4 Group Bomber Command – Review by Mark Barnes

Profuse apologies to Chris Ward, I have been sitting on this one for a while and it is the arrival of his next book that has propelled me into reviewing it pdq. A nice lady at Pen & Sword once told me they didn’t care how long I took to review books and I suppose the problem is I take care to spread my favours across a variety of publishers and subjects and there is always something new calling me to do it first. A case in point is the Arado 234 book we saw earlier. It arrived while I was in the middle of another book about the Luftwaffe that has now stalled in my affections.

So, without a hint of embarrassment I can only pass on to the author what the great Geddy Lee once said to Bob and Doug McKenzie, Slow down, eh!

Moving swiftly on, this is a solidly researched book giving us masses of information about the squadrons and aircraft of 4 Group of Bomber Command. The author gives us a concise but engaging history of operations before dissecting individual squadron efforts with a look at the service time of commanding officers, stats on achievement or otherwise and then a long and detailed list of individual aircraft histories.

So, being honest – how much of this do I actually need to review without being able to impress upon you the immense amount of work that has gone into it and just how useful this book is? I am a casual but often emotional devotee of the men of Bomber Command and this book adds so much to my knowledge that I am happy to welcome further instalments. As a pictures man, I can guarantee that books like this really help me in my archives work and although I love the wibbly wobbly web I do much prefer getting my facts off paper rather than the ether.

I won’t kid you, I took my cue from the dedication to look up the record of one squadron to see how the book is structured and then delved into other chapters. There is a lot to get through! The cold hard facts offer us a chilling history of loss and sacrifice. You can also see the sheer expense of it all in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. Questioning the ethics and efficacy of the bombing effort is not the stuff of this resource.

The photograph section is superb and includes a wide range of images of aircrew of all ranks and their aircraft. Meat and drink to me.

The author knows full well his is not a bedtime read. It is a pukka reference book and I really should have dealt with it months ago. Better late than never.

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online

An Operational Record
By Chris Ward
Pen & Sword Aviation
ISBN: 978 1 84884 884 9

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.