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First Light: The True Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies Above Britain

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  513 ratings  ·  54 reviews
"Wellum's First Light deserves to be read for many years to come."
-The Times (of London)High praise for England's bestselling First Light . . .

"An extraordinarily gripping and powerful story."
-The Evening Standard (London)

"A work of exceptional quality . . . a passion and immediacy which make it compelling reading."
-Max Hastings, author of Overlord: D-Day and the Battle fo
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Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 24th 2003 by John Wiley & Sons (first published 2001)
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'Aussie Rick'
First Light is one of those books that is destined to be remembered as a "classic" and rightly so. This is a wonderful book of a young man who joined the Royal Air Force before the start of World War Two and who later fought during the Battle of Britain and survived. Most of the book is taken up with his training as a pilot and the fighting during the Battle of Britain. However the book continues on to cover his role in Operation Pedestal and the fighting over Malta until his return to England a ...more
KOMET
This is a very compelling book. As the son of a Second World War veteran of the European phase of the war, in reading Mr. Wellum's account, I want to thank him for helping to make real in my mind, the stresses that war places on you. In particular, while reading the chapter in which Mr. Wellum describes his chase of a Junkers 88 bomber in foul weather and his subsequent efforts to return to his airbase, I felt as if I were the cockpit with him, hoping that I'd get down safely and in one piece!

H
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Pete daPixie
Here in 2010, being the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Geoffrey Wellum was featured on a t.v. programme just the other night. I then remembered that I read his book some years back. I can review it now because of the deep impression it made back then.
The story begins as the dark clouds gather over Europe in the late thirties. Wellum joins the R.A.F. and is selected for fighter pilot training. The whole account is awesome stuff. From gypsy moth novice to that very first night flight a
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Marc Stevens
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was the first, first-person account I'd ever read of the Battle of Britain, and my heart ached for the author (the youngest pilot to take part in the Battle).

It was especially poignant to feel the author's loss of hope for his own survival as his tours wore on, and he lost increasing numbers of friends. You truly felt, along with the author, his utter devastation.

At the end of the book, after closing the cover, I burst into tears.

What a great work! Thanks ever
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Andrew
If you want an overview of the strategy and tactics of the Battle of Britain read Michael Korda's "With Wings Like Eagles". However, if you want a first-person account of a fighter pilot this is your book. Wellum doesn't give a good sense of how his squadron's work figures in the big picture but DOES give a good sense of what it is to be flying and fighting.

Pages 147-155 describe a dogfight in detail.
Pages 230-240 describe him in low overcast trying to find his way home -- with a failed radio. I
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John Kaufmann
I know this book is rated highly and was popular in Britain. It had relatively gripping chase scenes, so if that's what you want, this book is okay. However, I felt it didn't offer anything else.

There was basically no historical context. If you didn't otherwise know that took place during the Battle of Britain, you wouldn't have gleaned it from this book. Nothing of Churchill's speeches to rally the troops. No news of how the rest of Britain was faring outside of Wellum's air base. Nothing abou
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Andy
In times of crisis, decisions become magnified. 17-year-old Geoffrey Wellum, the youngest fighter pilot in the RAF during the Battle of Britain, never doubted his decision to leave school and join up in the summer of 1939 – but he had no idea what was in store over the next few years.

By August 1940 he had already seen his best friend killed; but the Battle had hardly begun. “Soon I shall know what the others already know. I shall be either a man or a coward,” Wellum recalls in his enthralling p
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Mark
May 28, 2010 Mark rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mark by: Found it in Battle of Britain Amazon Kindle search
Shelves: history
The author comes across as somewhat of a twit (although a heroic one), but this seems to enhance the book's verisimilitude. He's not much of a writer, but his descriptions of the mechanics of flight in a Spitfire are very good. Does not discuss anything about Battle of Britain tactics, strategy etc. so is a refreshing (perhaps) first person account of being a fighter pilot there and then, only.
Malissa Mcdermott
Aug 26, 2007 Malissa Mcdermott rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Spitfire fanatics and anyone who likes autobigraphies
This book is fantastic!! It touches the heart, it is a true and honest account of a Veteran Pilot who served his country throughout the 2nd world war as a heroic pilot. It tells us his story of first becoming a pilot and being chosen among others to become one of the finest pilots who flew the spitfire. It is amazing I felt as if I were flyng the spitfire wow!! You must read this book....
Alex Pearl
At the age of just 17, Geoffrey Wellum dreams of joining the RAF and flying planes. The year is 1938 and he is still a a schoolboy. The dream, however, rapidly comes to fruition, and before we know it this country is hurled into war, and Wellum finds himself preparing for a battle in the skies that nothing could adequately prepare him for.

