As the Battle of Britain was being commemorated with a roar of engines and ribbons of coloured smoke for the RAF’s special centenary year celebrations overhead this lunchtime, here at No. 53 we were turning to the bookshelves to prepare to celebrate in a literary fashion for today’s newsletter. Last autumn’s Slightly Foxed Edition (No. 39) The Last Enemy by Richard Hillary is one of the great classic memoirs of the Second World War. In it Hillary describes how, as a somewhat arrogant young man, fresh from public school and Oxford, he abandoned university to train as a pilot on the outbreak of war in 1939.
Shot down in 1940 during the Battle of Britain, he suffered terrible burns and was treated by the pioneering plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe. During those brief and gruelling wartime months this once good-looking and privileged young man was forced to grow up as he struggled to come to terms with his defacing injuries and mourned the loss of his friends. The Last Enemy, his final tribute to them, was published in 1942, only months before he himself died in a second crash. It’s a disturbing yet uplifting book, intense, honest and unforgettable.
Do read on for an extract from our limited edition of this book, with a new preface by Ursula Buchan.
With best wishes from the SF office staff
Jennie, Anna, Olivia, and Hattie