Useful Books

ChristieOceanBridgeCoverOcean Bridge
The History of RAF Ferry Command

Carl A. Christie

At the beginning of the Second World War there was no thought of delivering planes by air across the Atlantic. It was assumed to be too costly and too dangerous, especially in winter. Despite this initial reluctance, between the fall of 1940 and the spring of 1945, Royal Air Force Ferry Command’s mixed civilian and military crews flew almost ten thousand aircraft, mostly American-built, to operational squadrons overseas. In Ocean Bridge Carl Christie provides the first full account of the genesis, history, and importance of Ferry Command.
From the pioneer transatlantic flights of the interwar period and the early attempts to initiate regular commercial service, Christie traces London’s decision to have aircraft, supplies and passengers delivered across the Atlantic Ocean from Canada and the United States. Under the inspired leadership of a handful of Imperial Airways’ captain-navigators, a group of civilian airmen from Britain, Canada, and the United States undertook to fly urgently needed bombers, maritime patrol aircraft, and transports to Europe for the RAF. This informal civilian organization was augmented by graduates of the British Commonwealth Training Plan in Canada and taken over by the RAF as Ferry Command in 1941. Some five hundred aircrew, as well as sixty passengers, lost their lives in accidents; Major Sir Frederick Banting, the discoverer of insulin, was killed in the first fatal crash of the ferry service.
Ocean Bridge chronicles an often overlooked contribution to Allied victory and aviation history. By war’s end the ferry service, through its various incarnations, had created the basis for the network of international air routes and procedures that commercial travelers now take for granted. (From book cover inside flap.)

This remains the definitive volume on the subject.

Cover of first edition

Cover of first edition


Paperback edition reprinted 2010

Record-breaking pioneer, bomber pilot and leader of the RAF Pathfinder Force

Air Vice-Marshal Donald Bennett

Well written autobiography of D.C.T. Bennett’s fascinating and adventurous life in aviation, with Chapter Five devoted to the very early months of the Atlantic Ferry Organization (ATFERO). Bennett was the Flying Superintendent of the civilian outfit, and leader of the very first delivery of seven Lockheed Hudson bombers from Gander, Newfoundland to the UK, November 10-11, 1940.

After leaving ATFERO, he went on to rejoin the RAF as a Wing Commander, taking part in a bombing attack on the German battleship Tirpitz, in which he was shot down, but escaped to Sweden.

A few months later, in August 1942, he was chosen to lead the brand-new Pathfinder or Light Night Striking Force, which by war’s end had flown 50,490 bombing sorties and dealt with 3,440 targets, in which 3,618 aircrew were killed.

His early years as a captain in Imperial Airways are truly fascinating, especially his long-distance flying boat achievements.

from Ferry Command to Silver City

Air Commodore Griffith “Taffy” Powell, CBE

This book is predominantly a history of two very different ferrying organizations: the wartime Ferry Command and the post-war Silver City Air Ferry across the English Channel. The author was a member of the original Air Service Department of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and was in charge at Gander and Bermuda until called to Montreal as Operations Controller of ATFERO when the ferry organizations had been taken over by the British Ministry of Aircraft Production.
When RAF Ferry Command took over from ATFERO, “Taffy” Powell was appointed Senior Air Officer to Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill and he remained in charge of operations until victory in Europe. He is therefore in the unique position of being able to set down for the first time, the full history of RAF Ferry Command. Following the war, the author pioneered the development of air ferries between Britain and the continent, and Ferryman tells the story of Silver City Air Ferries. In 1948 Silver City carried 178 cars and their passengers and went on, within ten years, to carry more than 200,000 cars and three-quarters of a million passengers.
The heroines of the story are perhaps the sixteen fat and rather ungainly Bristol Freighter aircraft which, day after day, crossed the Channel without mishap and gained for the Company the Cumberbatch Trophy, the premier air safety award of the Commonwealth. Ferryman fills a gap in the history of both military and civilian aviation. (Description based upon text from the book jacket inside flap.)


