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Published by Pen & Sword. ISBN 9781848848955
Were all aware of the relatively low survival rates for German U-Boat crews and Allied Heavy bomber crews during WW2, but I doubt many would be so aware of the perilously low survival rates for RAF Strike Squadrons (Torpedo bomber & Light bomber). In late November 1942 Air Marshal Garrod sent a report to Air Marshal Sutton detailing the RAF’s operational casualties up to that point. It duly noted that the Strike Sqns had survival rates of 17% and 25% (respectively) for a single completed tour, compared to 44% for the Heavy & Medium Sqns of Bomber Command. However even more stark was the figures give for completing 2 tours, just 3% for the Torpedo bombers and 6% for the Light bombers. This compared to the 19% of the aforementioned Bomber Command Sqns. The report was never made public or circulated within the RAF, but this is backdrop of Nesbits work which concentrates on the activities of the Strike Sqs in the Mediterranean theatre.
There are many facets as to why survival rates were so low, and one of the main culprits during the early stages of the war was the obsolete equipment which abounded. The book charts throughout the replacement and modification of aircraft, from the Vilderbeest to Beauforts to Beaufighters and a miscellany of aircraft in between. Eight squadrons in particular make up the bulk of this books content: 39,42,47,144,227,252,272 ad 603, and the aircrew its human dimension.
The book is split into some 11 Chapters covering from 1941 through to the wars end in 1945. All the Chapters can be read as a stand alone narrative and I must say that I found the Chapters 6 (Fuel for the Panzerarmee), 10 (Sideshow) and 11 (Rocket Squadron) particularly interesting. Fuel for the Panzerarmee, details out the vital work undertaken and acknowledged by Rommel, in interdicting his vital supply route from Italy too North Africa, severely limiting his freedom of action at critical phases of the war. Sideshow as the chapter title suggests concentrates on the part played by the Strike squadrons in pursuing Churchill’s misguided or under resourced Aegean foray. Finally Rocket Squadron describes the relatively late introduction of Rocket armed aircraft into this specific arena, and the impact it had on accelerating enemy vessels being sunk. Though I've highlighted three chapters, the remaining eight Chapters offer other specific insights into the campaign waged by these Squadrons, which the reader may find more attuned to them.
This book is a re-print of the 1995 original and as such the book suffers in my opinion from a lack of maps/diagrams, as one might expect in a more modern book on the subject. There is a decent selection of photographs, though again being somewhat greedy I would have liked more! There is a Bibliography but sadly the book isn’t Noted, thus though it doesn’t detract from the books actual content, the lack thereof severely limits your ability for specific research in the numerous AIR files listed in the Bibliography. Nesbits writing style is very energetic and engaging, enabling him to convey his own experiences and share his knowledge in an informative manner.
The book is fairly priced at just under £20, so within the reach of many a interested party.
4 out 5 Stars