Bored with his London office job and seeking adventure, 19 year-old Ronald Hadingham joined the RAF in 1938 with little idea of where his passion for flying and photography would take him. Six years later, he was piloting risky reconnaissance missions in the Mediterranean, flying for six or seven hours at wave-top height—a task he described as “very tiring, very difficult, and extremely exciting for young men.”
During those years he survived a near-catastrophic crash, failures of engines, instruments, and control systems, two landings with burst tires, and a mission in which he was “very, very nearly shot down” by German shore artillery” not to mention being accidentally locked in the pitch-dark hold of the troop ship taking him to the Middle East.
Other challenges were on a more personal level. Ronald’s intimate wartime diary reveals how he struggled with the constant losses of friends, sometimes in crashes right in front of him, and how, as Squadron Leader, he had to manage the morale of 150 men under extreme pressure from daily low-flying missions.
Reaching a climax as Ronald’s squadron pursues a German U-boat and spots the pride of the Italian fleet, the 51,000-ton liner Rex, Spreading My Wings is a highly personal testimony of a young man’s experience of war and his hopes for a better world, illustrated by many previously unpublished photographs.
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