Original book jacket and cover, from 1944 first edition

Bombers Across
The Story of the Transatlantic Ferry Command

Captain Edgar J. Wynn
Introduction by Lowell Thomas

One of the more interesting aspects of this book is that it was published in 1944, before the war ended. This could be the first book written by a member of the Royal Air Force Ferry Command, and may be unique in that the author went on to fly in the Air Transport Command, and to describe his adventures within that organization.
The first paragraph pretty much sums up the early days of Ferry Command:
You might call us the irregulars of the Second World War. We fought for three years without uniforms, except for washed-out felt hats, cowboy boots, business suits, faded red shirts and oil-streaked leather jackets. No medals, citations or any other variety of glory went with the job. There was only one unvarying order of the day: to ferry the planes of war from America’s production lines to our allies in every corner of the world. We were ferry pilots and crewmen, and damn proud of it.
There are excellent descriptions of what life was like for these men of Ferry Command, where they came from, how they became pilots, how they became pilots in the RAFFC, and often, how they died. Captain Wynn was an American who in January 1940 “…became a sergeant-pilot in the RCAF and started on the trail that led by devious and exciting ways to flying the oceans as a ferry pilot.” He tells the tragic story of the two Return Ferry Service Liberators that crashed in Scotland within four days of each other, having been an eyewitness to the second. Forty-four of the cream of the brand-new RAFFC were killed. There are photographs of their mass funerals. But there are many humorous or thrilling vignettes as well, all of which bring these airmen to life. The out-of-print book was available as a free download for many years but recently “Pickle Partners Publishing” seems to have acquired the copyright, and it is being sold as a Kindle book for $3.49.

Image of Ad for Bombers Across in September 1944 issue of Flying Magazine

Image of Ad for Bombers Across in September 1944 issue of Flying Magazine

Text of Ad in Flying Magazine, September 1944 (at left)

There’d be no beachheads without the heroism of men who fly BOMBERS ACROSS! And in this book Captain Wynn not only gives us the thrilling adventures of these unsung heroes, but in addition an inspiring first-hand account of the entire Transatlantic Ferry Command. Captain Wynn’s extraordinary experiences piloting bombers across ocean, desert and jungle…in unarmed planes, without gun crews, over uncharted routes…are as exciting, as dangerous as any action yet described in any war book.
“Vigorous and exciting…across the North and South Atlantic, over South America, England, Africa, Iran Iraq: you follow the adventures of Captain Wynn and the other ferry pilots who have piloted the routes that now cover the world.” — Aero Digest
Photographs and endpaper map of World Air Transport Routes $2.50

Photo of author used on recently published version (available on Kindle)

Photo of author used on recently published version (available on Kindle)


Cover of the first edition published by Airlife in 1981

Cover of the first edition published by Airlife in 1981

Ferry Command

Don McVicar

The book that started it all for prolific Canadian pilot-author McVicar, published by Airlife in UK in 1981. Thanks to his meticulous logbooks, he was able to include the names of many crew members whose contribution to the war effort would have never been known. He quickly became renowned for thrusting the reader into the pilot’s seat with his vivid descriptions of overcoming aircraft malfunctions and unforecastable weather problems.

When this well-received book went out of print in the late 1980s, McVicar divided it into its two logical parts, added new material to both, and in 1991 self-published the result as Ferry Command Pilot and South Atlantic Safari as on-demand 8-1/2″ by 11″ spiral-bound books. These editions are exceedingly rare collectors’ items.

Ferry Command Pilot focuses on the North Atlantic ferry route, with a quarter of the book devoted to the risky Arctic exploration mission headed by USAAC Lt. Col. Charles Hubbard and RAFFC Captain Louis Bisson. McVicar and Bisson each flew a Norseman aircraft on skis through horrific winter conditions as they checked on the newly-built Crystal bases in Baffinland.

South Atlantic Safari, meanwhile, is mostly a tale of hot climates, both jungle and desert, with its protagonist the temperamental B-26A Marauder which McVicar must tame in order to deliver the first American-made bomber for the RAF to Africa…among other adventures.


In 2015, to honor what would have been Capt. McVicar’s 100th birthday as well as the 75th birthday of RAFFC, at long last both Ferry Command Pilot and South Atlantic Safari have been republished, now as paperbacks, by his daughter and granddaughter’s company, Words on Wings Press. This means that for the first time since the original Ferry Command went out of print, all of its adventures, but enhanced as Capt. McVicar wanted them to be, are in the world once more. Please visit the Don McVicar Page on our website:



Hardcover published in 1983 by Airlife

Hardcover published in 1983 by Airlife

North Atlantic Cat

Don McVicar

This book immediately follows the original Ferry Command (also South Atlantic Safari), and describes McVicar’s adventures and ordeals in the cockpit of the Consolidated Catalina PBY flying boats he and his crews fought to deliver from Bermuda to Scotland in the deadly winter of 1942-43. From these 24-hour-flights to another long-range achievement, that of delivering an obsolete Handley-Page Hampden bomber from the UK to Canada’s west coast over desolate stretches of the Canadian Arctic, McVicar keeps the reader right with him in the left-hand seat.

