I was riding my commuter train home from work one evening just before Christmas and it occurred to me I hadn’t seen anything from Haynes for a while. A hasty email was replied to promptly by their no nonsense PR chaps and within a short while I was in possession of five owners’ workshop manuals to get my teeth into.

These books illustrate perfectly Haynes’ approach to diversity. For while there will have been other equally attractive titles out in time for Christmas which fall outside our remit these military subjects show a confidence in what they do which allows for some tongue in cheek stuff to mingle with the traditional car books and the range that finds specific favour on this website.

Ok, I will try and use the term iconic only once as a catch-all for the majority of the subjects discussed here. WESTLAND SEA KING 1988 Onwards (HU Mk.5 SAR model) by Lee Howard delves into the much-loved British built version of the Sikorsky S61 and SH3-D helicopters. As a younger me I had the joy of a flight from Penzance to the Scilly Isles on one of British Airways’ aging fleet of S61 passenger helicopters, a service now long gone as far as I am aware. A good while later I was at Culdrose on a winter’s day watching 771 NAS Sea Kings dropping in and out of the spray while a bevy of black BAe Hawks were simulating attacks on warships out in the fierce Atlantic. The rain was worse than horizontal and the Sea Kings were on hand in the event of something untoward happening but happily the day ended safely for the Hawks.

The town I live in has the designated hospital for air sea rescue flights in our region and I can often sit in my yard and watch a Sea King make a sedate approach over my neighbourhood to land on the big white H. This book concentrates on the naval air sea rescue variant – other Sea Kings are available – and maybe they, too, will be the subject of a book as thorough, affectionate and entertaining as this one.

U-BOAT 1936-45 (Type VIIA, B C and Type VIIC/41) by Alan Gallop may not have the snappiest of titles at first glance, but don’t be fooled, this is a well prepared and absorbing work with masses of information and a wealth of interesting photos. A surviving submarine displayed near Kiel forms the basis of much of the technical material included and this follows the Haynes recipe of finding a single subject to build a book around. My dad had a bit of an obsession with U-Boats in his last years that baffled his family a little, but I like to think he would have adored this book.

The U-Boat menace remains vivid all these decades after the end of the war. If you’ve seen the classic Das Boot you will have incite into what life could be like serving in claustrophobic and imposing surroundings. You had to be a special kind of man to serve in them and I imagine that counts the same for modern day submariners, but the audacity and immense bravery of the U-Boat crews must be acknowledged. A U-Boat sank the merchantman my Uncle Teddy served on and there was a war crimes investigation of the incident at the end of hostilities that adds something dark to the wider mythology of the pirates of the Kriegsmarine.

U-Boats were not engaged in a pretty war. They were superior weapons made to do a sometimes rotten job and they did it very well.

McDONNELL DOUGLAS/BOEING F-15 EAGLE 1972 Onwards (all marks) jets us decades onwards to our era of modern war where this amazing aircraft is the pre-eminent machine of its type with a score of 105 kills for no losses. Steve Davies gets on with the development history and mechanics of the beast while USAF veteran Doug Dildy covers all the hands on experience stuff. This combination works brilliantly and while I have enjoyed other jet age subjects from Haynes, to me, this represents the best of them. I cannot fault it.

As usual, the attention to detail is immense and it is becoming a tad redundant for me to mention the standard of the photography and page design. Modern jets are not my favourite birds but I have always understood the draw of planes like the F-15. I was at Duxford in the summer watching the museum’s example undergo restoration and it is a bloody big bit of kit. I don’t recall seeing an F-15 in flight and will have to check back through my negatives of the air shows we used to have in my seaside town which were well supported by the USAF before the dark days of 9/11. There is so much to this aircraft and Messrs Davies and Dildy have got it well and truly covered.

Back to Somerset again for something much older. WESTLAND LYSANDER 1936-46 is, for me, the best of the five. Edward Wake-Walker taps into all the blurry eyed feelings of nostalgia many of us have for a classic era of British aviation. When you look at a Lysander you have to love it. Ungainly and ugly, this little beast had a busy war, first in the army-cooperation role where it was quickly seen to be susceptible to the menace of modern fighter planes and then as a taxi for agents and other spooky stuff dropping spies and saboteurs into occupied Europe. Target tugs and other roles were kept the funny little bird busy.

As usual, the book takes us into the guts of the aircraft and we can see it in all the phases of design, development and service. There is an enticing look at a moment from the late nineties when three of the type flew together at an air show. I’d be happy just to see one and this means a long overdue visit to Shuttleworth if I am to achieve this. There are others in Canada to admire. Once again the section on operating the type is very entertaining and accounts of all that cloak and dagger stuff will always appeal. The Lysander stands out firmly as a success from that somewhat awkward period of 1930s British military aircraft design that has an eclectic mix of obvious stars, tragic duffers and eccentricities.

Where we exactly place the Lysander is a little bit of a moot point. The aircraft is a gem but while it is no Frankel to look at it certainly is a warhorse.

Something that has not been around long enough to enjoy an iconic status is the fleet of Type 45 destroyers in the Royal Navy. Despite this Jonathan Gates has produced an immensely satisfying look at the introduction and service history of the six ships flying the White Ensign.

TYPE 45 DESTROYER 2010 Onwards must inevitably be hindered by the realities of security consciousness about a great deal of what makes these powerful warships tick. Does this spoil the book? The short answer is a resounding ‘no’.

The book could not have happened without the cooperation of the Ministry of Defence and they seem to have jumped in feet first to win hands down a PR exercise in how to engage with the British taxpayer. You will occasionally hear a a slice of that ‘island race’ cheese beloved by some politicians and right wing newspapers, especially in an election year; but the fact is the modern day public is quite detached from the doings of the Senior Service in a global world where Britannia no longer rules the waves. Cash strapped realities limit just how much the modern Royal Navy can do within budget and this is illustrated by anticipation for the mammoth Queen Elizabeth class carriers these destroyers are presumably intended to escort. Nevertheless, the Type 45s get out there projecting Britain’s naval power and this book allows us to see something of how this happens. The ships look stunning, a million miles from the dear old Type 42s they replaced and in time they may well be iconic.

While I have some concerns that warships are just a little too big for the Haynes treatment, this book really goes for it and will remain one I will happily pull out on one of those rainy days when only this sort of book will do.

I have said previously that, like some other series of books, these Haynes manuals are great because you don’t have to read them all through at once and the pleasure of dipping in and out is all there. These five titles all stand up to scrutiny and I am pleased they get my reviews for 2015 off to such a solid start.

Where to next for Haynes?

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online


WESTLAND SEA KING 1988 Onwards (HU Mk.5 SAR model)

By Lee Howard

ISBN: 978 0 85733 505 3


U-BOAT 1936-45 (Type VIIA, B C and Type VIIC/41)

By Alan Gallop

ISBN: 978 0 85733 404 6


McDONNELL DOUGLAS/BOEING F-15 EAGLE 1972 Onwards (all marks)

By Steve Davies and Doug Dildy

ISBN: 978 0 85733 243 1




By Edward Wake-Walker

ISBN: 978 0 85733 395 7


TYPE 45 DESTROYER 2010 Onwards

By Jonathan Gates

ISBN: 978 0 85733 240 0


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.