This is an astonishing account, beautifully penned by one of Churchill's "few." We are given a very real and terrifying glimpse of what it must have felt like
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James Kemp
Jan 26, 2014 James Kemp rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to James by: Tom Cusworth
If you want to know what it was like to be a spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain, then this is the book you need to read. The author was a public schoolboy that joined the RAF just before the outbreak of war. He signed up in the spring of 1939 and started training as soon as he finished school in July 1939.

The first third of the book is a very detailed account of his entry to the service and the flight training. Through this we get to know the author as a typical public schoolboy, he strugg
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Timothy Bazzett
Geoffrey Wellum's stories of his days as a very young fighter pilot sat percolating somewhere on a back burner of his mind for over fifty years before the publication of this book, FIRST LIGHT. And yet somehow he managed to make these memories as real and immediate as if they were only yesterday. Wellum was not quite eighteen when he matriculated directly from his prep school into the RAF. In less than two years he was a Spitfire fighter pilot engaged in some of the most intense aerial combat an ...more
Andrew
This tells the vivid and at times moving portrait of a Spitfires pilots journey through, not just the Second World War, but also young adulthood and the fears and emotions felt by someone young who was involved in the conflict.

What impressed me the most was the style the book was written in. It rather brilliantly managed to convey the thoughts and feelings of the author while in the cockpit. I found the period of time during which he was being trained particularly telling in terms of the fear wh
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Barbara Mader
One of three books I read recently by pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain, and the only one to survive past the end of the war.

This book was the only one of the three to be written much later, but it drew on logs and journals and so on kept at the time. Wellum was only seventeen and a half years old when he began training, and not yet nineteen when he was assigned to a fighter squadron.

The writing is not stellar but engaging, and I found myself liking this very young man who found it in him
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Anthony Ryan
Part war memoir, part love letter to the experience of flight. Geoffrey Wellum recounts his days as an RAF fighter pilot from the Battle of Britain to the siege of Malta. Wellum puts the reader in the cockpit with him, bringing home the terror and exhilaration of aerial combat with an immediacy rarely seen in other accounts. For anyone curious as to what it was really like to fly a fighter in WWII, this is probably as close a you're likely to get.
Jolyon
I had this theory a few years ago that if I only bought books from my local charity shop I might widen my reading circle. Picked up this book for 50p and literally couldn't put it down. Never read a 'war' story so to speak but this was such a fantastic find. Highly recommend well worth giving it a tally ho go!
Ricky
First light is a wonderful descriptive book that brings alive a time when this country depended on our air force to help our country hold off the German offensive. This is a very well written account of Geoffrey Wellum at the age of 17 starting his RAF training and becoming an RAF pilot in the Battle of Britain. You get totally immersed in the era and characters of this period and you are willing Geoffrey Wellum with all your heart to make it through – it’s a thrilling story that keeps you on te ...more
Steve
I purchased this as my first read on an Amazon Kindle after seeing the BBC drama to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The book really does convey the feelings felt by I think the youngest fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain during some of the most intense fighting of the time and the feelings of self doubt that everyone experiences from time to time. But for Geoffrey Wellum he experienced them over the fields of Britain, France and Malta fighting for his life and those in hi
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Jim
Tally ho! A book from the nineteen forties that could have come from a century earlier in its style and touch. A tonic, however, to so much of the bilge that you read these days. The true story of the training and the war of a young Spitfire pilot was touching and philosophical, as well as quietly chilling as it depicted the approach of a near nervous breakdown through the strain of it all. He constantly questions the war, his God, life and love and battles with his own fears and doubts as the w ...more
Margaret
Very readable account of one man's experience as a Spitfire pilot during the Battle of Britain. He survived the war, you know that reading the book, but he still holds you on the edge of your seat as he flies every mission. It's as if you are right there with him in the cockpit, sweating, breathing oxygen, scanning instruments, dodging 109s.

