It will surprise few of you to know that here at The People’s Mosquito, we love the De Havilland Mosquito: everything about it, from its genesis and design to its awe inspiring performance, unrivalled versatility and enduring legacy for aircraft construction. We also love Christmas – as the song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
So, what better way to bring two of our favourite topics together than by sharing an often-overlooked story with you, courtesy of none other than acclaimed author Frederick Forsyth.
For most, ‘Christmas’ and ‘home’ go hand in hand. It’s a special time of year when we yearn to return to the home hearth, embrace our families and give thanks for those around us, while perhaps remembering those we’ve lost. It’s a theme that has inspired writers, musicians, and filmmakers over the centuries – including our renowned author, Mr Forsyth, who, in 1973 penned a novella, titled ‘The Shepherd’.
Frederick Forsyth is a master wordsmith, but more than that he chose to complete his post-war National Service in the Royal Air Force, and became, we are told, the RAF’s youngest Vampire pilot. He was ideally suited, therefore, to tell a story about a young Vampire pilot trying to reach home in time for Christmas, by flying what was possibly a Vampire FB.5 of 2TAF, from Germany to Norfolk on Christmas Eve, 1957. We won’t risk spoilers, but we will say that there is a Mosquito involved and it is, in our humble opinion, one of the finest ‘flying tales’ ever written.
It’s also something of an institution across The Atlantic, where every Christmas Eve, something quite magical happens in Canada (no, not Santa, although it does involve flying). The CBC broadcasts a superb version of Forsyth’s tale. Don’t just take our work for it though. As acclaimed author, producer and director David O’Malley explains, The Shepherd has become a Christmas institution to our Canadian cousins:
“Each Christmas Eve since it was first read nearly 35 years ago, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation plays a recording of a forty-minute broadcast of Frederick Forsyth’s supernatural and haunting ghost story called The Shepherd. Forsyth, known worldwide for such fast-paced thrillers as The Day of the Jackal and Dogs of War, wrote The Shepherd in a day as a Christmas gift to his wife. As it turned out, it was a Christmas gift to the world, to Canada and to my daughters. One we have enjoyed together more than any.”
If you have not read this tale, then we urge you to do so. Even better, why not listen to it! In 2016, the BBC woke up to the timeless appeal of ‘The Shepherd’, and commissioned Amber Barnfather to adapt the Forsyth work for radio. With help from the sound archives of the RAF Museum, and some extra promotional work by various Board Members of The People’s Mosquito on social media, it turned out to be a real success.
So, as a Christmas gift to you all, here is Amber Barnfather’s timeless adaptation of ‘The Shepherd’
Merry Christmas one and all!