Reviews of Hard Calibre
Flight Lieutenant M D Wight-Boycott
28 (AC) Squadron
RAF Benson dated Mon. 11 Aug.2014
On hearing of his old workmate’s death, Phil Riley resolved to complete his unfulfilled promise – to commit Kenny Butterworth’s remarkable memories as a wartime RAF armourer to paper.
Writing in the first person Phil Riley gives a Kenny a voice recalling his adventures. From Kinloss to Kidlington and Cape Town to Burma, Kenny saw and did, a lot. Whilst so much has been written of the escapades of RAF aircrew, Phil Riley proves that the stories of those in supporting trades could be just as colourful. As an occasional aviator Kenny survived a horrific Beaufort crash in Jodhpur whilst his spare time was no less dangerous – at one point Kenny is given twenty-eight days in the ‘glass house’ for using a service revolver whilst involved in an altercation.
Kenny’s Story not only gives an insight into the life of an armourer but also opens unique windows into less well-known histories. He witnessed the B17s troubled introduction, served on a glider unit and then volunteered for overseas service, which took him to India and then the Battle of Imphal against the Japanese, before malaria finally secured his ticket home.
Kenny seems to have been a loveable rogue, a character whose optimism and joy of life carries him through many a scrape. Phil Riley evokes a real lost world, not just wartime Britain but of colonial India too. It is a tribute not just to Kenny but also his generation as a whole, particularly ground crew. Although seen as a relatively ‘safe’ trade Kenny witnesses his fair share of casualties, pointedly, few caused by direct enemy action. The variety of Kenny’s escapades keeps the book alive. One minute Kenny is feasting in the Maharaja of Jodpur’s Palace, the next he is servicing battle worn Hurricanes on the Imphal front line. Like so many of his generation Kenny Butterworth’s story was destined for oblivion until Phil Riley made good his promise to his old friend. Hard Calibre is a fascinating book that undoubtedly does the eponymous Kenny proud.
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Review by Mike Skeffington. Salford Star (Manchester)
by Phil Riley
There are thousands, if not millions of stories from the Second World War. Many fictional adventures as well as true accounts have been made into blockbuster films and television series, depicting the horrors and the brutality of war. Then there are the anonymous, personal, yet none the less heroic stories, the majority of which never see the light of day. Kenny's Story falls into the latter category.
Kenny Butterworth was an ordinary young Salford lad from an ordinary Salford family who, like tens of thousands of others, was caught up in world events. Kenny joined the RAF at the outbreak of war and became an 'armourer'. This book is the true story of his trials and tribulations throughout the duration of hostilities.
He was no decorated hero, but he was certainly no coward and showed that on several occasions. His story gives a good insight into the unexciting, sometimes even mundane side of what actually happened during wartime. Kenny Butterworth's personal war effort cost him five years of his youth and almost cost him his life many times through injury and disease. He came face to face with death and somehow survived, but he saw death take many comrades.
Kenny shares glimpses of home too, as he reflects on life in and around Salford in happier times before the war. He saw many sights in India and Burma such as the awesome majesty of mountain ranges and jungle covered valleys, the splendour of royal palaces and the abject poverty of ordinary people. He also saw death and destruction in those places which brought into focus the reality that he and his comrades were living on a knife edge.
This is a story of one man's war experiences which were shared by many others, without whose courage and fortitude in what might be called, 'the backstage of the theatre of war', things would have turned out quite differently.
Credit should also go to the author, who made good on a promise to relate a friend's story, something we fail to do more often than not. A very engaging story, competently written and well worth the read.
Review by Mike Skeffington.
by Phil Riley
For details of how to get a copy of the book email the author firstname.lastname@example.org