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Forces War Records Blog

BOOK OF THE MONTH FROM PEN AND SWORD - ‘BEST FOOT FORWARD’ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE RAF'S OTHER LEGLESS FIGHTER PILOT

Here is the latest 'Book of the Month' from Pen and Sword.

‘Best Foot Forward’ The Autobiography of the RAF's Other Legless Fighter Pilot

Author: Colin Hodgkinson, Foreword by Sir Archibald McIndoe CBE, FRCS

Born in Wells, Somerset, in 1920, Colin Gerald Shaw Hodgkinson was accepted for pilot training in the Fleet Air Arm in 1938. A crash in May 1939 resulted in both of his legs being amputated. Treated by Archibald McIndoe, leading to his membership of the Guinea Pig Club, Colin was determined to fly again. He left the Navy in 1942 and joined the RAF as a Pilot Officer. By March 1943 he was a Flying Officer with 611 Squadron, later joining 501 Squadron as a flight commander. Following a remarkable wartime career as a fighter pilot, Colin achieved post-war success in the competitive world of advertising and public relations, even being the star of an episode of the BBCs This is Your Life which was broadcast live on 7 October 1957. He passed away on 13 September 1996.

'Book of the Month' from Pen and Sword. ‘Best Foot Forward’ The Autobiography of the RAF's Other Legless Fighter Pilot
'Book of the Month' from Pen and Sword.
‘Best Foot Forward’ The Autobiography of the RAF's Other Legless Fighter Pilot

Highlights

  • An autobiography of a member of the famous Guinea Pig Club
  • Foreword by Sir Archibald McIndoe
  • The remarkable story of one of only two legless fighter pilots to serve in the RAF during the Second World War
  • Includes new, never before published photographs
  • All of Hodgkinson’s combat reports have been sourced and are included in a new section of appendices
  • The author was the star of an episode of the BBCs This is Your Life which was broadcast live on 7 October 1957

In the whole of the Second World War, only two men succeeded as operational fighter pilots in the RAF after losing both legs. Douglas Bader was one, and his story is well-known indeed, he has been described as one of the Royal Air Forces most famous pilots. The other was Colin Hodgkinson.

Colin was injured in a flying accident whilst training with the Fleet Air Arm in 1939. He awoke in hospital to find that his right leg had been amputated at the thigh, whilst his left leg was severely injured. His face was also damaged and he had trouble with the sight in one eye. In the weeks that followed, Colin’s remaining leg refused to heal. Coolly, calculatingly, he made his decision: Chop the damned thing off and let’s be done with it.

Just nineteen at the time, Colin developed a burning determination to prove himself a normal man by becoming a fighter pilot and flying Spitfires. With Douglas Bader as his example, and brilliant surgeons such as Sir Archibald McIndoe treating him, Colin achieved his aim with a hand-tailored pair of tin legs. He proved himself as a fighter pilot many times over, until the war ended, for him at least, as a German prisoner of war.

Although repatriated in 1944 as unfit for further duty, Colin not only continued to fly with the RAF until he left the service in 1946, but also went on to fly jet fighters with the Auxiliary Air Force from 1947 to 1952. His is undoubtedly a story of courage and determination one in which he had learnt to always stride out into the future, putting his best foot forward.

Pen and Sword Books - Bringing you closer to the past

Pen and Sword became established as one of the UK's leading military history publishers. Over recent years the company has continued to grow and has added new imprints to its core area of military history. Pen & Sword now specialise in all areas of military history, naval and maritime history, aviation, local history, family history, transport, discovery and exploration, collectables and antiques, nostalgia and true crime.

PEN & SWORD DISCOUNT CODE - £5 off all orders when you spend £30 or more using discount code FORWRS5

 

 

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