Author David Bruce

I have been interested in aviation since I was nine, when I had my first trip in an aircraft. It was a fascinating experience and in due course I joined the Air Training Corps. At seventeen, I was lucky enough to be awarded an RAF Flying Scholarship; and so ended up in the curious position of being qualified to fly an aircraft before I could even drive a car. (Liz, my wife, thinks that the roads of Britain would have been safer if it had stayed that way...)


I kept up the flying, and over the years I have managed to get my hands on a number of interesting types; Tiger Moth, Chipmunk, Harvard, SA Bulldog, Citabria, Breezy - plus a dozen or so other types of club machine. I would never describe myself as an aviator (that takes knowledge and skill...) I would describe myself as a flyer - happy to just get airborne when I can and throw a few aeros in those machines that can survive the odd mistake in handling.

Wren Type VII
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Wren Type VI

When I first got the bug to write novels I was naturally drawn to the subject of WWII aviation. I have known a number of people over the years who have been involved in aviation, from ex-RAF aircrew of the 1930s onwards and from other branches; aviation medicine, armament etc. and so I have been able to hear a great many experiences at first hand. And I believe that being a pilot enabled me to gain an additional understanding of those experiences.


So, as well as wanting to write a good story I have also been obsessed by getting the historical and technical detail correct. Hopefully I succeed most of the time.

I suppose that my creative writing began at school, where I responded better to essay assignments like "The Mystery of the Haunted Gymnasium" rather than "My Day at the Zoo". Years later, the advent of the PC made fiction writing possible for me as it made my countless revisions a practical proposition.

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I am also drawn to the middle period of the war, when almost all of the less competent individuals had either been killed or replaced, the outcome of the air war was still up for grabs; and both sides now exercised a deadly professionalism.

Of course, a huge number of aviation novels have been written since the war, and most fictional themes have been covered time and time again, and as a consequence I have been prompted to look for subjects that are a little different.

Wren Type VII

I cannot claim to follow any particular literary style, although on the historical side I do like the direct and engaging narratives of Somerset Maugham; the realism of George Shipway; and the truly compelling attention to detail of Allan Mallinson (author of the "Hervey" Napoleonic cavalry novels) and Patrick O'Brian (author of the "Master and Commander" Napoleonic sea war series). For me, historical and technical accuracy are vital if the reader is to experience that sense of presence which is the hallmark of the successful historical novel. Allan Mallinson and Patrick O'Brian appear to achieve this almost effortlessly; the rest of us can only grit our teeth and keep slogging away. In my storytelling I am given rather more to action than to angst; which I think probably puts me closer to the "633 Squadron" genre rather than to "Catch 22".

I also have to confess to being an admirer of Admiral Halsey, who was famed for stating:

"There are no great men, there are only great challenges the ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet."

While there clearly have been great men and women, Halsey's comment applies to countless men and women who served in the forces in WWII, and it has prompted me to write stories that feature credible characters, realistic events, and keep accurate history and technology to the fore.

The approach seems to work as two serving RAF officers who read "Prototype" believed it to be a story based on real events.

Some people write Whodunits, and some people write Whydunits; I write Howdunits.

The circumstances surrounding the writing of each novel are described below:

Finishing School

Finishing School by David Bruce

Finishing School was my fourth novel and, after having written three novels that were based on slightly less usual subjects, I decided to write a story that was firmly in the mainstream of WWII aviation. A brief look at the novels about Bomber Command over the last sixty years made me realise that one critical period in the training of a Lancaster bomber crew had been missed: that of the time spent at Lancaster Finishing School before joining an operational squadron.

This was the most deeply researched novel I had written to date, and the historical and technical detail that was used is probably unmatched. However, this was used prudently, and the human side was well-represented, and based on the first-hand accounts that were given to me by a number of WWII Bomber Command veterans. Some very nice comments have been made about it, but the greatest accolade has been from those members of Bomber Command who read it and said that it was the most realistic tale they had encountered.


The setting for the novel is the real-life 5 LFS, which was based at RAF Syerston in Nottingham, and the fictional 599 Squadron, based at the fictional RAF Toynby in Lincolnshire. However, the fictional side was firmly set in the real histories of the squadrons of Bomber Command.