Plans are in the works for Words on Wings Press to republish it in the same manner and  format as the two preceding books above.






Published by Airlife, hardcover, 1984

Published by Airlife, hardcover, 1984

A Change of Wings

Don McVicar

This appropriately-titled book describes McVicar’s transition from wartime to peacetime flying, although there are still plenty of hair-raising adventures! He also describes the last months of the war and the winding-down of Ferry Command; even though it had undergone a change of name and “ownership” he writes that RAFFC aircrew never really called it anything else.

His last months in Ferry Command were divided between instructing and checking out pilots and delivering bombers such as Flying Fortresses, Liberators, Lancasters and  Mosquitos across the Atlantic ferry route. Quite a change to fly the fragile single-engine Stinson on floats portrayed on the cover, his first personal aircraft, into the Canadian bush with his new partner, a fur trader with a less-than stellar reputation…

Although some copies of this book may be found on Amazon and other rare book sellers, plans are in gear for Words on Wings Press to republish it in the same format as the first two, in 2016.




Dorval Airport

Don McVicar

This is a very rare book, mainly self-published by McVicar in his typical 8-1/2″ by 11″ comb-bound format, at the behest of then-Mayor Peter Yeomans of Dorval to commemorate Dorval Airport’s 50th anniversary in 1991. This was the last of his thirteen books and is in the pipeline to be republished as a trade paperback by Words on Wings Press.

From a review by Bob Merrick, in Canadian Owners & Pilots Association’s monthly FLIGHT publication:

These days, most people see airports as generally benign obstacles standing between them and their airplanes. Much of the time, most travellers would be hard pressed to tell you which airport they were in. Airports have become large, impersonal–and reasonably efficient–people handlers.

Fifty or more years ago, airports had a cachet of their own. None was as fabled as storied Dorval. Dorval, the western end of the Atlantic Ferry Organization set up to fly warplanes to the stormy cauldron of World War Two. Dorval, the jumping off point for thousands of aircraft, the bustling terminus of a remarkable aircraft ferry service. Dorval, the temporary home of hundreds of swashbuckling, larger than life pilots serving the Allied cause in a long, difficult war.

It’s an airport with a history, a history briefly recounted by Don McVicar, one of the legendary pilots who helped make the history at the airport which is the subject of his latest book, Dorval Airport.

McVicar’s history is closely intertwined with Dorval’s history. Indeed, most of the book’s early chapters cover his tribulations while making the transition from a DOT air traffic controller to the captain’s seat on the many types of aircraft flown from Dorval to Europe. Initially, the book’s emphasis is on how to qualify to fly from those runways, not how to build them, which direction to point them, or how to arrange it so the airplane goes one way and the baggage goes another. It covers much of the ground–and airspace–described in one or another of his twelve earlier books, presenting here in precis-fashion the problems that beset those pioneering aviators.

At war’s end, Ferry Command disbanded. Dorval stood largely idle. But not for long. Airlines began expanding their routes. Dorval had inherited long runways and excellent instrument approach aids. It was superbly positioned to serve the rapidly increasing civil air traffic. Among this traffic were aircraft flown by an air carrier headed by a veteran Dorval pilot; Don McVicar. As president of World Wide Aviation, McVicar was destined to continue his association with Dorval for another 20 years…




First edition, still available on Amazon


2005 edition, published to coincide with Canada’s Year of the Veteran

Behind the Glory
The Plan That Won the Allied Air War

Ted Barris

Many aircrew in Ferry Command were a product of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and well-known Canadian author Ted Barris published an important volume on this vital program.

From the publisher’s website:

Ted Barris’ telling of the unique story of Canada’s largest World War II expenditure – $1.75 billion in a Commonwealth-wide training scheme, based in Canada that supplied the Allied air war with nearly a quarter of a million qualified airmen. Within its five-year life-span, the BCATP supplied a continuous flow of battle-ready pilots, navigators, wireless radio operators, air gunners, flight engineers, riggers and fitters or more commonly known as ground crew, principally for the RCAF and RAF as well as the USAAF. While the story of so many men graduating from the most impressive air training scheme in history is compelling enough, Ted Barris offers the untold story of the instructors – the men behind the glory – who taught those airmen the vital air force trades that ensure Allied victory over Europe, North Africa and the Pacific. In Winston Churchill’s words, the BCATP proved “the decisive factor” in winning the Second World War…Ted Barris interviewed more than 200 instructors, and using their anecdotes and viewpoints he recounts the story of the flyers who coped with the dangers of training missions and the frustration of fighting the war thousands of miles away from the front without losing their enthusiasm for flying.

