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From Dogfight to Diplomacy. A Spitfire Pilot's Log 1932-1958.

Author Air Cdre Donald MacDonell CB DFC RAF, 22nd Chief of Glengarry.
Details Pen & Sword Publishers. Release Date 20 Oct 05.
ISBN 1844153207

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The memoirs of the late Air Commodore Donald MacDonell, 22nd Chief of Glengarry, edited by Lois MacDonell & Anne Mackay will be released on 20 October 05.

This is a story of both human fortitude and vulnerability during the life of an RAF officer who was born in Baku, flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain, was a prisoner in the 'Wooden Horse' camp, coped with bringing up a family without their mentally-ill mother, learnt Russian and became Air Attach� in Moscow in the Cold War. He also inherited the title of 22nd Chief of the MacDonells of Glengarry.

Glengarry's Service career began in the 1930s when he studied at RAF Cranwell. After a spell at No 54 Squadron he went on detachment to the Fleet Air Arm and was posted to the Middle East and Malta. Shortly before the war he was promoted to Squadron Leader and worked at the Air Ministry during the Phoney War. When hostilities commenced he became CO of No 64 Squadron at RAF Kenley, B Sector HQ in 11 Group, Fighter Command carrying out convoy support operations and eventually fighting in the Battle of Britain over Kent. Having won the DFC as one of 'the few', he took command of a squadron at Leconfield to train urgently required new pilots before being posted to RAF Hornchurch. He was shot down over the English Channel and was rescued by a U-boat. This resulted in a lengthy period spent at several PoW camps in enemy occupied Europe and Germany. During this period he was involved with the famous 'Wooden Horse' escape and was eventually freed by advancing Russian troops. Upon his return to the UK he was promoted Wing Commander and worked on the Cabinet Office staff before moving to Headquarters Flying Training Command. He was then appointed Chief Flying Instructor at Cranwell before successfully applying for the post of British Air Attach� in Moscow. Here he met the legendary leaders of post-war Russia, Khrushchev, Bulganin and Mikoyan and assisted in the organisation of the first civilian flights between London and Moscow.

Although he was involved in some of the most momentous events of the twentieth century, Glengarry constantly understates this. The memoir has many amusing anecdotes as well as some honest revelations about his love life, personal problems and stresses. It will appeal to those who enjoy detailed flying descriptions, personal observations of conditions in POW camps and first-hand observations of the 'Long March' and of repatriation.

In the Mediterranean with the Fleet Air Arm pre-war as well as in post-war in appointments varying from the Cabinet Office to the Joint Services Staff College, Glengarry makes some pertinent comments on the workings of the RAF. The time spent in Moscow will fascinate many readers, especially with the 'post-script' in Brussels on his way home. it is all too easy to underestimate the hardship he endured whilst captive and the significant part he played in battle and then in diplomatic circles.

This is a must-have book which, although it doesn't document much of the late Glengarry's work for Clan Donald, it does contain some Clan photos and tells the story of a fascinating career lived by a great man in interesting times. I'll be reserving my copy! -RKWM.

Review: The Press and Journal Saturday November 19, 2005. 'Bookshelf'

The autobiography of a true hero: From Dogfight to Diplomacy: A Spitfire Pilot's Log 1932-1958, Pen and Sword �19.99.

Air Commodore Donald MacDonell of Glengarry, who lived in Fortrose, was a distinguished Clan Donald chief whose life had more thrills, spills, triumphs and tragedies than any one man should bear.

This autobiography is a highly personal story, edited by his second wife, Lois, but while early chapters suggest a tale told with a stiff upper lip, it warms to its task and becomes a vivid insight into his hectic, troubled, but ultimately happy life.

Trained as an RAF plot at Cranwell in the 1930s, Donald rose to lead 64 Squadron, at Kenley, where his Spitfires fought long and hard in the Battle of Britain. He was shot down over the Channel in 1941 by German ace Werner Mo�lders and captured. The clich� "for you, the war is over" did not apply, as in Donald's case it was just beginning.

Four years in grim POW camps are described with clarity and humour, as is his part in the famous wooden horse escape from Stalag Luft III. He paints a poignant picture of chaos and fear at the war's end.

His battle to stay fit and sane had a sad counterpoint in the slide into mental illness of his wife, Diana. Returning home, he found her a "cruel caricature" of the girl he had kissed goodbye four years before.

Three children were born, but Diana's worsening illness meant he was left to raise them on his own, assisted by an extraordinary housekeeper, Nan, when he entered the diplomatic service as an Air Attach� in Moscow at the height of the Cold War. That, too, is a fascinating episode. Sadly, the memoir ends in 1958, just when it seems there is so much more to learn about this most extraordinary man.

Mike Lowson

See also the article from the Scottish Daily Mail, Saturday 29 October 2005:The War Hero Clan Chief by Julian Champkin

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