I wholeheartedly commend A Spitfire Named Connie to anyone who has the desire to see what life was like in the 1940s, and how much things have changed since then.
Wrapping known historical facts up in the pages written by his father the author is able to transport us back to a different time – society was different and our hero sees no hardship in walking miles for a few hours in the company of his love.
Always unsaid it is obvious that Robbie needs his love / fiance / wife to keep him grounded and focussed during some pretty hairy experiences that must have been common place to him and his comrades.
I can’t recommend this book enough – whether you are an aviation nut; a social historian or just someone who likes a good read.
These days were before the world of mobile phones and social media. Each of the characters in this book displays courage, faith, stoicism, persistence and humility, plus a good sense of humour! A great generation.
The principal source material contained in this absorbing account of a fledgling romance between the young RAF pilot Robbie Robertson and his girlfriend Connie (not to mention the Spitfire which bore her name) is the collection of hundreds of letters Robbie sent to Connie during the course of the War, and which she carefully preserved. Connie’s letters have been lost to history, but it is possible to infer her thoughts by the responses Robbie provides in his own correspondence.
A Spitfire Named Connie’ charts the odyssey navigated by the aspirant pilot waiting frustratedly for his call-up as the phoney war gave way to the full, awful reality in 1940, through his pilot training and into combat – first in the skies of Northwest Europe and later over North Africa. To the modern reader’s eye, the correspondence may seem rather reserved, but only slightly below the surface-level upbeat tenor of Robbie’s letters is an increasing level of anxiety as excitement gives way to the realities of war and his exposure to all of human nature’s triumphs and failings – including those exhibited by his various leaders. For Robbie, it is a passage from civilian innocence to one of hardened warrior, a journey on which Connie spiritually accompanies him despite, for much of the War, being physically separated. The catastrophic context of conflict in which their courtship blossomed must surely have been the catalyst for building the granite-like relationship they would share for the remainder of their lives. But such an outcome did not seem a foregone conclusion at first – in their early exchanges, Robbie seems to have taken a degree of delight in regaling Connie with tales of his flirtations with an impressive cast of young ladies. It isn’t absolutely clear whether this was a tactic designed to strengthen Connie’s enthusiasm, or simply plain old-fashioned showing off. Either way, Connie and Robbie clearly hit it off and the tone of the correspondence changes as Robbie, himself not young for a fighter pilot when judged against his peers, matures as the reality of combat and the loss of cherished colleagues hits home.
The boyish enthusiasm which is the hallmark of Robbie’s early wartime correspondence gives way to something more profound as his experiences force his psyche to adapt. His ultimate fate as a fighter pilot, sealed in the desert skies of North Africa leaves him severely wounded. All that he had sought to be – a fighter pilot – had come to brutal end, but one that had at least spared his life. Blinded in one eye, his war was at an end as an active participant, and although he clearly mourned the loss of his erstwhile comrades who met a worse fate than his, he was thankful and pragmatic enough to grasp with both hands the precious second major mission of his life – that of being a husband to Connie and father to his two sons.
This book is more than a collection of wartime correspondence between two young people caught in the maelstrom. Owing to the meticulous research conducted by the author, the threads of the story are tightly woven together, unearthing both British and German official records that substantiate and explain many of the stories related therein. Within those tales, we meet a cast a wartime household names, including the likes of Group Captain Brian Kingcome DSO DFC*, Wing Commander Bob Stanford-Tuck DSO DFC** AFC and Group Captain ‘Sailor’ Malan DSO* DFC* (whose younger brother, George, flew with Robbie on 72 Squadron and was ultimately to lose his life in early 1943, not long after Robbie’s own shooting down).
‘A Spitfire Names Connie’ is an intensely personal tale, but it adds vital first-hand evidence from those like Robbie who were at the vanguard of that generational fight against tyranny. Robbie’s and Connie’s contributions to that struggle may have been relatively minor in the context of the wider conflagration, but the relationship they forged can be considered to be a major private success and a genuine positive to emerge from the War. Despite his injuries, in later life Robbie seemed to be a contented man, free from some of the worst mental effects that so many struggled with for decades. Doubtless, he had taken solace in the fact that his elder son followed in his footsteps as a Royal Air Force fighter pilot, ultimately ascending the ranks to Air Marshal.
This book complements Black Robertson‘s earlier account of his and his father’s parallel careers, ‘Fighters in the Blood’, providing the personal hinterland that completes the outline jigsaw provided by the earlier account. It is a must read for all who seek to understand the unique pressures and commitment needed to form a lasting relationship in the crucible of the Second World War. It will long serve as a testament to that extraordinary generation of young men and women who gave everything to their country with little thought for themselves, except, perhaps to wish occasionally that they could somehow love each other for a lifetime, however long or short that might turn out to be.
An eagerly awaited follow up to Fighters in the Blood. Another compelling true story of a Spitfire pilot, who’s flying career was tragically cut short. Through his many very personal letters, It tells of his passion for flying and his endearing love of his sweetheart Connie. From young friend, to fiancé and wife, an unquestionable love that lasted a lifetime. This, like the authors previous book, it is much more than a book for aviation, or Spitfire enthusiasts.
It is a moving insight into the life of one of many, who courageously volunteered to serve their Country. What it takes to pursue the ambition of being a fighter pilot. The sacrifices made and the high price they paid for their service.
It is an enjoyable and compelling story, that will not leave you disappointed. Their are few, if any of these great men left, their story needs to be told. Enjoy!
Fascinating and moving read! An absolutely wonderful book recounting the experiences of a genuine Spitfire ace in WWII by his son, Black, based on the many letters home to his girlfriend and future wife Connie. A captivating read that gives a unique insight into the war in the air.
Another great book from Black Robertson. What a wonderful insight to a gentleman who fought for his Country. Such a personal account of his time in the Royal Air Force through his letters home to his ‘beloved Connie’ The author is able to give detailed accounts of his fathers war-time history, which keeps the reader engaged. Another fantastic book from the author, Black Robertson.