"When a pilot launches his aircraft in war, his primary thought is "Let's do this right and get it over with." The mission is never the
same. Weather problems, tactical challenges, aircraft countermeasure issues, aircraft systems glitches, crew alertness, crew morale, the level of air and ground support for the mission, are to be evaluated and resolved every single day, by every single pilot, if he expects to return to his base alive.

The flying, the flying itself, can be an adrenaline high of a type known only to aviators. Alan Robertson, in The Last Generation, chronicles his own evolution into flying counter-submarine seaplanes during World War II. In his highly detailed account, amplified by his superb memory of the details involved in his wartime actions, Robertson captures the realities of wartime flying, some of them grim, some hilarious

Robertson was one of a rare breed of pilot, flying long-rane, amphibious sub-hunters.

Treacherous. No other single word can describe his accounts of eighteen-hour, low-level, poor weather missions off the West coast of England. Robertson knows the special language spoken by pilots in time of war, yet in The Last Generation, never do we feel that he is writing in ways that exclude those without this special knowledge. The book is a very personal and fascinating account of wartime flying in a type of aircraft whose heroes are known to few of us.

(Ed.Note: To the above we add our heartiest endorsement. Alan Robertson is a former member of the Ajijic Writers' Group, and this fine book, his first to be published, can be bought locally a Revistas de Chapala, and at Portalibros in Ajijic.)"

- Ron Jones
Reprinted by kind permission of el Oro del Lago, Chapala, Mexico

"It may be hard for young people now in Grade 12 to imagine how commonplace it was not long ago for youths to go off to war at that age. In his The Last Generation (Sha-a-lan Publishing), Alan Robertson tells how it was for one young teenager who joined the Royal Air Force in 1941 then quickly found himself piloting bombers against U-boats in the North Atlantic.

Like so many of his comrades in that war, his rites of passage included journeys all over the world — a dazzling experience for sheltered youths in an era when foreign travel was still uncommon.

After initial training in Britain, he and his comrades were mysteriously issued with grey flannel suits, sent by troopship to Canada, changed out of their uniforms, then virtually sneaked across the border into the United States. They were required to wear civilian clothes en route to pilot training in Florida, as the U.S.A. was then still an officially neutral country.

His observations are revealing about life in the States before Pearl Harbor and the high quality of training he received there. Soon, he was back in Britain, piloting PBY Catalina flying boats for RAF Coastal Command. (This particularly interested your reviewer, who himself spent many an hour crouched in the side-turret of a Catalina). Most histories of the Battle of the Atlantic rightly praised Allied naval vessels, but there is scant mention of the part also played by patrol aircraft in helping keep the sea-lanes open.

Robertson has near total recall of bombing techniques against submarines. He carries on with his adventures to India and through to the end of the war, after which he emigrated to Canada."

- Sidney Allison

"...My read of Alan's book was a trip down nostalgia lane. It awakened memories of my own experiences as a flying boat pilot on Coastal Command. I would say that Alan's skills as pilot, navigator and captain of a crew of eight are only exceeded by his magic as a writer. The realism that he conjures with words made me feel that I was aboard his Catalina flying boat and doing everything he did.

To all of you who flew or crewed on flying boats:
This book virtually takes you aboard Alan's Catalina like a member of his crew and you go where he goes and do what he does.

To all of you who were aircrew in WW II:
This book will trigger a nostalgic re-run of your own experiences from recruitment to training to operations to retirement.

To everyone everywhere:
This book is a fascinating verbal video of the personal life and adventures of a very young man who aspired to become a Royal Air Force pilot and help win World War II ... which he did!"

- Roy Pinder
Cowichan Valley Citizen

"This is the personal story of a young man who joined the Royal Air Force at the age of seventeen keen to fly. Alan’s pilot training took him to Grosse Isle, Michigan, and to the United States Air Station at Pensacola, Florida. His first posting was to 202 Squadron, Coastal Command, Gibraltar as a co-pilot on Catalina flying boats. After gaining operational experience, he was sent to Northern Ireland on a captain’s course where he met his new Commonwealth crew. His first command involved an 8,000 mile flight to India, where he and his crew joined 240 Squadron at Madras. During this second tour of operations Alan and his crew were ordered to Castle Archdale, N.I., where they rejoined 202 Squadron for the final phase of the Battle of the Atlantic.

