Black Robertson

Author, Speaker



For more than a century aircrew have had to make split-second decisions about challenging airborne situations. Black Robertson is to be congratulated on bringing together such a wide variety of these, and other flying-related experiences, and for persuading the contributors to relate such vivid and candid accounts. It’s a fascinating and invaluable collection.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton

This anthology will delight every passionate aviator. The accounts of derring-do, and the mistakes of those who survived to tell the tale, provide gripping reading – not least the stories of combat operations in South Georgia, Kosovo and more recent conflicts. There are also more serious messages for today’s commanders, military and political. As a former Chief of the Air Staff and veteran of two Iraq wars warns, a risk-averse culture, ‘playing it safe’, carries its own dangers: ‘what wins battles is experience, imagination and initiative’. These stories illustrate the imperative of that message.

Sir Gerald Howarth


From Spitfires to Vampires and Beyond

A Kiwi Ace's RAF Journey

Wg Cdr Owen Hardy DFC* AFC

Grub Street cover

World War Two Spitfire pilot Owen Hardy, probably the last New Zealand ace to tell his story, left home at 18 to join the RAF. By 1942, aged only 20, he was at Biggin Hill with 72 Squadron under Brian Kingcome. Two years later, D-Day found him flying over the Normandy beaches with 485 (New Zealand) Squadron.

He survived the war unharmed – due as much to luck as to his ability – but was unable to settle in civilian life afterwards in New Zealand. Returning to the RAF for the second phase of a remarkable career, he went on to command 71 Squadron. Here he lead a Vampire aerobatic team that performed across Europe – dodging MiGs at the same time! Adapting to peacetime service wasn’t easy though; passionate about flying, he was less enamoured with staff jobs. Then a fateful decision, to turn down command of a Javelin squadron and follow his mentor, led finally to disillusionment.

Hardy pulls no punches in this forthright and refreshingly honest autobiography. Editor Black Robertson sheds light on what it was like not just to fly in combat, but also on the changing face of a post-war RAF which arguably undervalued some of its heroes. From the heat of North Africa to the uncertainties of the Cold War, it’s a unique and enthralling tale.


Illuminating and evocative in equal measure, From Spitfires to Vampires and Beyond tells the remarkable story of the seasoned New Zealand fighter pilot Owen Hardy in his own words. Pride and disquietude, exaltation and alienation – Hardy unflinchingly recounts the mixed emotions he experienced during his diverse career within the RNZAF and RAF. Deftly ushered by ‘Black’ Robertson, this book constitutes a bold and refreshingly candid departure from the swashbuckling accounts that have long dominated the genre.

Dr Victoria Taylor, Associated of the Freeman Air & Space Institute

Spitfire pilot Owen From Hardy might just be the last New Zealand ace to have his story told. The late pilot’s memoirs are brilliantly curated by Air Marshal G A ‘Black’ Robertson and notably depict Hardy’s difficulties settling into post-war civilian life. The one thing that didn’t suit him was not flying – staff jobs brought disillusionment – so the second phase of his extraordinary career found him commanding 71 Squadron and leading a Vampire aerobatic team. This refreshingly honest autobiography is no swashbuckling account but rather a candid reflection on the perils, joys and pitfalls of military service and the challenges faced in ‘civvie’ life by those who had become accustomed to risk and drama.

Flypast Magazine

Owen [Hardy]’s memoir was never intended for publication, in its original form at least . . . There was however a desire by Owen’s daughter and the author for an updated published version, which required a good deal of work. This has resulted in the excellent read we have here . . . [Hardy’s] story isn’t one of aerial battles per se, but a reflection on events and emotions typical of those experienced by most fighter pilots during the war and the exciting but uncertain years that followed. A unique and enthralling tale. 

Classic Wings Magazine, New Zealand

A new personal account from a WW2 fighter ace is indeed rare these days . . . A really good read and highly recommended.

Royal Air Force Historical Society Journal

A Spitfire Named Connie

Letters from a North Africa Ace – a Tale of Triumph and Tragedy

A Spitfire Named Connie - Cover

This is the poignant story of ‘Robbie’ Robertson’s two wartime love affairs – with flying and with the schoolgirl he eventually marries. Told mainly in his own words, through hundreds of his original letters, it has all the excitement of a novel. A prequel to Fighters in the Blood, it paints an intimate and authentic picture of life, love and loss in a bygone era. In many ways it was an age of innocence. A time when language was restrained, when emotions were understated – and when all too many relationships ended in tragedy.

There was a tragic end to his own career too. After flying with with a number of famous names – Brian Kingcome, Ginger Lacey, Jamie Rankin and Bob Stanford Tuck (on the very day he was shot down) – he was shot down in North Africa by one of the Luftwaffe’s foremost Experten, Erich Rudorffer. His actions that December day in 1942 saved the life of a colleague, but it was scant compensation.


A really good read and highly recommended.

Royal Air Force Historical Society Journal

This is a book that I cannot recommend more highly to anyone interested in Spitfire operations . . . wartime romance, and above all, a story of devotion to one’s nation and to one’s love.

Aviation News

An incredible but true story about Robbie Robertson, a real-life Biggles . . . and how he met his future wife, Connie, are the sort of things you might read in a novel but it’s all true and absolutely terrific.

Books Monthly

Many will recognise the pain and longing in the letters in this very readable book.


An excellent book . . . [it] helps that it receives the input of the son too which adds much to the narrative.

The History Fella  

Fighters in the Blood

The Story of a Spitfire Pilot & the Son who Followed in his Footsteps

The uncovering of a treasure trove of wartime memorabilia was the catalyst for this unique memoir. Two separate and distinct voices bring vividly to life the contrasting experiences of the author and his father, a decorated Spitfire ace. The latter’s career was cut short by the loss of an eye when he was shot down in North Africa. Amongst the fascinating parallels a generation apart, two stand out: the astonishing role that Lady Luck played in both their lives, and a deep and abiding love of flying. The result is a unique testament to character and a tribute to those who made the RAF what it is today.


Precise elegant and fun . . . Entertaining and in places poignant, Fighters in the Blood adds a unique twist to the standard autobiographical form . . . A rich testimony that sheds an important light on the RAF’s wartime culture.

Air and Space Power Review

I have to commend the writing style and the articulate manner in which Black writes. It is amusing and intense at times and will keep any reader enthralled. The way the author describes the people in this story comes across in the most honest and sincere way that this reviewer has read in a long time. It is truly a unique and intriguing story.

Aviation News

For those interested in gaining a different perspective on the changing human experience of RAF service over several decades, Fighters in the Blood is a standout source . . . as a single narrative spanning the lived experience of almost every rank and flying position which RAF aircrew aspired to during the Cold War [it] delivers something unique.

RUSI Journal