Reviews

The latest books and products for the discerning aviation enthusiast

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BOOK OF THE MONTH

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DH9: From Ruin to Restoration by Guy Black published by Grub Street

If ever you wanted a living definition of a restoration epic, the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Airco DH9 is it. This outstanding project deserves the many plaudits to have come its way, and so does this new book by the man without whom it wouldn’t have happened. Guy Black’s tenacity and his fastidiousness when it comes to achieving authenticity have resulted in many fine historic aeroplanes returning to the skies, but this sole airworthy example of what is often credited as the world’s first strategic bomber must represent his, and the Retrotec company’s, most challenging project to date. This Black recounts both comprehensively and entertainingly, taking as his starting-point the discovery of the derelict airframes — E8894, the one now flying, and D5649, restored to static condition for IWM Duxford — inside the Junagarh fortress in the Indian city of Bikaner. The tale of how he came to acquire and recover them is fascinating, and in places very funny. To cut one long story short, it turns out that if you’re after some reproduction antique Indian candlesticks from a consignment of “frightful material” shipped over with the DH9s, Retrotec might be able to help…

From there, via histories of the DH9 and the Imperial Gift scheme under which these particular airframes ended up in India, the account continues right through to E8894’s public display debut, at Duxford’s Flying Legends show this July. Throughout, Black’s text does an excellent job of describing both the deep technicalities of the restorations and the emotions he felt at diTherent stages of the process. He is also generous in his acknowledgement of those individuals and organisations who were instrumental along the way. Extensive appendices include ‘Dodge’ Bailey’s pilot’s notes, fight reference cards and final fight test report, which may instructively be read in conjunction with his article in this very magazine. The accompanying images are comprehensive and generally well-reproduced, though some are a little small. But this matters not. This is a highly enjoyable volume, and one the discerning reader will surely devour. Ben Dunnell

ISBN 978-1-908117-33-5; 9.75 x 7in hardback; 206 pages, illustrated; £20.00 ★★★★★

Fighters Defending the Ardennes by Peter Celis published by Peter Celis

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Subtitled ‘Allied Fighter Aircraft Operating from AirThelds in Belgium during the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ 1944-1945’, this is primarily a large, landscape-format, softback picture album produced in Belgium. Clearly the result of much research, in particular at the Smithsonian and at Hendon, into the history of the individual USAAF and RAF aircraft illustrated, it makes use of a wide variety of images of the ‘not seen that one before’ variety. Most are in monochrome, many exhibiting a distinctly ‘warm’ tone rather than being pure black-and-white. A few are in colour and again are very wellreproduced.

As to subject matter, aircraft, airThelds, personnel and markings are given equal billing. In many cases, a specific aircraft is depicted in a whole-page image with, on the facing page, a colour proff le of the same machine — a feature that will appeal especially to modellers.

The text is good and sets the scene as “British and American fighter aircraft […] chase the enemy out of the Ardennes region”, while image captions are well-done and suitably comprehensive. There is much to like here and the price, with change from £25, makes it something of a bargain, but I would question one aspect of the book’s design. Why are a dozen whole pages given over to unnecessarily dark monochrome images ‘textured’ with grain and featuring (surely intentionally added) vertical-running tramlines? This reservation apart, Celis oThers a most impressive work. Denis J. Calvert

ISBN 978-9-463886246; 8.3 x 11.8in softback; 204 pages, illustrated; £24.99 from the Aviation Bookshop (www.aviation-bookshop.com) plus £4.00 UK P&P ★★★

Camel Pilot Supreme: Captain D. V. Armstrong DFC by Annette Carson published by Air World

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Talk to an aerobatic pilot with an appreciation of aviation history, — especially First World War aviation history — and they will probably know the exploits of D’Urban Victor Armstrong.

The South African-born aviator’s flying, particularly of Sopwith Camels, earned him many glowing epithets. Historian Jack Bruce said Armstrong demonstrated “the most extraordinary and outstanding aerobatic flying”; fellow First World War pilot, and later journalist, Oliver Stewart wrote that he “set a standard in aerobatics which in artistry and spectacular eThect has never since been surpassed”. Ultra-lowlevel flying was often the order of the day.

