A Thousand Shall Fall: The True Story of a Canadian Bomber Pilot in World War Two

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Dundurn, Jan 1, 2003 - History - 490 pages
3 Reviews

During World War II, Canada trained tens of thousands of airmen under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Those selected for Bomber Command operations went on to rain devastation upon the Third Reich in the great air battles over Europe, but their losses were high. German fighters and anti-aircraft guns took a terrifying toll. The chances of surviving a tour of duty as a bomber crew were almost nil.

Murray Peden's story of his training in Canada and England, and his crew's operations on Stirlings and Flying Fortresses with 214 Squadron, has been hailed as a classic of war literature. It is a fine blend of the excitement, humour, and tragedy of that eventful era.


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User Review  - Chris_El - LibraryThing

One of the best memiors I've read about the European bombing campaign. And one of the few I've read from the RAF night bombing perspective. Peaden walks you through the whole training program he went ... Read full review

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I took my first "tour of duty" (with Mr. Peden as my guide) shortly after the publication of "A Thousand Shall Fall" in it's initial edition (Canada's Wings; 1979). This past weekend, I returned to visit my parents for Thanksgiving and scanning the bookshelf in the spare bedroom my eyes were immediately drawn to the title.
At this juncture, I must add that I have spent the intervening (30-odd year) period studying in detail much of the minutiae of the RCAF contribution to Bomber Command.
Thus (suitably jaded by "facts" going in and wholly incapable of recalling anything of my much earlier reading of Peden's account), it was with a somewhat skeptically raised eyebrow that I pulled it down from it's resting place and opened to the frontis page, inhaling the scent of thirty years as I did so.
Perchance a cursory scan was in order? Just to make a quick appraisal and decide if it was "worthy" of a do over after all these years had passed?
Surely with the volumes of knowledge that have emerged since 1979, would not the relevance of such an account be proven as hopelessly dated, inaccurate, and biased?
In short? No; not in the least.
By the end of my "visit" my poor mother was nearly in fits; I had been firmly glued to the living room sofa with Peden's book in my hands for the duration! Quite simply put, the author's way with the written word makes his account of "his war" engaging and hopelessly captivating, even to someone like myself. Yes, one could easily dive into the archival material released on the subject; one could indeed find numerous little details in Peden's book to "nit pick" over. That said, the fact remains that there is now a veritable mountain of books (some good; some atrocious) that tackle this subject matter on such a level and writing such a book was never Peden's intent.
The interjection of humorous anecdotes into the narrative is seamlessly done and creates a perfect foil to the morbid, chaotic, and downright horrific aspects - aspects which must (of course) form a considerable part of any such memoir of one's time spent as an active participant in a war. This is the true brilliance of Peden's account and in this regard it stands head and shoulders above almost all such similarly intentioned works that I have encountered to this point.
Peden has managed to excel at a virtually impossible task; delivering a work that will appeal to both the ardent enthusiast, as well as to the casual reader.
A "bloody wizard show" Sir!


Enlistment The RCAF
Initial Training School
Elementary Flying Training School
Service Flying Training School
Bournemouth Leave English Map Reading
No 20 Pilot Advanced Flying Unit
Operational Training Unit First Phase
Farewell to the Stirling
The Americans Conquer the RAF
Return to War With New Weapons
The Move to Oulton and Blickling Hall The Invasion
Phantom Fleets and Other Weapons
Operations The Secondary Toll
Closing Glimpses Mainly Pleasant

Operational Training Unit Second Phase
Heavy Conversion Unit Stradishall
Operational Flying Apprenticeship
Main Force Journeymen
Tempsford New Secrets

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Page 17 - YESTERDAY This Day's Madness did prepare; TO-MORROW'S Silence, Triumph, or Despair: Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why: Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.
Page 3 - Little remains : but every hour is saved From that eternal silence, something more, A bringer of new things ; and vile it were For some three suns to store and hoard myself...

About the author (2003)

Murray Peden was the first Chairman of the Manitoba Securities Commission. A bestselling author, his articles have appeared in aviation magazines and newspapers in Canada, England, and the United States. He was a bomber pilot in World War II, and his autobiography has been hailed as one of the finest war memoirs ever written.

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