I very rarely give a book 5 stars but this one got the fifth as a thank you to a man who was "one of the few" to which we "owe so much," and who epitomized "
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Skull
Jul 18, 2013 Skull rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Skull by: George Greatwood
This is the sort of Book which is a Must Read for anyone and i really can't praise it enough. Written with Honesty and Humour, It takes you through the second world war from the eyes of one of the youngest spitfire pilots at the Battle of Britain and is a book which, once picked up, will get in the way of your everyday life until you have finished it as you carry on trying to read it whilst making your coffee, preparing food, walking the dog etc, as you will find it impossible to put down. Geoff ...more
Adam
Geoffrey Wellum is a great writer. This is his fascinating story about starting out in life and fulfilling one's dream; in his case, to become an RAF pilot. But little did he know how soon war would break out after joining the RAF at the young age of 17.

Once you immerse yourself into this book, you can vividly visualise his experiences of flying these vintage aeroplanes, and being involved in dogfights in the skies above the English Channel.

If you enjoy a historic adventure, then I recommend thi
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Ronald
This isn't my usual type of read, I bought it for my Father and don't know if he ever got round to reading it, I hope he did, I found it in the house after he died. It is gripping stuff, real Boy's own adventure but, this is no fiction. This is the vivid memoirs of the author, a Spitfire Pilot during the Battle of Britain. I thought I knew about the sacrifices that these brave young men made ...I didn't. This is a must read for todays smug, comfortable brats for whom these brave men fought.
David Allatt
A light slice of WWII from the POV of a Spitfire pilot.
Jools
It's unusual to find a memoir that's so candid and honest about personal experience. From the moment you engage with Geoffrey Wellum as a young schoolboy just prior to the outbreak of World War II to the moment you experience his combat experiences for the first time and travel with him through the ordeals of the experience of war as a young man, you feel as if you're in the cockpit with him, learning from all his mistakes. I could hardly put this book down.
Alan Morris
Sep 01, 2010 Alan Morris rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Probably the most readable of all the Battle of Britain autobiographies, this is an excellent portrayal of a boys journey (Wellum was only 17 at the start of the battle) through selection, training, the battle itself and finishing with his move to testing new aircraft. Written quite recently by one of the remaining 'Few' I highly recommend this book and also the audiobook which although abridged seems to capture the essence of the written book well.
Karen (Kew)
I found this to be a very interesting read and a real insight to the lives of the young men who joined the RAF during World War II. Some of the indepth descriptions of flying went over my head but will be of interest to those who understand flying. I was amazed, and at times angered, to read about what these young men were put through. Geoffrey Wellum was completely worn out at the age of 21! Memoirs like this bring history alive.
Tony Stevenson
First rate book about what was actually involved in being a fighter pilot during the Second World War. Highly recommended to all aviation enthusiasts.
Scott Hunter
Thoroughly enjoyable, very personal war memoir. The blurb suggests that when reading this book you feel as though you are in the cockpit with young Geoffrey, experiencing all his emotions at first hand.

It's true. Geoffrey's war memoir is in turns fascinating, exciting and moving. I wish that I could have been there in reality, flying alongside this brave young man in Britain's 'finest hour'.
David Harker
Geoffrey has a very easy first hand style that draws the reader into his story. He became a spitfire pilot straight from school and this is his account of the training and the missions he flew throughout the war. It does not glorify war - it tells it as it was and some of the anecdotes are heart rending. Highly recommended if you like auto biographies and if you like first hand war time history.
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GEOFFREY WELLUM, a veteran of the Battle of Britain, was the youngest fighter pilot (at 18) in the Royal Air Force (RAF) to have fought in that battle.

"Aged seventeen, he signed up on a short-service commission with the Royal Air Force in August 1939. The first aircraft he flew was the Tiger Moth at Desford airfield in Leicestershire, after successfully completing the course he then went on to fly
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