Riding In The Shadow Of Death, film of book launch, Newark Air Museum 16 June 2013.

19/07/2013 Posted by chris

Hi everybody, I have some more news on the progress of the book and how the launch went.

Sunday 16 June 2013, Newark Air Museum. Site of WW2 training base RAF Winthorpe and location of 1661 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit).

The book Riding In The Shadow Of Death, by Chris Keltie and Bomber Command Veteran Bill North was launched at Newark Air Museum on 16 June 2013. This was the third day of the launch weekends, the first was at the 50/61 Squadron Memorial Day in Skellingthorpe on the 9 June 2013 and the second was at The Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby in Lincolnshire on 15 June.

Sunday 16 June was a beautiful day, it completed a circle through time that began for me 43 years ago in March 1970 and also for Bill North 69 years ago in March 1944. We were at Newark Air Museum which was the site of RAF Winthorpe and the location of 1661 HCU, where Bill and his crew converted from two engined Wellingtons to four engined Stirlings, in preparation to fly on night Operations for Bomber Command. In March 1944 a picture was taken here of the crew standing in front of a Stirling bomber. I saw this picture 26 years later in March 1970 by the TV in Bill’s living room, it instantly fascinated me and has done ever since. The journey was now complete and we were back at the base where the photo was taken and also where Bill had two near fatal crash landings whilst flying in Stirlings during training.

At the launch was the only surviving member of Bill’s crew, W/O Dennis Bartlett, who was his Mid-Upper Gunner. Also there was W/O Percy Cannings who flew an incredible 47 Operations, 22 with 100 Squ and 25 with 97 Squ Pathfinder Force. Percy flew alongside Bill on many of his Ops and shares some fascinating eyewitness accounts of his experiences. Two family members of the crew came all the way from Australia specially for the day to read their fathers eyewitness accounts;- Pam Livingston, the daughter of Bill’s Bomb Aimer, Norman Jarvis and Phil Morton, the son of his Flight Engineer Les Morton.

Bomber Command Veterans, Mid-Upper Gunners, Percy Cannings and Dennis Bartlett meeting for the first time. Newark Air Museum 16 June 2013



Within the pages of this book are revealed the experiences of the men who served with Bomber Command during WW2. It takes you into the apocalyptic world of a seven man Lancaster crew during 1943/1944, and with emotional eyewitness accounts reveals the brutal odds against surviving a tour of 30 Operations. The crew was Captained by F/Lt Bill North, who served with 61 Squadron. Over the years I heard many accounts of Bill’s WW2 experiences and grew to realise, that my unassuming next-door neighbour and good friend was actually, an extraordinary man. The book is not just a typical ‘War story’, but a moving account of life and death, from the intense war time years, to the present day.




I would just like to say thank you to Howard Heeley and his fantastic staff at Newark Air Museum for hosting the event and looking after us all. Also thank you to Stephen Elsworth for being our official photographer over the weekend. The day was finished beautifully by an outstanding BBMF Flypast, Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane. The look on our Veteran’s faces said it all.

BBMF Flypast, Newark Air Museum, 16 June 2013

Bomber Command Veteran Dennis Bartlett and sister Daphne watching BBMF Flypast

This is the link to the film clip at You Tube:-

The film was taken by Percy’s daughter Sharon Cannings and her partner Martin Nicholls who have also just made an outstanding documentary called, ‘Finding The Pathfinders’ which is due to be launched soon. This film records the emotional journey of Percy Cannings to track down the crew members he served with in the Pathfinder Force.


My book is available on Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle and has had six 5 star reviews so far. We are still working on promotions and trying to get the book into main stream bookshops, quite a challenging task!! There are some more events coming up with a presentation planned for Bill’s old rugby club, Pinner and Grammarians.


Sandy Cannings Blog about the family journey with their father Percy Cannings.


Thank you to everyone at the 50/61 Squadron Memorial day in Skellingthorpe on Sunday 9 June 2013. We had a very successful mini launch with very positive feedback from the featured Veterans. We had two very distinguished men attending and sharing a birthday:- Sir Michael Beetham and W/C Jimmy Flint. Again the day was finished beautifully with an amazing low level BBMF Lancaster Flypast.

Sir Michael Beetham and W/C Jimmy Flint, 50/61 Squ Memorial Day 9 June 2013











I would just like to say thank you to Louise Bush and the wonderful staff at The Aviation Heritage Centre for hosting our launch on Saturday 15 June. The Centre is on the site of of WW2 Bomber Station East Kirkby, which was home to 57 and 630 Squ. When you walk into East Kirkby it is set up as the Station used to be and has the most amazing atmosphere, it also of course is home to Lancaster Bomber ‘Just Jane’. What better location could you ask for, for launching a book about Bomber Command crews. It was held in a Nissen hut, the old de-briefing room and on the wall behind us was a ‘target for the night’ map of Berlin. A big thank you to Bill’s family for being with us on the weekend and for reading Bill’s moving eyewitness accounts during the presentations.

Thank you to everybody who has supported me through the last 5 years. It has been a complex task and a real challenge to write, research, promote and self publish a book.

Best wishes all, Chris.

Percy Cannings, Chris Keltie and Pam Livingstone.

East Kirkby, 15 June 2013, Percy Cannings, Pam Livingstone, Chris Keltie, Rhys North

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