In this guestblog author Melvyn Fickling tells us about the research of his novel Bluebirds. It’s a work of historical fiction based on the Battle of Britain. Even though my research doesn’t consists anything with the Battle of Britain, I believe this book is worth reading! Fickling told us about his research

I first encountered Adrian Francis Laws in a framed collection of servicemen’s photographs which still hangs in the snooker room at The War Memorial Club in my home town in Eastern England. He was labelled simply as an ‘RAF Pilot’. A little research revealed he flew a Spitfire in dozens of combat missions with 64 Squadron during the summer of 1940, making him a member of the legendary group of pilots that Churchill dubbed ‘The Few’. During the battle he scored four confirmed aerial victories, including two Messerschmitt 109s, at the time the Luftwaffe’s most dangerous fighter.


When I moved to London I undertook more detailed research. My quest led me to the Public Records Office in Kew (now called The National Archives) where I unearthed original combat reports, some bearing Laws’ own signature, that detailed these combats in his own words. But I found the jewel-in-the-crown in the dusty vaults of The British Library. An American volunteer named Arthur Donahue had also flown with 64 Squadron and had become firm friends with Laws. His memoir, ‘A Yankee in a Spitfire’ written in 1940 solved the mystery that surrounded Laws’ ultimate fate.

I came back to my research many years later and became convinced the storyline was engaging enough to weave into a novel. I’d had the pleasure of meeting Laws’ daughter, born two weeks after he was killed. She filled in a lot of the gaps about his early career and how he met her mother. She also gave me her blessing to tell his story and ‘Bluebirds’ is the result.

Laws became Anthony Francis, Donahue became Gerry Donaldson and I hung a fictional narrative on the coat-pegs of the facts that I knew about their lives. So, although Bluebirds is essentially a British story, it also covers the life of a very special US citizen about whom few Americans know very much. Although dozens of Americans volunteered, and by doing so they knew they risked relinquishing their citizenship of a then-neutral USA, Donahue was exceptional because he was already a fully qualified flying instructor with over 1,800 hours in his log-book. The RAF snapped him up and it took him only 20 hours to convert to Spitfires. In June 1940 Donahue was posted to 64 Squadron which was stationed at the front-line aerodrome at Kenley, south of London. Within days he had tasted combat against the bombers and fighters of the Luftwaffe.

This made Donahue the first American volunteer to fire guns in anger against Nazi forces.

Read the story of these two remarkable men and the comrades that flew with them in the battle that saved western civilisation.

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One thought to “Bluebirds – A Novel Based on the True Story of my Local Battle of Britain Hero”

  • Gary Eason

    “I came back to my research many years later and became convinced the storyline was engaging enough to weave into a novel.” I, for one, am very glad that Melvyn did so. He has created a gripping tale of several very different lives that come together in the Battle of Britain. The combat accounts are page-turners; the characters highly believable; and his prose a delight to read. Recommended.


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