The RAF in Action Against the Germans and Italians Through Rare Archive Photographs
176 pages. 190 black-and-white photos. Paperback. Preface, introduction, acknowledgements.
This book was made possible by the discovery of a remarkable collection of gun-camera photographs belonging to Dennis 'DOB' Butler, who passed away in 2005.
These photographs pertain to 252 Squadron, which flew two-engine Beaufighters, from October 1942 until May 1945. After a brief introduction and some snapshots of aircrew and aircraft, the book focuses on individual missions, recreated through the gun-camera photos and operations records.
To pick a random example: On Friday, 15 June 1943, three Beaufighters went on an offensive sweep in which they sequentially attacked a two-masted schooner, a larger schooner, a steam coaster, and an abandoned schooner. Four photos show the attack on the first schooner.
The book accurately portrays what 252 Squadron did in the war, which often involved shooting up maritime transports along the coast of occupied Europe. More rarely, their missions might involve strafing convoys, attacking bridges, bombing seaplanes moored in harbor, and firing rockets at AA gun emplacements. Their major mission of the war involves intercepting a German naval convoy (with air cover) attempting to reinforce Crete.
Surprisingly, as these are simply gun-camera photographs, they often capture the beauty of the Mediterranean coast, the villages, and the vessels. And, while I recognize the necessity of destroying enemy commerce, I couldn't help but feel compassion for the sailors on these humble ships.
The mission descriptions also point out when friendly aircraft were lost, usually due to ground fire, and whether the crew survived.
It's the photographs which make this book – the text is sparse, though it often caused me to study the photos to find the details referred to. Although the book deals with the day-to-day operations of the squadron, I didn't get tired when the missions were repetitive, and was enthralled to the end.
Readers will need to refer to their own maps to locate the bases and targets, as no map is provided.
I think wargamers will enjoy getting the 'first-person view' of the war, even though few of these missions are likely scenario material (unless you like air-to-ground missions). Modelers of scenery, buildings and ships will find much of interest here.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .