The true story of Frank Gatland, pilot and escaper in World War II
Ten years after his death at age 90, Gatland’s son Arthur has published his life story.
ESCAPE – THE BEST SPORT EVER was written by Frank Gatland DFM many years after the war ended, after he had returned to life as a farmer in South Auckland, New Zealand. He wrote his story for his family and close friends after they became interested in his other life, on the other side of the world, on the wrong side of the wire, and sometimes looking at the wrong end of the barrel.
Gatland travelled to Europe searching for people who had helped him during his numerous escape attempts, collecting old photographs and memorabilia, re-visiting sites along his escape routes, and jotting down important events as he travelled. ESCAPE – THE BEST SPORT EVER was written as only Frank Gatland could write it – humble, down-to-earth, matter of fact, but still one of the most gripping books I’ve read in a long time.
Frank Gatland volunteered for the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1941, trained on de Havilland Tiger Moths in New Zealand, sailed to the United Kingdom for advanced training before being posted to fly Sterling heavy bombers. His career as captain of the Sterling was distinguished but short. He and his crew were shot down over occupied France in 1942.
Frank was the last to bail out from the doomed aircraft, and although injured, he managed to avoid capture for ten days. It was the first of five escape attempts, each one a feat of endurance in a hostile territory, a hostile climate, and a battle of wits against those who sought to capture him. In his book, Gatland pays tribute to those who risked their own lives to help him in his bid to return to England and active service.
|Arthur Gatland (left) at the book launch|
In his second escape attempt Gatland did better by walking towards Switzerland for 14 days. On another attempt he was caught after four days riding trains. Gatland never gave up with his escape plans and never despaired after getting caught. He was finally freed by the British in May 1945 after they overran the German lines.
Back in New Zealand Frank Gatland settled for life on the farm with his war bride Anne. In 1960, the Gatlands, Frank and Anne and their five children, became involved with the Auckland Gliding Club where they were known as the Gatland Gliding Club. The family had three gliding instructors and two glider tow pilots. Frank was also served as chief flying instructor and club president. Frank’s son Arthur, who published ESCAPE – THE BEST SPORT EVER, flew solo on his sixteenth birthday, had a long career with the RAF and Air New Zealand, and is currently an Air New Zealand flight simulator instructor for Boeing 777 and 787 pilots. Arthur’s own career would make a wonderful book.
I rate ESCAPE – THE BEST SPORT EVER as five-star reading.
For book sales, email Arthur Gatland at firstname.lastname@example.org