(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The Lost Flying Boat has all the ingredients of a high adventure tale: an assemblage of tough characters with distinguished combat service, the lure of lost treasure that drives these men to face both natural and man-made danger, the presence of a domineering and obsessed leader who will sacrifice everything to obtain the gold he seeks, and a scenario of suspense that leaves the reader wondering if the expedition can succeed without costing all the adventurers their lives. Within the framework of this action-packed story, Alan Sillitoe skillfully explores several significant questions concerning human values.

Divided neatly into three parts, the novel chronicles the adventures of a crew of former World War II airmen brought together by their former aircraft commander, Captain Bennett, to search for lost gold in the Antarctic region. The story is told by Adcock, a wireless operator and the only member of the expedition not originally a member of Bennett’s wartime crew. Adcock joins with Bennett for what he views as an opportunity for adventure and a chance to put aside the pain of his recent divorce.

The first part of the work is set in South Africa, where Bennett assembles his crew and provisions the Aldebaran, a huge flying boat that will carry the men to the Kerguelen Islands in the Antarctic Ocean. As far as Adcock can tell, only Bennett knows why the expedition is being mounted, but he soon senses that there may be something both dangerous and illegal in their efforts. As the crew arrives in South Africa, Adcock learns why each has signed on for what many of them sense will be their last mission with Bennett. Some come for the promise of money (though none knows how the money will be obtained); others come simply for the promise of adventure.

As they prepare for their departure, Adcock begins to sense that they are being watched, that someone else is interested in their activities. Not until shortly before they actually take off does Bennett reveal to the crew their destination and purpose: to recover several million dollars in lost gold coins, buried on a remote island in the Antarctic by a German submarine captain before he...

(The entire section is 894 words.)