Where Eagles Never Flew

A Battle of Britain Novel

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
594 Pages
Reviewed on 12/30/2020
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Author Biography

Helena P. Schrader is an established aviation author and expert on the Second World War. She earned a PhD in History (cum Laude) from the University of Hamburg with a ground-breaking dissertation on a leading member of the German Resistance to Hitler, which received widespread praise on publication in Germany. Her non-fiction publications include "Sisters in Arms: The Women who Flew in WWII," "The Blockade Breakers: The Berlin Airlift," and "Codename Valkyrie: General Friederich Olbricht and the Plot against Hitler," an English-language adaptation of her dissertation. Helena has published eighteen historical novels and won numerous literary awards, including “Best Biography 2017” from Book Excellence Awards and “Best Historical Fiction 2020” from Feathered Quill Book Awards. For more on her publications, works-in-progress, reviews and awards visit: http://helenapschrader.com

    Book Review

Reviewed by Steven Robson for Readers' Favorite

Where Eagles Never Flew by Helena P. Schrader is a tremendously moving tale of human conflict, be it struggles within individuals coming to terms with their mortality or sweeping battles across nations driven by territorial prerequisites. Told chronologically from the battle for France through to the Battle of Britain, this World War 2 tale of aerial warfare goes further than most, giving us a unique insight into both sides of this critical conflict. By switching the focus between France and England, the book allows us to bear witness to the individuals caught up in this maelstrom, who are trying to live seemingly split lives; normal day to day routines that may lead them into unexpected relationships, contrasted with the utter turmoil of flying operations that may end in death. It becomes shockingly apparent that the young men and women on both sides are, essentially, very similar; what delineates them comes down to no more than the noughts and crosses on their wings. The tremendous gift of this book is that it grafts a human face onto the slashing planes and bullets, that paint the skies of Europe and Britain with an abstract expression of sheer terror, and blacken the hearts of the innocent.

Helena P. Schrader’s Where Eagles Never Flew is both inspirational and terrifying in its reality and should be required reading for anyone under the illusion that air warfare is in any way glorious. The people depicted are disturbingly authentic, and how their lives become entwined is beautifully crafted by Ms. Schrader; the linkage between Ernst and Robin could have come across as forced if it wasn’t written so subtly. Another gem carried in this story relates to the information it imparts; things like J. R. R. Tolkien’s son being a pilot in the war, or even quite simple facts like how gun ports were covered by canvas before each sortie to prevent condensation. This book is also quite accurate to the events as they played out over this period, with the only license taken being some fictitious squadrons and the personnel within these. I found Where Eagles Never Flew to be a compelling read and was genuinely moved by the injuries, death, and destruction which pervaded the lives of so many very special people trapped in the horror of living in the wrong time in history. A fantastic book!

Jon Michael Miller

Where Eagles Never Flew by Helena P. Schrader is a historical novel which through contemporary documents, real accounts, and the author’s penetrating imagination recreates the Battle of Britain from mid-June to mid-September 1940. And it chronicles the daily experiences and points of view of “ordinary” people, particularly the airmen of the RAF stationed at the Tangmere and Hawarden air bases as well as numerous other locations in England, Germany, and France. In her herculean task of organizing an almost daily account of this crucial World War II period, she, like other great writers of historical war novels (might I mention War and Peace?), introduces us to several major characters who take us all the way through the narrative. And she creates grease spewing action sequences of major (and minor) air engagements. She keeps our human interest engaged along with the fighting. There are two major love interests interwoven: a British couple (Robin, an ace flyer, and Emily, a base worker and pacifist); and a German couple (Klaudia, an air force worker, and Ernst, a struggling pilot). Thus, we see the conflict from both nations' perspectives. The book includes photographs, a glossary of terms, and a list of reading for history buffs of this amazing and valiant fight that forced Hitler to turn his attention toward the east and Russia, the turn that eventually brought Germany to its knees.

