In 1940 Roald is posted to 80 Squadron, Libya to fly "Gloster Gladiators against the Italians in the Western Desert of Libya," as he says in Going Solo. "The Gloster Gladiator," he goes on to say "was an out-of-date fighter biplane with a radial engine."
In September 1940, Roald's Gladiator crashes in the Western Desert of North Africa and he receives severe injuries to his head, nose and back. He later writes about the experience in the short story A Piece of Cake - originally published as Shot Down Over Libya - and again in Going Solo.
Following the crash, Roald is taken to the Anglo-Swiss Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt. He spends around six months recovering from his injuries, under the care of the hospital staff.
After six months in hospital following his crash in Libya, Roald rejoins 80 Squadron at the Elevsis aerodrome, near Athens, Greece. This time he is flying a Mark 1 Hurricane. Roald describes arriving to join his Squadron in Going Solo and learning that his plane is one of only 15 Hurricanes left in Greece.
He says: "To some extent I was aware of the military mess I had flown in to. I knew that a small British Expeditionary Force, backed up by an equally small air force, had been sent to Greece from Egypt a few months earlier to hold back the Italian invaders, and so long as it was only the Italians they were up against, they had been able to cope. But once the Germans decided to take over, the situation immediately became hopeless."
In April, Roald and the other 11 remaining members of 80 Squadron took part in The Battle of Athens, led by Flight-Lieutenant Pat Pattle, who Roald describes in Going Solo as "a legend in the RAF." The Battle of Athens destroyed five of 80 Squadron's Hurricanes and took the lives of four of their pilots, including that of Pat Pattle.
In the summer of 1941, Roald Dahl and the remaining members of his Squadron are in Haifa, northern Israel when Roald begins to suffer from severe debilitating headaches as a result of his earlier crash in the Libyan desert.
Unable to fly any longer, Roald is invalided home to Great Britain. There, he returns to live with his mother, who is now based in Buckinghamshire - the county Roald Dahl would go on to make his permanent home, and where he would later write many of his famous children's books.
Now aged 26 and no longer able to fly, Roald Dahl is posted to Washington, D.C to join the British Embassy as assistant air attaché.
In Washington he meets British novelist C.S Forester, who encourages him to write about his experiences in the desert. In August 1942 his first paid piece of writing, based on his time flying Gladiators in Libya, is published anonymously in The Saturday Evening Post as Shot Down Over Libya, later titled A Piece of Cake.
Following the publication of Shot Down Over Libya, Roald Dahl begins work on The Gremlins, a story drawing on RAF folklore which held that little creatures were responsible for the various mechanical failures on aeroplanes. The Gremlins soon comes to the attention of Walt Disney and discussions about turning the story into a film begin.
In December 1942 a shortened version of the full Gremlins story called Introducing the Gremlins is published in the American general interest magazine Cosmopolitan. Roald uses the pen-name Pegasus.
In April 1943, The Gremlins is released as a book by Walt Disney/Random House and enjoys modest success. The US president’s wife Eleanor Roosevelt reads the story to her grandchildren and Roald is later invited to the White House. However, the film version is shelved later in the year as the public appetite for war films begins to dwindle.
In January 1946, Roald Dahl's first short story collection, Over To You, is published by Reynal & Hitchcock. The collection features 10 of Roald's earliest short stories, all using flying themes.
In February, Roald returns to the UK after four years in Washington and New York City.
In June of that year Roald, together with his mother and sister Asta, move to Grange Farm in Great Missenden, a small Buckinghamshire village between London and Oxford. Roald converts a cottage in the grounds into a writing studio.
In 1948 Roald Dahl’s first novel, Some Time Never: A Fable for Supermen – based on his Gremlin stories – is published. Aimed at an adult audience, it is notable for being perhaps the first fictional account of nuclear war to be published.
The story is very dark. In Donald Sturrock's biography Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, Roald's daughter Ophelia is quoted as saying: "He was always very unconflicted about the fact that he felt human beings were capable of really monstrous things...And I think in writing Some Time Never he was writing about the capacity that we as humans have to destroy ourselves. I think he was trying to say something about what he'd seen, about the futility of war."
Writing Some Time Never was an exhausting process for Roald, and shortly after he submitted it for publication in 1946 he was admitted to the Military Hospital for Head Injuries in Oxfordshire.
During 1948, Roald also sees some of his short stories accepted by the BBC and The New Yorker. He divides his time between New York and Buckinghamshire, England.