The Darkest Hour by Barbara Erskine

I have just today (Tuesday, 19 Sep 2017) experienced an extraordinary  coincidence.

While sitting in a garden centre car park waiting for my wife, who was shopping, I passed the time reading on my kindle the first few chapters of the book in the title.

On arriving home later I picked up my copy of The Telegraph and as often happens a single page fell out. It happened to be the obituaries page and I spotted that of a 99 year-old RAF Squadron Leader, who had been a spitfire fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain, by the name of Nigel Rose.

In the chapter I had almost literally just read, one of the two ‘heroines’ of the book had just met a newly arrived Pilot Officer at RAF West Hampnett, one of a Tangmere centred group of wartime airfields heavily involved in the Battle of Britain.

I read the obituary with increasing disbelief as it described almost exactly that very arrival at West Hampnett of a fresh spitfire squadron from Scotland in the aftermath of a day’s deadly duelling in the skies over Kent and Sussex .

I have just discovered that Nigel Rose was in fact Barbara Erskine’s much-admired and much-loved father, so it’s not surprising – indeed it’s admirable – that she should use his dashing life as a model for one of her characters, but I didn’t know that at the time.

Now, as an ex-serviceman myself, I do make a habit of reading service obituaries when I spot them but not always. That I should have read this particular one on the very day I started to get into Barbara Erskine’s book does strike me as a really spooky coincidence.

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