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ISBN: 1902304780

Publisher: Grub Street 2001 - hardback first edition

Jack Rae's war was spent in Spitfires. He gained his wings in New Zealand in 1940 and was posted to Britain as a Sergeant Pilot where he converted to Spitfires in early 1941, completing more than 50 operational sorties with 485 (NZ) Squadron and becoming an "ace", before being posted to Malta as one of a group of fighter pilots reinforcing the island's defenders.

With no prior training in carrier operations, to reach Malta the group flew Spitfires fitted with long-range drop tanks from the deck of an American carrier. At the height of the Luftwaffe's all-out onslaught designed to neutralize the island in preparation for invasion, in Malta Rae served with the famous "Screwball" Beurling, Buck McNair, Ray Hesslyn, "Laddie" Lucas and "Jumbo" Gracie, among others. Shot down and wounded, he recovered to fly once more.

He completed his tour of duty on the island and was posted back to Britain, again joining 485 (NZ) Squadron at the renowned Biggin Hill air base. Forced to crash-land his aircraft in France due to engine failure (on the very day of his promotion to Flight Commander), Rae was captured and spent the next 20 months in prisoner-of-war camps. Most of the time was spent in Stalag Luft III, famous for the "great escape" in which 50 RAF officers were shot by the Gestapo after they were recaptured. Perhaps fortunately, he lost his chance to take part in this escape as he was in solitary confinement for a previous solo attempt that went wrong. Rae took part in the forced march across Germany in the bitterly cold winter of 1944-45 which killed many prisoners and guards.

He managed to escape from one temporary camp but became so hungry that after a week he broke back into the camp again. He was finally freed from a camp near Bremen by advancing British troops. Jack Rae ended his war service as a Flight Lieutenant awarded the DFC and Bar.

Kiwi Spitfire Ace, Jack Rae DFC

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