A Gremlin on my Shoulder by Ron Cundy DFC, DFM, MID

Discussion in 'Books and Films' started by Antipodean Andy, Dec 9, 2007.

  1. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    First impressions of this book is that there's not a lot of pages which might make you turn to something that appears to offer better value for money. However, don't let the 170-odd pages fool you. This is a seriously good book, well written with lashings of flying, humour and insight.

    Ron Cundy grew up dirt poor in the depression. He barely wore shoes to school but eventually did well enough thanks partly to his WWI veteran father and mother doing it tough to provide him with a decent education. He first worked for the New South Wales state government in public service but when war came, he was pretty keen to join up. His initial assessment, due to his not so good maths marks, was an "O" for observer, a rating he was pretty distressed with. However, a chance meeting with a colleague, now an RAAF clerk, fixed this with one stroke of a pen - the O became a P...

    Initial training and flying was in Australia before embarkation to Canada for further flying. He served a short time in the UK with a Hurri squadron before his sense of adventure led to him volunteering to fly in Russia. When issued with tropical gear, he knew something was up but was still a little surprised to be headed to North Africa. There, he joined 260 Sqn on Hurris after, in his words, being lucky not to have to fly a Hurri across Africa to Cairo from the west coast (a fellow Hurri pilot was told to follow the trail of burnt out aircraft if he got lost!). He was not overly confident in his combat flying abilities and freely admits the first enemy aircraft he fired at stood little chance of being hit. He was also critical of the lack of this area of training he had received and how under-prepared he was. This criticism aside, what comes through here is his very understated writing style. He gives full credit to the great men he flew with, and against, but doesn't dwell on his own actions. Indeed, he reports the many sorties he went on from his perspective of being a part of the trip, rather than "I did this, then I did that". However, through this modesty, you can read/see and feel him becoming more capable as a fighter pilot. After 260 switches to Kittyhawks, he really seems to come into his own. I would hazard a guess to say this was to do with the hours he built up rather than the aircraft of course. As a Sgt pilot, he leads the squadron on numerous occasions, something that was frowned upon from higher up.

    Ron Cundy was good mates with Eddie Edwards, the Canadian ace and mentions him often along with many other interesting characters, the loss of whom Cundy laments but adds how they had to move on. He did not regard himself as a hero. At one stage, after standing by their aircraft in readiness and then diving into slit trenches to take cover from bombing and strafing '109s, Cundy tells how he was very reluctant to emerge when the order came to stand by again. However, this apparent "fear" is countered by the fact that he got out of the trench and followed the order. He recounts many other brave exploits. Not his, though, his squadron mates.

    The DFC came from attacking a lighter and setting it on fire, another sortie where he recounts in detail the action but makes no mention along the lines of "this was the action I got the DFC for". It was just another flight for him.

    I know I keep going on about the modesty of his writing and it is nothing new for men of this calibre/generation/ilk. It is just so very pleasant to read and the book is particularly hard to put down especially when you know when he earned his DFC etc and you haven't got to that date/time yet!

    After his 200 hours, Cundy stayed with 260 and flew a captured He 111 to "supply" the squadron. There are some amusing anecdotes there. His return to Australia, stint instructing, time in Darwin on Spits, marriage and further instructing are all covered relatively quickly. He returned to the civil service after the war.

    So, a small book but if you can get your hands on it and if, like me, these memoirs never cease to amaze/teach you, you will be hard pressed to find a better book. As an RAAF memoir of North Africa, it is invaluable. As an open, honest tribute to the men of 260 Sqn, it is priceless.
  2. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Ooh, crikey, sorry guys, that's rather long!
  3. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Don't apologise - the book sounds really good, and that's a great synopsis. Cheers

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