An interview with William Ivory, writer of Bomber's Moon

Posted on 27 July 2011

What inspired you to write Bomber’s Moon?

My father was a navigator with 50 Squadron in RAF Bomber Command and I was interested in trying to understand the effect his war time experiences had had on him in later life. In particular, I was intrigued by the fact that so many ex bomber command men (my father included) had lived rather anti social lives on their de-mobilisation from the force. Marriages had failed, businesses had collapsed, heavy drinking had been embarked upon, all to a level which was surprisingly high for the time. When one took into account, however, the kind of men who had joined Bomber Command, men who tended to be bright, ambitious, grammar school boys, some of them already embarked on successful careers before they joined up, then the level of dysfunction was startling. The question was: Why?

And what struck me, right from the off, was a story my dad had told me about a raid he’d been on to Essen, towards the end of the war, which had nevertheless been a bit fraught, and after which, within a few hours of landing, he’d been able to hitch a motorcycle ride from his airfield in Skellingthorpe to my Grandmother’s house in Southwell, for a late afternoon tea. The idea was mind boggling. And that contrast between war and peace was unlike in any other service. In the RAF you didn’t go ‘off’ to battle and stay away for months on end. You flew from a base in England, amidst all that was recognisable and grounding, endured six, seven, or eight hours of unimaginable stress and fear (a Bomber Command flier, in his first five ops had a life expectancy less than a Tommy in World War One) only to return within a few short hours, to be plopped right back into civilian England and loved ones and relative normalcy. I remember thinking: ‘That way, madness lies.’

Have you encountered any problems during the creative process? If so, how did you overcome them?

The only real problem I had was missing my dad. He died about 18 months before I began the script and I kept wanting to ask him questions. I miss him bitterly. I suppose, also, there was the issue, at times, of feeling like an intruder. As a writer, you often feel that; that you’re raiding lives for a story, and is that a decent thing to do? Of course, any decent writer has flint where his conscience should be, so you overcome that in the end. Regrettable but true.

Are there any elements or characters in Bomber’s Moon that are based on true events or stories?

Well, as I’ve more than hinted, Jimmy, the central character has something of my dad in him. And of me, too. And David has a lot of me in him. But they are both constructs more than they are facsimiles of real people. Real people tend not to play out drama as you’d like them too, hence the need to invent. The setting of the story is based upon the care home in which my dad spent his last year or so and one of the central ‘triggers’ in the play is also based on a true event: that of the Nuremberg Raid of 1944 which our central character flew and which was the night on which Bomber Command suffered its heaviest losses of the war: 96 planes failed to return and 545 airmen died, more airmen killed in one night than died during the entire battle of Britain.

What aspects of Bomber’s Moon do you think will appeal to audiences?

I think it’s a story about ordinary people put under extraordinary pressure – and emerging, though bloodied, still unbowed. I came to see Alan Pollock’s brilliant One Night in November a while back and I hope that my play offers a similar mix of high emotion and wry humour. Actually, the humour, bizarrely enough, given the subject matter is so serious, is the thing I hope audiences most enjoy. It suggests to me the magnificent resilience of humanity, even through war and aging.

Sum up Bomber’s Moon in five words.

“Do not go gentle…anywhere!”

To find out more about Bomber’s Moon and to book tickets click here