No Chains in the Sky: Alan Bowman Tasmanian War Pilot

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Tasmanian war pilot Alan Bowman (1911-1941) joined the fledgling Royal Australian Air Force as a pilot cadet in 1930, and from that time until his death in the Western Desert in 1941, maintained contacted with his family at Deloraine by writing letters about his life and experiences, his travels, his feelings and his hopes.

Bowman left Australia for England at the end of 1931 for a career in the Royal Air Force, serving in Egypt in 1935-36 and then India in 1938. In India he had the unique experience of being British military liaison officer to German mountaineers attempting to climb Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas, giving him an invaluable opportunity to fly a German Junkers 52 military plane, used to drop supplies to the climbers.

He then commanded a RAF bomber squadron in Singapore in 1939 and Aden in 1940, where he won his first DFC for action against Italian forces in East Africa. From there he went to the Western Desert where his squadron participated in the battle for control of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Not long after being awarded a second DFC in 1941 and being promoted to Wing Commander, and just weeks before his death, he distinguished himself by capturing a Stuka dive bomber in disputed territory in the desert, and flying it through ‘friendly’ fire to a British air base.

This book is Alan Bowman’s story, told through the lens of his letters, and through that prism it is also the story of many others as well.


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