NorsemanCanavBooksAviation in Canada: The Noorduyn Norseman, Vol. 1

Larry Milberry and Hugh A. Halliday

Milberry’s Canav Books has published another truly glorious entry in their “Aviation in Canada” series with this thoroughly-researched and lavishly-illustrated volume featuring Canada’s own bushplane, the Noorduyn Norseman. Volume 2 is also a must for aviation enthusiasts but it’s this first volume which contains interesting stories and photos of RAF Ferry Commanders, including Capt. Don McVicar and Joe Gilmore.

There are 400 photos within its 240 pages, all beautifully bound,  that really tell the story of the early days of Robert Noorduyn’s rugged and versatile aircraft.



First published 2005 in the UK

First published 2005 in the UK

Prestwick Airport & Scottish Aviation

Peter Berry

The late Peter Berry was an air traffic controller at Prestwick Airport in Scotland; he wrote that the area “just oozed with aviation history from 1913 to the present day.” Prestwick was the terminus of the North Atlantic ferry route, so this book helps to flesh out the RAFFC story. Prestwick proved to have superior weather conditions than other nearby aerodromes.

The aerodrome at Prestwick might not have become the transatlantic air terminal during the war if a Hudson bomber had not found its way to land there in 1940. This led to the moving of Transatlantic Air Control from Gloucester to Prestwick in 1941, resulting in today’s Oceanic Control Centre, at Atlantic House, Prestwick, responsible for the management of all civil and military aircraft crossing the eastern half of the North Atlantic.

This was Lockheed Hudson III, T9426 (depicted in the cover painting, “Safe at Last” by W.G. Wallace, at left) piloted by Capt. Pat Eves, and First Officer Donal Anderson, delivering the bomber for RAF Coastal Command in the very early days of Ferry Command, while it was still the Atlantic Ferry Organization. “It later transpired that Eves had left some golf clubs at Prestwick and Anderson had his wife living in Crieff!” The original destination for the first Hudson deliveries was Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, but Capt. Don Bennett, leader of these first trials, “…changed the destination of the ferry flights to Prestwick due to its fine weather record and proximity to the Great Circle, North Atlantic air routes.”


TibboBkCoverEarly History of Gander
1935 to 1965
The Digital Collection

Frank Tibbo

About Frank Tibbo: Honoured in October 2015 by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for his contributions to the aviation history of this province by having been made a member of the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador. The following bio-bit – in italics – about Frank is quoted from a November 2005 review of his 206-page book, Charlie Baker George, the story of a Sabena Airlines DC-4 crash in Newfoundland in 1946, which claimed the lives of 26 of its 44 passengers… his …life has been involved with aviation. He has worked with Aviation Meteorological Services and spent most of his working life as an Air Traffic Controller. He first became aware of the mysterious crash of Sabena OOCBG while working in the Control Tower of Gander International Airport. The more he learned about flying (Commercial Pilot’s Licence in 1969), the more intriguing the case of the Sabena became. He has been a newspaper columnist since 1992 and has written more than 600 articles on his favourite subject – Aviation.
For those interested in the comings and goings of the FC, Frank has compiled a digitized 409-page history of Gander, which is located in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, on Canada’s North Atlantic Ocean coast. It contains more than 200 newspaper columns which he wrote for the Gander Beacon since 1992. These well-written, informative, and intriguing columns contain much information concerning the Royal Air Force’s Ferry Command operation, right from its earliest set-up days in 1940.
It contains a total of 67 separate entries dealing exclusively with the Royal Air Force’s Ferry Command operation – from its earliest beginnings, and 116 separate entries summarizing the Royal Canadian Air Force’s contributions to the Gander airport, the surrounding community of families and the FC.
England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill once described Newfoundland as the “largest aircraft carrier in the world’s oceans.” Quite an accolade for this island, which was a former colony of the United Kingdom. As stated earlier, it became Canada’s 10th province on Thursday, March 31st, 1949, and was re-named Newfoundland and Labrador.
All proceeds from the sales of Frank’s 10 Mb PDF document – which downloads easily as an e-mail attachment – are going to the Central Northeast Health Foundation. All of these articles and photographs are available on-line from Frank … by contacting him and donating $10.00 to the Central Northeast Health Foundation. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, mail off a cheque – payable to the Central Northeast Health Foundation, along with a note containing your e-mail address, to Frank Tibbo, 37 Raynham Ave., Gander, NL – A1V 2J3. Or you can send him an e-mail at and he will get back to you.
Note: The file is copyright-protected – © – by Frank, and must be for your own personal use ONLY – not commercial reproduction … it will be e-mailed to you as soon as your cheque is received.

