more than just what happened on that fateful day. It details his childhood in North London, his family and friends who he grew up with and how they, and eventually he, joined up into the various services. John joined at Uxbridge, undertook his basic training in the UK then went over first to Canada and then to the USA for pilot training and whilst he worked very hard there he also played very hard and the description is fascinating about how our pilots were trained. Then the trip back to the UK, advanced training and eventually to posting to 611 at Drem in Scotland. Unfortunately his time with 611 was cut short by the Luftwaffe shooting him down.

However he was not captured and the second half o f the book goes on to detail how he evaded capture, was looked after by the Marquis and how he eventually arrived on the south coast of France to be picked dup by a fishing trawler serving in the Royal Navy. He was interrogated back in London, sworn to secrecy to protect the numerous French resistance fighters who helped him escape and all is explained in detail. He was now back in the RAF in England but could not go back to 611 as they were flying over occupied France and John was not allowed to do this in case he was shot down again and tortured into betraying his contacts in France. So he was posted to the Middle East where he went back to operation al flying until the end of the war. He married a French lady, Mauricette, in Morocco in September 1945 moving back to the UK where he was demobbed and returned to a civilian life, eventually moving to live in France where he still resides today near Grasse.

A very readable and enjoyable book about a specific time in the history of 611 Sqn giving some very detailed insight into just what it was like to be on the Sqn in war-time conditions, the terrors of escaping the Germans in France, jubilation at returning to England and then a second RAF career in the eastern Mediterranean area - well recommended.