But Armstrong’s service with the RFC and RAF was notable in operational terms, too.

As is recounted in this new volume, he was heavily engaged in tactical development, notably in countering Gotha bombers and in helping pioneer oThensive night-fighting.

Carson has a background in aerobatics, including as a contest director and FAI delegate, as well as being an historian with wide-ranging interests. The depth of enthusiasm and research she thus brings to the writing of Camel Pilot Supreme raises it well above the pack where aeronautical biographies are concerned. Many of the photos haven’t been seen before, coming from Armstrong’s own album, which thankfully survived — the man himself lost his life in November 1918, just after hostilities ended. And the specially commissioned artworks by Lynn Williams, brother of the late Neil Williams, are quite superb. Typical is the cover image, depicting Armstrong at the controls of his personal Camel, the red-liveried C6713 Doris, indulging in some typically lowaltitude aeros. Very highly recommended, and not just to aficionados of 1914-18 aviation. BD

ISBN 978-1-526752-67-3; 9.5 x 6.5in hardback; 248 pages, illustrated; £25.00 ★★★★

Gliding & Soaring in Britain by Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume published by Stenlake

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The start of a serious gliding movement in Britain can be traced back to 1929 and the formation of the British Gliding Association, this following a meeting — the so-called ‘gliding lunch’ — of enthusiasts on 4 December that year at the Comedy restaurant in Haymarket, London.

This large, paperback volume is the history of gliding and soaring in the UK, told in the inimitable — highly readable — Ord-Hume style. The first 130 pages tell the story of the movement, its rapid rise in popularity and its fate in wartime, with the complete cessation of sport gliding. While strong on detail and providing a good chronological account, the text also includes some glorious asides.

The second half details 128 designs of British gliders and sailplanes, many of them designed and built by the company founded by Frederick Nicholas Slingsby (1894-1973).

Numerous other individuals made their mark in various ways but, as his obituary noted, Fred Slingsby was the British gliding movement. Well illustrated with a wonderful selection of black-and-white photos accorded a decent (but no more) standard of reproduction, this title is a pleasure to browse. DJC

ISBN 978-1-84033-835-5; 10.7 x 8.2in softback; 304 pages, illustrated; £37.00 ★★★★

MiG Alley: The US Air Force in Korea 1950-53 by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver published by Osprey

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A great deal has now been written about the aerial combats of the Korean War, and especially about the engagements between MiG-15s and F-86 Sabres that have come, in many ways, to define the conflict and its place in history. The post-Cold War declassification of records from the ‘other side’ has done much to increase our understanding of how things actually were in the skies over Korea, and in his new title Thomas McKelvey Cleaver weaves together a compelling narrative, making use of a wide range of sources. In short, his central thesis is that the UN forces’ victory was harder-won than many would care to consider; that the MiG menace posed a more serious threat than has generally been acknowledged, not least as the Soviet-built jets were — contrary to the long-accepted view — initially flown by combat-experienced pilots; and that the eventual outcome was by no means clearcut. He argues the case well, cutting adroitly through some myths that have developed around the Korean air campaign.

There is the odd typo (‘Oswald Boelke’) and questionable aircraft designation (especially the hyphenation of wartime German types, such as ‘Me-163’ and ‘Me-262’). But, seen as a whole, MiG Alley is a most interesting read, complementing well the author’s history of the US Navy’s role in Korea, and genuinely oThers perspectives that many might not have considered. For instance, writes McKelvey Cleaver, “In the end, both sides may be correct in their assessment of who won.” BD

ISBN 978-1-4728-3608-3; 9.5 x 6.25in hardback; 336 pages, illustrated; £25.00 ★★★