While writing Finishing School, it became apparent that the characters could, and should, be the basis for a series of novels, so when Finishing School was completed I set about writing the next. While Finishing School had, of necessity, been an ultra-accurate rendition of life in Bomber Command, the next novel could be loosened up in a number of ways. There would still be the leadership of Hugh MacKay, the solid presence of his flight engineer, and the constant sparring of that womanizing duo the wireless operator and the rear gunner, but the plot itself could take on more of the aspect of a thriller. And the lives of the crew, plus the possibilities of romance, could begin to expand.

Thus the Falcon was born, a weapon that would utilise the technology of the mid-1940s in a way that Britain's boffins should have at that time. And the enemy target against which it would be employed also had to be credible. So, another round of research took place but, in spite of this, Falcon was completed in under eighteen months; a record time for a book of mine.

Falcon by David Bruce

Again, my "literary panel", which now included the ex-members of Bomber Command who had helped me with Finishing School, liked it a lot.

Night Of The Whirlwind

Night of the Whirlwind by David Bruce

I have had a liking for the Westland Whirlwind since childhood. There is a truly graceful look to that pencil-slim fuselage, and a powerful aspect to those bulging engine nacelles that pulled the Whirlwind along like the pods of a Star Wars racer. It seemed to me to be a very deserving subject for a novel - yet no-one had ever written one. So, I bought a copy of Victor Bingham's marvellous textbook "Whirlwind" and started work.

I immediately spotted a potential issue; Bingham had recorded every operation ever undertaken by the two RAF squadrons that had operated the "Crikey", so how could a work of fiction ever be weaved into that history? The issue was resolved by research into the events of the last week of June, 1943, when 137 Squadron ceased operations with the Whirlwind, and a scenario immediately sprang into being. And in a real stroke of luck I was put in contact with Richard Hardy, a sprightly eighty-year old author and railwayman, who was able to provide me with much vital information about the French railway system of WWII. Why was that vital? - I hope you will opt to find out by ordering the book!


The setting for the novel is 137 Squadron RAF, which was formed in September 1941 as the second squadron to be equipped with the Whirlwind fighter. 137 operated the Whirlwind fighter until June 1943.

A project has now been put in place to create a replica of a Westland Whirlwind fighter. To go to the site of the Whirlwind Fighter Project, click here.


Nowadays, the Martin Baker company is best known for its ejector seats, which have saved thousands of lives. However, aviation enthusiasts will know that during WWII they built two fighter prototypes; the MB3 and the MB5. The MB3 was powered by the Napier Sabre engine, which in 1942 was causing much grief to the squadrons operating the new Typhoon fighter. Indeed, the MB3 was lost when its engine failed on approach, and its pilot, Captain Baker, was killed.

To me, it seemed that a WWII prototype fighter could provide an excellent background for a novel; but especially if that fighter had been fingered for a vital role in the air war. So, a fighter had to be invented, and thus was born the Wren Type Six. Once again, I had some luck in the fact that the father of a work colleague happened to have been a naval aviator since the 1930s and had been a naval test pilot at Boscombe Down in 1942.

In the 1950s, Dennis Cambell went on to invent the angled deck for aircraft carriers. I was immensely flattered by the fact that he liked the finished version of the book.

Prototype by David Bruce


Assassin by David Bruce

"Prototype" simply cried out for a sequel, and so the next story describes how the Wren Aeroplane Company are asked to build a jet fighter. This was a far from unlikely scenario as in 1943 another small aircraft company was asked to build a jet aircraft - and a supersonic one to boot! This was the famous Miles M.52, and although it was cancelled before it flew, a scale model of it cruised effortlessly through the sound barrier after the war.

By 1943 there was an obvious case for the construction of a jet-powered replacement for the Mosquito, and it is a minor mystery that one was not commissioned at that time.

Particular attention was paid to the technical and historical background to ensure that no actual events could render the plot improbable. And while writing "Assassin" I was once again fortunate in being able to consult ex-RAF pilots who had flown both the Mosquito and the first generation of jets - the Vampire and the Meteor. As a result, the Wren Type Seven is about as real as a fictional jet fighter can be. Readers so far have enjoyed the story very much; and I hope you may do the same!


If you would like to get in touch with me, then please feel free to send an email to

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