Letters from a Lancaster Gunner

Author(s): Helen Thompson 

ISBN: 9781781556986
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The riveting and heart-breaking story of a young Lancaster gunner told through his original letters home.
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  • The real and private correspondence of a Birmingham working-class teenager who joined the RAF during wartime
  • Many previously unpublished and very rare photographs
  • A Lancaster gunner’s personal perspective on the hardships and realities of RAF life, training and active operations
  • More than just an RAF story: a love and family story with an unpredictable and emotional conclusion
  • The story behind the story – the discovery of these fascinating letters, which lay undiscovered for 65 years


    Flight Lieutenant Joseph Thompson, aka ‘Mac’, left his mother’s small Birmingham home in December 1943 at the age of 18 to join the wartime RAF.

    Letters from a Lancaster Gunner follows his journey through the hardship and adventure of basic and gunnery training, a love affair with a girl from Liverpool, crew friendships, losses and disasters, over twenty Lancaster bombing raids, a virgin mission, which ends in a ‘ditching’ in the North Sea, and a post-war stint in Singapore.

    Joe’s original letters and his mother’s replies are the narrators of this story, which begins and ends with the events surrounding their re-discovery some 65 years after they were written. The wartime experiences of the family Joe left behind also unfold.

    A mother, widowed in 1941, struggling to cope physically, financially and emotionally with four children during wartime, while working full time in a factory. There is much love, detail and hardship in these letters, which ultimately end with heartbreak that could not have been foreseen.



    BOOK ISBN 9781781556986
    FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
    BINDING hardback
    PAGES 224 pages
    PUBLICATION DATE 30 August 2018
    TERRITORY World
    ILLUSTRATIONS 45 black-and-white photographs and 74 letters






    Helen Thompson is the 50-year-old niece of the story’s hero, Joseph Thompson, although they never actually met. Born in Birmingham, Helen now lives in North Yorkshire with her large family, where she works as a photographer. This book is a labour of love, written on behalf of her father as a tribute to her uncle, and captures the stories of and behind a series of letters written 70+ years earlier, which changed her life.