Flight Bag

BEAUFIGHTER BOYS – TRUE TALES OF THOSE WHO FLEW BRISTOL’S MIGHTY TWIN

Book: 221-page hardback

Written by: Graham Pitchfork

Price: £20

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In contrast to the Cold War, which underpins most of the highly acclaimed Boys series, this book centres on the Bristol Beaufighter’s part in World War Two. This distinguished author researched the material many years ago for a project which did not come to fruition.

Beaufighter air and ground crews gave freely of their stories, which ranged from complete memoirs to brief anecdotes. Most of the 116 photographs are original and previously unpublished.

The Beaufighter is generally considered to have been one of the RAF’s most valuable and versatile wartime aircraft. Its night-fighter exploits over the UK are related here, as well as the aircraft’s various roles in all the theatres of World War Two operations. The type’s exploits in North Africa, Malta, the Adriatic, the Aegean, the Far East and the south-west Pacific have received little coverage elsewhere, but there are reminiscences from all these regions.

One of the book’s many highlights is a detailed account of the role of the navigator on a reconnaissance sortie to Norway in 1943. The later Norwegian operations by the Dallachy Strike Wing in northeast Scotland have been somewhat overshadowed by those of the Mosquito Strike Wing at nearby Banff, but here they are assessed in detail, as are those of the Beaufighter wings in Lincolnshire and Norfolk. The result is a fine tribute to an outstanding aircraft and its courageous crews.

Published by Grub Street: ISBN9781911621447; available from www.grubstreet.co.uk

FLIGHT FROM THE CROFT

Book: 214-page softback

Written by: Bill Innes

Price: £18.99

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Growing up on a remote island in the Outer Hebrides was an unlikely foundation for becoming a professional pilot, but this is the very engaging story of how the author achieved his ambition.

Higher education meant a move to the mainland and the bonus of learning to fly with a university air squadron (UAS). National service was the next step, and the UAS experience led to acceptance for RAF pilot training. At that time, the Royal Canadian Air Force was providing instruction for all the NATO countries, so he started on Harvards and progressed to the Lockheed T-33.

After a brief spell as a Hastings co-pilot, his national service commitment ended and he joined BEA to fly Dakotas. The account of his experiences on the Highlands and Islands routes is one of the highlights, supported by the amusing anecdotes which appear throughout the book. Next step was onto the Viscount, followed by the Comet 4B. In his spare time, he joined the Tiger Club at Redhill and became part of their display team.

He later flew the Vanguard and Trident, and was one of the pilots who introduced the Boeing 757 into service with British Airways, and then later with Air 2000.

His career covered far more scope than your average airline skipper and the result is a very entertaining read with a fair amount of technical background. There are 66 colour and 35 black-and-white photographs.

Published by Whittles Publishing Ltd: ISBN9781849953979; available from www.whittlespublishing.com

THE DAWN OF CARRIER STRIKE AND THE WORLD OF LIEUTENANT W P LUCY DSO RN

Book: 386-page hardback

Written by: David Hobbs

Price: £35

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A masterly account built around the experiences of Lt William Lucy, who was to become Britain’s first accredited air ace of World War Two and led the first ever successful dive-bombing of a major warship. In 1918, the Royal Naval Air Service was absorbed into the RAF, which led to bitter disputes concerning the sidelining of naval air power.

Superbly described and analysed here, the struggle went on through the 1920s and ’30s until the navy finally regained formal control of its aviation in 1937.

Despite a lack of resources and encouragement from the RAF, the navy had made great progress by developing the skills of aircraft carrier operations.

By 1939, its concentration on night-flying and torpedo attacks had arguably resulte d in the most capable naval strike force in existence.

In one of many gripping narratives, the author relates how Lt Lucy led the Blackburn Skua operation from Orkney in April 1940, which sank the cruiser Konigsberg in Bergen harbour. Soon after embarked on the aircraft carrier Glorious, he saw more action over Norway, accounting for five enemy aircraft until he was shot down and killed on May 14, 1940.

This is a densely written book by a distinguished author. It contains a huge amount of information and is illustrated with 260 black-and-white photographs. Truly a landmark volume in naval aviation history and a tribute to one of its heroes – this brief review can merely scratch the surface.

Published by Seaforth Publishing: ISBN9781473879928; available from www.seaforthpublishing.com

SCHOOL OF ACES – THE RAF TRAINING SCHOOL THAT WON THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN

Book: 288-page hardback

Written by: Alastair Goodrum

Price: £20

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In the author’s words, Sutton Bridge “is sometimes perceived as a minor unglamorous air force station in a quiet backwater of England.” After many decades of research, he has produced this superlative book, illustrated with 40 black-and-white photographs, that proves its vital role in peace and war.

Established in 1926 for armament training, its siting was chosen to utilise Holbeach Marsh on the nearby Wash as a range. Initially, it was used by fighter squadrons but, from 1936, it gradually took on the role of finishing school in the run up to war.

Transferred from Training to Fighter Command in November 1939, the station housed 6 Operational Training Unit (OTU) from March 1940, specialising in conversion to the Hurricane.

From then to the end of the Battle of Britain, a total of 525 pilots from all the allied nations ‘graduated’ from the station, of which 390 took part in the battle.

By now renumbered 56, the OTU moved out in March 1942, to be replaced by the Central Gunnery School. One of its primary tasks was the improvement of air gunner skills in Bomber Command, as well as to provide training in air-toair firing for fighter pilots.

One of the great strengths of the book is that it summarises the subsequent careers and fates of many of the airmen who passed through Sutton Bridge until its closure in 1957. One appendix lists all the pilots posted out during 1940, while another details the 106 mainly wartime fatalities in flying accidents buried in the local churchyard.

Published by Amberley Publishing: ISBN9781445686172; available from www.amberley-books.com