Review of the book “To Russia and Back: An Ordinary Man’s Extraordinary Journey” by James (Jimmy) Pitts

From :

For more than 45 years, James Pitts kept his family in the dark about an incredible chapter in his long life.
With Britain fighting a desperate war against Nazi Germany, on the day before his 18th birthday James walked into a recruiting office and signed on as a Telegraphist Air-Gunner in the Fleet Air Arm.
That was the beginning of a three-year journey that was to see James leave the paucity of his London home and embark on an adventure that was to take him to the United States, Canada and the Soviet Union.
On the way, he survived three plane crashes, lost his best friend in a tragic wartime accident and fought the Nazis in the skies over the Norwegian fjords.
Then he was sent on what Winston Churchill described as the ‘worst journey in the world’ – through the unforgiving Arctic waters on the Russian Convoys.
These convoys delivering vital supplies to the Soviet Union were relentlessly attacked by U-boats and planes, causing immense loss of life, and James took part in the final sea battle of the Second World War.
His family had no knowledge of this aspect of life until, under pressure, he finally told them his story.
This book tells that story with self-depreciation, modesty and humour, a fascinating account of how a naive young man faced up to extraordinary circumstances beyond the comprehension of most people (with a little help from alcohol!) at a monumental time in our country’s history.
In recent years, James, at the age of 89, has returned to Russia to carry the Olympic Flame for the Sochi Winter Olympics and to present the Arctic Star Medal that he had campaigned for to a major war museum in Moscow.
In a journey just as fascinating as his wartime years, James recounts his visits to Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, both Houses of Parliament and the many interesting and entertaining characters he has met along the way. This is a story of an ordinary man’s extraordinary journey, told with humour, modesty and dignity.

“The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.”
– Winston Churchill, Prime Minister

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