Three Stripes and Four Brownings


300 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations
DDC 940.54'4941'092





Reviewed by Sidney Allinson

Sidney Allinson is the editor at the Royal Canadian Military Institute
and author of The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I.


Of all the crew on the raf’s great bombers in World War II the rear
gunner had the loneliest job—and often the most dangerous. Isolated in
his perspex turret, hunched half-frozen behind four Browning machine
guns, he sat peering hour after hour into the hostile darkness, trying
to stay alert against that heart-stopping instant he spotted a
night-fighter flashing in to attack, firing tracer bullets to ward off
the Focke Wulfe, and shouting a split-second warning to his pilot
“Corkscrew left—dive—go!”

Jackson served aboard Stirling bombers of 218 (Gold Coast Squadron)
raf, making repeated attacks on Nazi Germany. His detailed memories
bring alive the experiences typical of those gallant young men of Bomber
Command, 50,000 of whom were killed in the long air war over Europe. His
book describes the combat flying conditions in detail. On a more human
level, it captures the devil-may-care attitudes of his fellow airmen,
their hidden constant fear, their determination, and the sheer will that
made them “press on regardless” for 30 missions in the face of
statistically certain death.

Jackson vividly describes the warm camaraderie enjoyed by these teams
off duty: pub crawls and laughter against a sense of borrowed time.
Jackson was an only survivor, miraculously blown clear by the explosion
that killed all his friends. Small wonder, then, that so much unashamed
nostalgia shines through these well-written pages.


Jackson, Bill., “Three Stripes and Four Brownings,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024,