A hint of some of his stories besides those of the FC : Fighter aircraft and turrs; a submarine in Gander Lake; bomber at the bottom of Gander Lake; Gander’s first child; flight refueling; McNamara’s; mining the runways; sabotage; spies; The Bismarck; German aircraft overhead; Pigeon Squadron; jumping without parachutes; the Commonwealth Graves; Gander’s Pal the Heroic Dog; Joey’s Pigs; Sunday school student in Jail; Censored Mail; bombs dropping on Soulis Pond; Lancaster tragedy; Lord Haw Haw; liquor and goats; Gander’s UFO; Sabena crash; Honey Bucket incident; Gander’s historic Houses; Blue Jay; WV-2 crash; the Czech crash; Arrow Air; plans to invade Gander; Union East; $50 for a building lot; murder at the Airport; The Airport Club … and many others.

PolarImperativePolar Imperative
A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America

Shelagh D. Grant

The chapter on World War II contains information on the Arctic-North Atlantic ferrying route codenamed the Crimson Route. This was a delicate and groundbreaking partnership between the US, Canada, Great Britain and Denmark, and many interesting details are included of how this route came to be.

According to the author: “On the whole, the North Atlantic ferry route was an unqualified success in spite of initial problems.”

Based on Shelagh Grant’s thirty years of groundbreaking archival research on Arctic sovereignty and her reputation as a leading historian in the field, Polar Imperative is a definitive overview of many countries’ attempts to claim sovereign rights over the polar regions of North America.


SparkyAmesSparky Ames and Mary Mason of Ferry Command

Roy J. Snell

Here’s an interesting one – from Project Gutenberg: a free, 80-page on-line mystery e-book for the young ones today – or for anyone who likes reading a good adventure / mystery … this one dealing with the allied air force ferrying operations, and the roles women – and some men – played in ferrying aircraft within their own countries. No allied air force of WW II allowed women to ferry fighter aircraft and bombers overseas, thus forcing the creation of what became known as an Air Transport Auxiliary – ATA – unit, ferrying aircraft within individual nations or from their manufacturers, as in the case of England, to various theatres of war.
Valiant and highly-skilled women did their very best to try and convince the all-male air crew component, and senior commanders of the Royal Air Force and its Ferry / Transport Command that women pilots were the equal to male pilots when it came to flying multi-engine bombers and fighter aircraft. But the mindset and temper of the times was not what it has become today, where gender equality is now a natural given. A portion of Book 1 – Earth Angels Rising – is titled No place for a lady in the cockpit.

There is a detailed review on but here are some excerpts:
Sparky Ames and Mary Mason of the Ferry Command is the story of two non-combatants in World War II. Mary is a part of the WAFS, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and Sparky is a pilot with the Ferrying Squadron. He no longer qualified for combat because he has a punctured eardrum, which, he of course, received in earlier heroic combat…(this book) is a thrilling story. Along her journey, Mary changes the life of a young American boy who needs some direction, she falls in love, and she convinces another young woman to learn to fly and join up. Mary’s trip to China was, naturally, exceptional. Normally, the women of the ferry command fly planes from the manufacturer to an airfield, or flew damaged planes to the manufacturer to be repaired. They never were supposed to see the kind of action Mary Mason experienced.

Sparky Ames and Mary Mason of Ferry Command – a 1943 book – now in Public Domain from Gutenberg Project web site or $2.99 on Kindle.

What is the Gutenberg Project?
Project Gutenberg was the first provider of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971 and his memory continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today. And, from its web page, its Mission Statement is as simple as A, B and C:
To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.

NancyLovebiographyNancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II

Sarah Byrn Rickman

From the author’s website

…the Army needed pilots to “ferry” its trainer airplanes to flight training bases. In 1942, Nancy Love recruited and led the first squadron of 28 women pilots who ferried those military aircraft for the U.S. Army in World War II. Later the Army needed the women to ferry combat-bound pursuit aircraft to the docks for overseas deployment. By personal example, Love won the right for her women pilots to transition into increasingly more complex airplanes. She checked out on 23 different military aircraft and became the first woman to fly several of them, including the B-17. Nancy Love believed that the women attached to the military needed to be on equal footing with the men and given the same opportunities to prove their abilities and mettle. Young women serving today as combat pilots owe much to Love for creating the opportunity for women to serve.