A Tale of Survival: Review by Gary Hebbard

The full text of the review of “Surviving Victory” as originally written by Gary Hebbard follows. It was published in the “Telegram, St. John’s, Newfoundland” and you can view that version at the end of the text.

Hebbard is a journalist and photographer who has written extensively on aviation topics for newspapers and magazines in Canada and the US.

Surviving Victory
World War II Pilot, Actor, Sculptor, Writer
Philip (Bockman) Vickers
Edited by Barbara Vickers
239 pages, Illustrated,  $18.95
Supplemented by a reproduction of his pilot’s log book
123 pages $24.95

“When the United States entered World War II in late 1941 the conflict was already more than two years old and, on many fronts, at the height of it’s savagery. Young men everywhere were spoiling to get into the action before it could pass them by, nowhere more so than in the neutral United States before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour jolted the country into action.

“One such was a young Oklahoman named Philip Bockman. From a home dominated by a father shattered by his experience’s in World War I and a mother plagued by illness, raised by an aunt, Bockman was inspired to fly when he saw Charles Lindbergh in Oklahoma City after is solo Atlantic flight to Paris. Fortified by a stint at university and possessed of a private pilot’s license showing a grand total of 35 hours in the air, Philip set out for Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“Bockman’s story to this point is not untypical of many young American boys who circumvented their country’s neutrality by joining the armed forces of a foreign country. But his progress from eager amateur to seasoned fighter pilot would take some interesting, even bizarre, turns. Absences without leave, normally a court martial offence in the military, were somehow overcome with little more than a slap on the wrist and a promise to do better in the future. Eventually mastering both the legendary Hurricane and Spitfire fighter planes, Bockman would survive the war to become in turn an actor, a sculptor and an author.

“Of particular interest to local aviation and history buffs will be Bockman’s adventures in Gander. On November 7, 1942 he was posted to 127 Squadron, RCAF at Gander for training before being posted to an operational fighter squadron overseas. During his time there Bockman would become both victim and rescuer, twice crash landing Hurricanes in the winter wilderness and once helping to locate the survivors of a crashed bomber.  While occupied with training, there was also time for a little rest and relaxation, R&R in military parlance, some of it spent in St. John (sic) and Corner Brook. Frequent references to the local residents as “Newfies” may ruffle some readers feathers.

“Eventually posted to an operational squadron at Digby, Nova Scotia Bockman entered the aerial fray like so many of his generation, full of bravado and determination to vanquish the enemy. More than a year of combat flying tempered his personality and imbued him with a sense of the futility and tragedy of war.

“An interesting companion piece to this memoir is a reproduction of Philip’s pilot’s log book, detailing his many flights from trainee to veteran in several types of aircraft including two marks of Hurricane and three marks of Spitfire. Shortly after the war Philip legally changed his last name to Vickers as less Germanic sounding than Bockman and a possible aid to his budding acting career.

“Surviving Victory is published by Vibrant Books and available in Canada through Canav Books (www.canav.com) . The reproduction of his log book, also published by Vibrant, is available at Amazon.com.

“Both will be a welcome addition to any aviation buff’s library.”

Review by Gary Hebbard

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