Shackleton Boys Volume 2 by Steve Bond published by Grub Street

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A follow-up to the first Shackleton Boys volume, published at about this time last year, this title covers Shackleton operators stationed (as opposed to deployed) overseas. These include, naturally, the South African Air Force, to which the last chapter is given over. However, most of the book covers RAF operations from Gibraltar, Changi, Gan, Luqa, Khormaksar and Sharjah. There are, as ever, some good stories, and some interesting — if, generally, rather small — images. BD

ISBN 978-1-911621-33-1; 9.5 x 6.5in hardback; 272 pages, illustrated; £25.00 ★★★

CALENDARS

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Cross & Cockade 2020 Calendar

It’s always nice to receive Cross and Cockade’s annual calendar, not least as it is produced in aid of such a worthy cause — upkeep of the British Air Services Memorial at St-Omer, put up in 2004 to commemorate the 8,000 airmen killed in France and Flanders during the 1914-18 war. As ever, many of the artworks included within are outstanding: shown here are two of them, Jean-Michel Mateo’s Morane and Fokker, depicting an all-monoplane combat between Morane-Saulnier N and Fokker E.III, and the late James Field’s Sunrise Start, showing two Felixstowe F2As embarking on a North Sea patrol. It’s also very good value.

Price: £10.00 plus P&P Information and ordering: crossandcockade.com

WATCHES

Breitling Aviator 8 Mosquito

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Produced in collaboration with the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, Hertfordshire, Breitling’s new Aviator 8 Mosquito watch pays tribute to the outstanding DH type, which is 80 years old in 2020. The watch is powered by the Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01 mechanical self-winding chronograph movement and is waterproof to 100m. It has a stainless-steel bezel and a black dial recalling the night fighter version of the Mosquito, plus three contrasting silver sub-dials and a date window.

Price: £6,230 Information and ordering: www.breitling.com

AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Bader Chronograph and Flyboy Eagle Squadron Bronze Automatic

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Two new releases hail from AVI‑8 this month. The limited-edition Hawker Hurricane Bader Chronograph commemorates the exploits of Sir Douglas Bader, and has been produced in collaboration with his family; 10 per cent of proceeds from all sales will go to the Douglas Bader Foundation, a charity that aids those without one or more limbs, or who are otherwise disabled.

Three different colours are available, to the tune of 242 examples each, reflecting No 242 Squadron of which Bader was commanding officer during 1940. Among other features, Bader’s signature is carried on the dial, and both 242’s pennant and the RAF fin flash colours are reflected on the strap. The Flyboy, meanwhile, is a tribute to the Americanmanned Eagle Squadrons, and has their emblem featured both on the dial and the back of the watch case.

Prices: Hurricane £225, Flyboy £400 Information and ordering: www.avi-8.co.uk

MODELS

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Magic Scale Modeling

Belgian firm Magic Scale Modeling is offering not models in themselves, but an innovative accessory, namely components to enable otherwise static 1/48-scale models to be ‘powered up’. Using a battery, small engine and speaker, the ‘plug and play’ set allows propellers to turn, and be accompanied by engine sounds recorded using original powerplants. The two releases notified to us are items for 1/48-scale single-engined fighters, starting with the Rolls-Royce Merlin and Daimler-Benz DB603/605 engines, but others are also offered, including sets taking in engines, sound and lighting for larger types such as the Mosquito, B-25 and Ju 52/3m.

Prices (Merlin and DB603/605): €49.00 Information and ordering: www.magicscalemodeling.com

HK Models Lancaster I

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Being offered by Norfolk-based Hobbies is this impressive limitededition Lancaster I kit, in 1/32 scale and incorporating 824 parts on 23 sprues. An unusual feature is an extra fuselage and nose section in clear plastic, enabling your finished model to show the interior detail if you so wish; alternatively, you can of course complete it in conventional form, while a third option allows a ‘half-and-half’ build. Markings take in three famous Lancasters: R5868 as either OL-Q ‘Q-Queenie’ or PO-S ‘S-Sugar’, and W4783/AR-G ‘G-George’.

Price: £359.99 Information and ordering: www.alwayshobbies.com