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

4.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  774 Ratings  ·  71 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 Battl
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Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 7th 2003 by John Wiley & Sons (first published 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,402)
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'Aussie Rick'
May 13, 2015 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 04, 2010 KOMET rated it it was amazing
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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Skylar
Mar 23, 2016 Skylar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best work in the genre of memoir/biography/autobiography I have read by or about pilots of the Battle of Britain. It is beautifully written, humorous and touching. It made me laugh out loud in places and also brought tears to my eyes in others. The most memorable aspects of this memoir (for me) were the sense of serene freedom enjoyed by the author whilst in the air during the pre-operational part of his training, the quiet but deep bonds of friendship between the author and his fell ...more
Pete daPixie
Sep 21, 2010 Pete daPixie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-wwii
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
Feb 17, 2014 Marc Stevens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 06, 2010 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 19, 2014 John Kaufmann rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
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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Andrew
Jun 11, 2014 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 liked it  ·  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 it was amazing  ·  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....
Ian
May 07, 2015 Ian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an amazing story - a boy of not yet nineteen years ends up in a Spitfire at Biggin Hill fighting for his life in the Battle of Britain.
Wellum's style is easy to read and has the typical understatement of the time. He was not an "ace" but rather an ordinary person who did the most extraordinary things (including surviving!)
As a pilot myself (but nowhere near his class or ability) I found it easy to empathise with his difficulties during training and fear when being caught out under a lowerin
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Steve Switzer
Nov 12, 2015 Steve Switzer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
Excellent first hand account of 'boys' battle of Britain experiences as a very young fighter pilot
Alex Pearl
Jan 03, 2014 Alex Pearl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Gary Bonn
Mar 28, 2016 Gary Bonn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought I had read every first-hand account of the Battle of Britain. For some mysterious reason family, extended family, friends and enemies think I like them and fill my bookshelves with them.
This one came as a surprise. Written maybe fifty years after, the author wrote at a time the culture of the UK had changed and it was quite acceptable to talk about feelings, thoughts and emotions. The stiff upper lip had relaxed.
That makes this book unique – and important.
Yes, not many people understan
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Derek Collett
Dec 11, 2015 Derek Collett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fabulous, engrossing book that tells the story of a young Spitfire pilot during World War Two. We follow Geoff Wellum through his application process, through a long and arduous training course and right the way through the war (although, understandably, Wellum places a lot of emphasis on the Battle of Britain).

Wellum made a very brave decision by deciding to tell his story in the present tense, i.e. as if it were happening now. This gives his book great momentum and immediacy and it i
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James Kemp
Jan 26, 2014 James Kemp rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mar 12, 2012 Timothy Bazzett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 23, 2011 Barbara Mader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii
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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Glenys
Nov 15, 2015 Glenys rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has to be a five star classic account of what it was like to join the wartime RAF at 17, train as a pilot, fly a Spitfire, survive many sorties and dogfights when your friends didn't, suffer severe combat fatigue and (although he doesn't dwell on it) retire psychologically damaged by the experience. It's by turns thrilling and poignant. Although it's definitely a page-turner, I often found myself stopping reading, staring into the middle distance, pondering the imponderables of war.
Anthony Ryan
Nov 18, 2014 Anthony Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Michael Kerr
Mar 26, 2016 Michael Kerr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, memoir, non-fiction
This is a great account of a young recruit who joined the RAF just before the Second World War began; it covers his training (fraught) and then his life as a pilot. He's just 17 when he signs up and it is startling to see how he ages over the course of the Battle of Britain and the fight for Malta. It's a really immediate account, uncluttered by politics or even context - just as one would expect from a 17 year old. Terrific read.
Joseph Tryka
Dec 04, 2015 Joseph Tryka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book this book to me doesn't look amusing but you know what they say you can't judge a book by its cover and I read it this book got me so intrigued that I read it all the way though.
It starts off with a high schooler in England year 1939. who is seventeen, and has sent in his essay that why he wanted to join the royal air force, when he goes for training he has to get his head out of his a** if he wants to become a fighter pilot.
Jolyon
May 21, 2014 Jolyon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 05, 2010 Ricky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Dain Keating
I thought this was rather a self-indulgent book, and as another reviewer has said, he certainly is no Hemingway or Proust. It gives a little idea of what it must have been like to go into battle as a teenager - but not much. Too shallow.
Boymc
Apr 07, 2015 Boymc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very honest first hand account from one of those long haired "few". Want to know what it was really like to peer over the top of a roaring merlin in the skies above England? Read this.
Hybrazil
Mar 13, 2016 Hybrazil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A ripping yarn as you'd expect, what! Written in present tense, unusually. Manages to relate action scenes without becoming confusing or dull. Worthwhile!
David Smith
Aug 09, 2015 David Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book particularly the technical detail of how to fly a spitfire. It was also good regarding being an account of the battle of Britain.
Steve
Oct 22, 2010 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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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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More about Geoffrey Wellum...

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