The Last Enemy

Front Cover
Pippin Publishing Corporation, 2003 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 195 pages
Described by critics as "not a book written by a pilot about the war, but a book written by a writer about a pilot", The Last Enemy tells the story of a young writer's experiences as a Spitfire pilot in training and during the Battle of Britain, and of the life he led after being shot down.

Richard Hillary begins his story with a gripping account of his flight from Hornchurch on September 3, 1940, up and out over the Channel and into ferocious aerial combat, "a blur of twisting machines and tracer bullets". His plane hit and hurtling towards the water, Richard bails out of the flaming cockpit and parachutes into the Channel where, hours later, he is eventually rescued by the Margate lifeboat.

The Last Enemy then tells the extraordinary and moving story surrounding that September day. It describes carefree days at Trinity College, Oxford, light-hearted competitive rowing in Germany and Hungary, training as a fighter pilot, aerial combat and then, after being shot down and cruelly burnt by the flames, of a slow and painful recovery. Richard tells also of great friendship and of tragic loss and - in yet more sombre tones - of intense and agonizing personal reflection and questioning about his own war experience, which transformed him fromm a gifted and handsome athlete, admired and envied by his contemporaries, into a ravaged figure. Unsure of whether or not he would ever be passed fit enough to fly again, Richard asks himself what he can do for those who have died? As he himself wrote: "Then after a while it came to me. I could write." And so he came to write The Last Enemy.

This commemorative edition of The Last Enemy, with a foreword by D.M.W. to whom the book was originally dedicated, is being published on April 20, Richard Hillary's birthday, and in 2003, sixty years after his death.

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User Review  - MasseyLibrary -

The Last Enemy (first published in America as Falling Through Space), is a war memoir written by the Second World War Anglo-Australian fighter pilot Richard Hillary detailing his experiences during ... Read full review

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User Review  - Pandaros - LibraryThing

The Last Enemy is a must for anyone interested in how WW2 was actually experienced. Hillary spends little time writing about his battle experiences, but much more on the period before the outbreak of ... Read full review

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About the author (2003)

Richard Hillary was born in Australia on April 20, 1919. While still at school, at Shrewsbury, he had confessed his ambition to become a writer. As an undergraduate at Oxford he joined the University Air Squadron and, on the outbreak of war, the RAF Volunteer Reserve. After training as a fighter pilot he flew a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain, and was shot down in September, 1940. Temporarily blinded, his face and hands savagely burned and badly disfigured, he endured repeated operations involving plastic surgery and skin grafting. It was while convalescing from these operations that he began to writeThe Last Enemy as a testament to the young fliers of his generation and as an examination of his own character and attitude to the war. It was published in 1942 and was unhesitatingly recognized as a classic.

Richard Hillary never completely regained the full use of his hands, but nevertheless was determined to return to flying. Although not really fit for combat, he wangled his way back onto active service and began operational training for night flying. And it was in January, 1943, while on a night training flight that his Blenheim crashed, killing him and his navigator-radio operator. He was just three months short of his twenty-third birthday.

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