New Books From Grub Street – Review by Paul Theobald

Two great new titles from Grub Street are about to arrive on the bookshelves. Both cover little written about jet powered air defence aircraft that served in the Royal Air Force from the 1950s – the Supermarine Swift and the Gloster Javelin.

First up we examine the Supermarine Swift F4 in a book written by Guy Ellis, a well-established aviation writer.

This 160-page book filled with both black and white and colour photos concentrates on the story of one particular Swift, WK275. This is the sole surviving aircraft, designed and built by the same company that built the iconic World War II fighter the Spitfire, Vickers Supermarine. Back in the 1950s the British Government was in the need to fulfil the gap for a jet powered fighter in the air defence role to face the threat coming from the Eastern Bloc countries. The Swift suffered from several flaws during its production that made it less popular in comparison to the Hawker Hunter that saw service in many air forces over several decades. Incidentally, the Swift F4 WK195 briefly held the airspeed world record, having attained 737.7 mph (1,187 kmh) in 1953 whilst being flown by Vickers Supermarine’s chief test pilot Mike Lithgow over Libya.

Guy Ellis has done an excellent job of telling the story of this last survivor and also the history of the Swift from its conception and into service with the RAF. After ending its service life, WK275 was acquired by the Sheppard family and  became an iconic landmark in Leominster, England; where it remained slowly deteriorating due to exposure to the British weather over many years. That was until 2012, when it was sold to Jet Aviation Art. Guy covers the full restoration project with many original photos showing WK275 in various states of decay along with the remaking of parts right through to the finished mint condition article that she is today. WK275 can be seen on display in the same hangar as Vulcan XH558 at Doncaster Airport in the north of England while she is on loan to the Vulcan to the Sky Trust.

Guy has done a great job of showing what it takes to restore and preserve an aircraft. All this contributes to making this book a great addition to any aviation lover’s library.

The next Grub Street title is Javelins Boys by Steve Bond who also wrote Meteor Boys for this growing series of books. I’m glad that the publisher has carried on with this series because they are great reads and I can fully recommend them. New readers will discover they are a series of short true stories of an experience or incident that a member of aircrew had while flying a particular type of aircraft.

The Gloster Javelin was a night and all weather jet powered fighter that saw service with the RAF in the air defence role mainly during the 1950’s and 60’s. It was nicknamed the ” Flying Flat Iron” amongst other things and was operated by squadrons based in the UK, Germany and the Far East.

Only a little in depth material has been written about the Gloster Javelin so it is nice to read this collection of short stories contained within this book provided by the airmen that flew them and the ground crews that did all the service and maintenance work. They Give the reader an insight into the performance of the Javelin, how it was flown and the problems that the maintainers would face.

This particular book is in a slightly different format to others in this series because it also covers the history of the Javelin and includes information on the units that operated the aircraft, the production list and notes on the accidents suffered by individual aircraft. This book is another great addition to any aviation enthusiast’s bookcase. Steve Bond has a done a great job of telling the story of this unique aircraft and has managed to compact it into 204 pages with black and white and a few colour photos, many of which have not been seen before.

Reviewed by Paul Theobald for War History Online.

The Restoration and Preservation of the Last Supermarine Swift F4
By Guy Ellis
Grub Street
ISBN: 978 1910690505

Air Defence from the Cold War to Confrontation
By Steve Bond
Grub Street
ISBN: 978 1910690406

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