Here we are again with two more aviation based titles from the Images of War series. I often think it is this aspect of conflict that has brought out the best books in this sprawling series and although there will obviously be winners on land and sea it is the air war books that tend to have an edge.
As if to prove this fanciful theory dreamt up after spending a Sunday afternoon in the pub we have books from Andy Saunders and Norman Franks to contend with. These two authors should need no introduction. Both are as safe a pair of hands as you could hope to find and, once again, their chosen subjects offer up very interesting sets of images.
Mr Saunders gets us started with a really entertaining look at aircraft wrecks and salvaging scenes from the Battle of Britain and The Blitz. By their very nature pictures of shot down German aircraft offer a tangible record of how the Luftwaffe failed and a good look at the propaganda value the images had in the war for opinions. A good many pictures on show in the book are well known, some being something like Battle of Britain standards. I have no complaints. The manner in which the images have blended with the large number I haven’t seen makes for a genuinely enthralling mix.
As ever, this is not a one sided story and we see a good number of wrecks of British aircraft and even some Italian planes from the brief period when Mussolini was puffing his chest out and getting in on the action over eastern England. The Fiat Cr42 in the Battle of Britain museum at Hendon is there as a result of his bravado. But it is the German planes that form the spine of the book and I find it difficult to tire of these sort of images showing mangled bits of Dornier, Heinkel, Junkers and Messerschmitt.
Norman Franks looks to a wholly different story of World War II with an impressive gallery of images depicting the cat and mouse war fought by Coastal Command against the U-Boat menace. The book brings us weaponry, incidents, characters and a good deal of atmosphere from the campaign.
Unlike the Saunders book this one is filled with a huge number of images that are new to me. I’ll be honest and say this facet of WWII is not my strongest subject, so I am really grateful for the education. Images of aircrew and submariners bring the story to life and make it much more real. It was a deadly battle and not just for the U-Boat crews. Vast seas were no place to ditch a damaged plane and many a crew who made it into their dinghies were to perish as a result of the elements.
The book digresses a little by showing us some American naval airmen who fought against the U-Boats. This all adds to a thoroughly positive experience.
Mr Franks easy to follow story telling cracks along and I think I’ve said before he can probably do this stuff in his sleep.
Both books come with superior captions and the image reproduction is good enough to keep the reader on side. They retail for a penny shy of fifteen pounds but you will no doubt find them much cheaper than that on the internet. I have been sitting on these books for some time and they are not exactly brand new but this has been proven to be unimportant. These books continue to do all the things I like. They can be enjoyed in small parcels of reading time and will be a pleasure to flick through while you fill the void of life without Clarkson.
So, there we have it; two straightforward titles from reliable authors who sit comfortably in the middle order of our batting line up. They can push this sort of stuff out until the cows come home and I really don’t mind at all. Good stuff.
Review by Mark Barnes for War History Online.
AIRCRAFT SALVAGE IN THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN AND THE BLITZ
By Andy Saunders
ISBN: 978 1 78303 040 8
COASTAL COMMAND’S AIR WAR AGAINST THE GERMAN U-BOAT
By Norman Franks
ISBN: 978 1 78383 182 1
Both published by Pen & Sword Aviation