This factual synopsis says a little about the qualities of the airman/writer but nothing of the book. First, the author is a remarkably, and disappointingly, modest man. To be sure he touches obliquely on his skills and leadership, but never mentions his, promotions, his awards, his crew's admiration and trust. It is as if his concern to avoid 'shooting a line' determined the imbalance between the pages given to training, travel and family, and to operational flying. This modesty is at the root of the three major themes I detect.

The first is professionalism. It has been endlessly remarked that war calls on the youth of a country and in no time makes them into warriors ready to do and dare all for their cause.That is true of Alan and his crew. A greater mystery -- which I wish the author had tackled -- is this: whereas it was the natural and inevitable thing for an Englishman to join the fighting services, what motivated the young men from Canada, Australia and New Zealand?

The training they received is what made them professionals. It is also the key to survival in war: team spirit and team cooperation, an indispensable virtue in war which I have touched on already.

And, finally, the quality that made both their professionalism and their team spirit so admirable a combination was their growth as individuals during their two years of flying and fighting together. This quality is hinted at in respect
of his fellow airmen; one has to read between the lines to see it in the author.

We read, for example (at the beginning of the war, when a boy): "Sit down, lad." he said kindly. "How're you feeling? Are you frightened?" -- "I don't think so, sir. Do you think they'll bomb us tonight?" And this, four years later, when a master pilot and commander of men: "It dawned on me that I was ultimately and solely responsible for the safety of this aircraft and its crew, a realisation that was reinforced with every mile of our journey." And this: "We had come to rely on each other ... and, looking around at the weary faces of my own crew, I could see the cumulative effects of the wear and tear of those last two years."

This modesty I attribute in part at least to the author's explicit purpose in writing the book. The title is the key. It is dedicated to his children, and his children's children ... until the last generation. It is meant for succeeding generations of youngsters as "a rough witness of his passing through" and as a survivor; and, implicitly perhaps, as a record of the debt they owe for their present freedoms, security, prosperity and potential for happiness. "

- Jack Dixon
Airvibes Newsletter, February 2001

"Our Canadian member Alan Robertson has written a delightful account of his RAF wartime service as a pilot. The story of his six-year war and his training and operational flying as a flying-boat captain over the North Atlantic and the Far East is fascinating. It is told in a simple, unemotional but very poignant style relating the experiences of a young man going about his duty. Barely twenty when he takes command of a Catalina and his own crew, Alan Robertson reminds today’s generation of just how quickly the youths of the 1940’s soon became men; men of stature and courage with a great sense of duty. The unique bonds of friendship and trust created by the hardships of war and the adventures of operations are a pervasive theme throughout the book. It will appeal greatly to our members and is a fitting reminder to future generations of the deeds and sacrifices made by ‘The Last Generation.’"

- Air Cdre Graham R. Pitchfork MBE BA FRAeS RAF (Ret’d)
The Aircrew Association Honorary Archivist

"Alan Robertson's The Last Generation belongs to anyone who has had to lay his or her youthful life on the line for hearth and home. Gripping in its detail, passionate in its telling, this heartwarming, true-life story captures the rigorous rites of passage for a fifteen-year-old boy, who, as England is threatened by a menacing and changing world, quickly moves through the ranks from a messenger boy to an R.A.F. pilot. As our collective memory of the struggles of World War II fades with those who fought to preserve liberty and virtue, this book will remind readers just how fragile freedom really is."

- Richard Probert
Author of
Archie's Way.

"Alan's story does not follow the well-trodden path like most memoirs of war. Through his eyes, we share a young man's enthusiasm for life; his friendships and adventures become ours, his wit and clarity of vision make us see that good things can still happen in times of hardship. If I'd been there, this is the man I would like to have been with."

- Roy Hayter
Author, filmmaker, and director.