View Full Version : "Piece of Cake" by Derek Robinson

9th Apr 2002, 07:32
I am curious to know this group's opinions of the novel "Piece of Cake," a fictionalized history of a Hurricane Squadron in the early months of WWII.

It seems to me to be an impressive accomplishment, but I am a non-pilot and merely a diletante reader of history.

I have done some modest research on a few of the technical and historical points in the book which happened to interest me and found that it proved to be remarkably accurate. Nonetheless, some artistic license and just plain error must have crept in.

What are your thoughts?

I notice at least six other titles credited to Mr. Robinson. Any recommendations, good or bad?

9th Apr 2002, 14:06
Try "Squadron Airborne" author unknown if you want to get the real flavour of the Battle of Britain period. I lost my copy and I've been trying for years to find one. Didn't care much for Piece of Cake, too "novelly".

9th Apr 2002, 17:20

Thanks for your reply. I did a little web
searching and found "Squadron Airborne," by
Elleston Trevor and available for $5 at:


9th Apr 2002, 18:39
I've read, and re-read Piece of Cake over and over at least 10 times.

Not sure if historically correct, but it is certainly hysteric at times! I still smile picturing a tractor hurtling along a country lane with drunken pilot louts flayling around.

I understand there are other similar books by DR? If anyone knows the titles, or ISBN n's I'd love to hear from you.

How was the TV movie?

9th Apr 2002, 19:09
War Story, Goshawk Squadron, and one more whose title I can't remember, all about WWI. I think they have just been republished - bound to be on Amazon.

Also, A Good Clean Fight about the WWII desert war.

In a similar vein I loved Len Deighton's Fighter, although various people no doubt more knowledgeable than me have slagged it off.

If this all keeps up we are going to need a Books forum!

9th Apr 2002, 20:45
Goodfellow..............you are indeed a Goodfellow. Thankyou indeed for the info on Squadron Airborne. Now where's her Visa card............

9th Apr 2002, 22:15

Forgot to say - the Piece of Cake TV serial was a disaster. They somehow managed to miss the flavour of the book completely, despite spending a fortune on some great flying. The Cattermole (sp?) character was woefully miscast, as I remember. They had to use Spitfires, for obvious reasons, but still had the pilot actors call them Hurricanes.

As far as I know it was never repeated - and in fact disappared without trace - so perhaps that's what everybody else thought as well. Crying shame.

10th Apr 2002, 19:31
I have the 'Piece of Cake' series on video and think it's rather good. I've never read the book but as a stand-alone tv programme it did the job. Also, the Spitfires they were flying were referred to as Spitfires.


astir 8
10th Apr 2002, 21:53
"Piece of Cake" seemed a pretty fair book to me - certainly accurate from what I've read elsewhere in terms of the RAF using incorrect tactics, formations etc etc early in the war. Even Douglas Bader said so! Therefore if people don't like to face that fact, tough.

I was a bit taken aback by the vehemence with which some people condemned the TV version. They can't get it all right, poor souls, and we did get to see some lovely flying bits.

It's the documentaries on TV that upset me. The number of times that incorrect bits of film get trotted out - Spit V's & Fw 190's appear in the Battle of Britain with monotonous regularity! Now the people who make those programmes really ought to know better, or hire someone who does.

11th Apr 2002, 03:47
I liked the book and thought the TV series was pretty good given the constraints they had, ie no Hurricanes!

11th Apr 2002, 09:50
I've read Goshawk, Piece of Cake and Clean fight. The great thing about Mr. Robinsons books, love them or loath them, is he does draw the reader into the story. Yes there are inaccuracies, and some BoB pilots took exception to some of the characters, especially Cattermole, and the death of Squadron Leader "Rex"

For me, the uncomfortable comparison, is between the death of Rex and the death of Sqdn Ldr Pattle over Eleusis Harbour in 1941. This dogfight involved amongst others, Roald Dahl, and was the RAF's last great fight over Greece. I recommend "Air war over Yugoslavia Greece and Crete" by Chris Shores(Grub Street) to get a fuller picture, of tired aircrew pushed to the limit
Mr. Robinson, writes , warts and all, and just as some fighter pilots objected strongly, to the books characterisations, others agreed with some of the characters, and felt that only the tip of the iceberg was shown... who knows?


12th Apr 2002, 14:59
Astir 8 wrote:
"It's the documentaries on TV that upset me. The number of times that incorrect bits of film get trotted out - Spit V's & Fw 190's appear in the Battle of Britain with monotonous regularity! Now the people who make those programmes really ought to know better, or hire someone who does."

A couple of years ago I was engaged by the BBC to advise on their show celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

We determined to find some new archive footage to avoid the cliche stuff such as the chap ringing the scarmble bell etc. A visit to the Imperial War Museum Archive and we found tons of excellent stuff, mainly German stock that I had never seen.

Dornier formations low flying, Me110s and a superb shot from an RAF Spifire as it tracked across behind a ginormous formation of He111s, literally dozens, all stepped up from the front.

The problem is that even the BBC could not afford the high rates of the IWM; from memory its about 5 a second or something. sadly much of the footage was deleted as they could not afford it. So that is one of the reasons you see so much rehashed stuff.

At least I stopped them putting in "some nice colour stock we found of a Messerschmit being shot down over the Channel".

It was a Zero going in at Midway :rolleyes:

Chimbu chuckles
15th Apr 2002, 05:52
I have not read the book but recently watched the series on video at my father's place while on leave.

I would make two points ref the TV series,

1/. Magnificient flying by the pilots concerned,

2/. My father is an ex RAF fighter pilot (1950-1953ish) and stated that every character portrayed in the series reminded him of actual people he had served with immediately post war. Particluarly Catermole and Sdr Ldr Rex.

Perhaps the BoB vets who so objected to the series and book found it a little uncomfortably accurate. That does not in any way detract from their great, and well deserved place in history.


15th Apr 2002, 19:45
The late Paul Richey (ex 1(F) in the Battle of France) was extremely excised by 'Piece of Cake' since he felt that there were a number of similarities to his Fighter Pilot . He was embarking upon a court case against Robinson over breach of copyright at the time of his death, and his wife continued the case, although I don't know the outcome.

There are some striking similarities, of course - a character with the nickname of 'Moggy' in PoC, a real character nicknamed 'Pussy' in Paul Richey's book. If you've not already read it, suggest that you have a look and compare it with the book or the TV series.

You want it when?
19th Apr 2002, 15:50
Tinyrice / Goodfellow - Thanks for the pointer about "Squadron Airborne" I nipped over to Biffo Books and got it plus "Night Fighter".

Great reads both of them. Thanks again.