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Salt Spring Reads: Almost a Lifetime

    Books Reviews    June 14, 2016

Almost a Lifetime by John McMahon – A young man signs up for military duty at the beginning of World War II. John McMahon, better known as Paddy Mac, lived in Scotland and was eager to do his share in defeating the enemy. He was assigned to the Air Force and learned to fly. Together with his military buddies he sets out on a flight across the Channel, into occupied territory.

Over Holland, his small plane is shot down. Miraculously John survives while all others on this mission die in the crash.
Helping Dutch hands whisk away a befuddled, scared and disoriented young pilot. But after only a few short hours, the Germans enter the house where he is taken and capture the RAF pilot.

Almost a Lifetime is the very detailed account of John McMahon’s years in captivity in a German camp. How did these young men survive their brutal treatment? Almost no food, no warmth, and no comfort to speak of. How did they manage to keep their minds and bodies conditioned and continue to focus on hope and rescue?

The book sheds intimate light on a harsh environment and circumstances that are hard to image.John shares little known details such as how cups and plates were made. How cigarettes could be traded for food or favours and how the young men manages to keep their wits during near starvation.

Following the years in a remote camp, the men were forces to walk hundreds of kilometres when the war was nearing its end. Hundreds fell in and died along the wayside. The nightmarish journey is described in amazing detail, complete with conversations that bring the narrative to life. McMahon’s memory was incredible as he recalled so many friends and events.

Near death for a second time, help arrives in unexpected ways and saves his life. After the war, McMahon and his new wife immigrate to Canada, eventually settling on Salt Spring Island. He never took freedom for granted again. But questions kept nagging in his brain: who were the people that pulled him to safety and took him into their home in Holland?Who was the woman who saved his life when he could no longer struggled along on the gruelling walk through Germany?

Many years after the war, McMahon retraces his steps and, through fortunate circumstances, manages to recreate the settings. He meets not only his rescuers but also the German fighter pilot who shot down his plane.

For anyone interested in war stories, in history and in interesting personal stories, this is an exciting read. Complete with many photos and documents, Almost a Lifetime is an important link to a time we must never forget.

Salt Spring Reads - Almost a Lifetime

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