I became immersed immediately in Helena P. Schrader’s brilliant opening chapters focused on the trials and errors of Robin Priestman’s first experiences in his Hurricane as he protects British bombers over France and gets lost in the mayhem. He reappears later as he meets Emily, who works for the Salvation Army helping down and out veterans. In the opening combat, the author establishes her credentials to write of air engagements, in their ground preparation, the action itself, and the repairs. She kept me on the edge of my seat, but even more, she established the authenticity of her knowledge of terminology, slang, and equipment mechanics, not to mention the dangers and exhilaration of flight. After only a few sentences, I believed in her competence to pilot this exciting and often heart-rending account. And then there’s the dialogue, the character descriptions, the action, the environment, the food, the drink, the losses, and the wins, and dare I say, the blood, sweat, and tears. I felt I was there. Like the Shaara trilogy of America’s Civil War and like Tolstoy’s monumental work, Where Eagles Never Flew will, I am sure, take its place among the great works of military historic fiction.

Grant Leishman

Where Eagles Never Flew: A Battle of Britain Novel by Helena P. Schrader is a sweeping, exhilarating and at times intensely bittersweet story of the pilots, ground crew, and support crew of Winston Churchill’s “few” in his pronouncement about the Battle of Britain. In the spring, summer, and autumn of 1940, Britain stood seemingly alone against the combined might of the German Luftwaffe, as it waited poised on the coast of France, ready and seemingly totally able to soften up Britain in preparation for the biggest invasion in human history. The unstoppable German military machine prepared to assault the shores of England. All that stood between Hitler and British domination was a rag-tag bunch of dedicated Brits and colonial pilots, desperately short of men and machines but determined to do their utmost to halt or at least dent the belief of Nazi superiority in the air. Flying Officer Robin Priestman was a born pilot and one who was committed to the Royal Air Force but who also knew his “crazy” antics previously in Singapore had not only brought him severe reprimand but possibly damaged, forever, his chances of advancement in the service. However, with a shortage of skilled pilots and the threat of the Nazi invasion, it was easy for those higher up to ignore past misdemeanors. Before long Robin would find himself in the thick of the action as now a squadron leader at RAF Tangmere, on the south coast of England. Meanwhile, across the channel, a group of equally dedicated and patriotic young men flying Messerschmitt 109’s was preparing to do battle with Priestman’s squadron of Hurricanes and the new and dangerous Supermarine Spitfires. The outspoken and aristocratic Christian was an unlikely companion to Ernst, the overweight and shy son of a butcher, yet the pair had formed an unbreakable bond, and as Christian’s wingman, Ernst would have done anything for his beloved Christian, even die for him. Against the backdrop of the changeable English weather, these human bonds were formed and often savagely broken by the battle for air supremacy.

Where Eagles Never Flew is a towering and sweeping story that truly does convey the horror and tragedy of war, especially the incredible odds the RAF was faced with as it stood seemingly alone in those dark days of 1940. Author Helena P. Schrader has done a remarkable job of conveying to the reader the intensity and suffering that these young men, many of them just out of school, faced as they came to terms with not only flying (often with extremely limited hours in any aircraft, let alone a Hurricane) but then actually having to fight against more experienced airmen in aircraft that in many ways were superior to their own. She manages to convey the sheer exhaustion and nerves that these young men faced on an hourly basis, often without any real rest or a break from the nerve-stretching routine of flying in the face of the unknown. I particularly enjoyed that the author chose to tell this tale from “both sides” of the fence, thereby humanizing and allowing the reader to have understanding and empathy, not only for the RAF boys but also for those of the Luftwaffe. She was able to convey wonderfully that neither side really wanted to be doing what they were doing. What truly united most of these combatants, ultimately, was their love of flying and in many ways, this was the message of the story along with the idea that a common cause was perhaps the best way possible to break the strictures of the “class” system, not only in Britain but also in Germany. This is not a short book by any means and provides powerful, meaty reading but it was totally rewarding for this reader and the author’s flow and effortless style made it incredibly easy and quick reading. Technically, the author seemed to get it all right and if WWII, early flight, or the Battle of Britain is your thing, you will want to read this book. For anyone else, in fact, this is a read I highly recommend.