The Shepherd

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For the poem by William Blake, see The Shepherd (Blake).
The Shepherd
Covert The shepherd novel.jpg
First edition
Author Frederick Forsyth
Cover artist Chris Foss
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Hutchinson
Publication date
1975
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 54 pp
ISBN 0-09-125270-9
OCLC 2437079
823/.9/14
LC Class PZ4.F7349 Sh3 PR6056.O699

The Shepherd is a 1975 novella by Frederick Forsyth.

The Shepherd relates the story of a De Havilland Vampire pilot, going home on Christmas Eve 1957, whose aircraft suffers a complete electrical failure en route from RAF Celle (note: in fact, Celle had ceased to be an RAF station less than a month previously; see link) in northern Germany to RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. Lost in fog and low on fuel, he is met and led (or shepherded) to a disused RAF dispersal field by the pilot of a De Havilland Mosquito fighter-bomber of World War II vintage, who has apparently been sent up to guide him in.

His attempts to find a rational explanation for his eventual rescue prove as troublesome as his experience. However, some time after he lands at the airfield—the fictional RAF Minton—he learns that his saviour was Johnny Kavanagh, a wartime RAF pilot who had been stationed at Minton and who had guided crippled bombers home. The Vampire pilot also learns that Kavanagh disappeared over the North Sea in his Mosquito on his last mission, on Christmas Eve 1943, exactly fourteen years before.

Forsyth created this original work as a Christmas gift to his wife after she requested a ghost story be written for her. Written on Christmas Day 1975, and published near that time a year later, the idea came while trying to think of a setting away from the typical haunted homes, and seeing planes flying overhead. Many have speculated references to preexisting RAF folklore. While Forsyth was a former RAF pilot and could have heard and adapted such a story (either with or without the intent to do so) no references or anecdotal evidence have been put forward to support such claims.

Since 1979, the story has been broadcast annually in Canada on the CBC Radio One news programme As It Happens. Read by the late Alan Maitland, the recording always airs on the last episode on or before Christmas Eve.

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