Sometimes a book is so brimming with enthusiasm you can be carried along by it without realising. This immense bit of fun from Philippe Bauduin is just such a book.

Here we have the story of the ground breaking Arado 234 jet aircraft and its little known involvement in photographic reconnaissance of the Allied bridgehead in Normandy in 1944. The author tells us the story of the flights and we see surviving examples of the aerial photos that were taken. It’s all good stuff.

There are tangents. The book crams in the story of the British escort carrier HMS Reaper and her journey from Cherbourg to the USA carrying a valuable cargo of German jets and other pioneering aircraft. We meet some of the pilots who were the first Americans to fly the Me262 and learn about the race for technology between the western Allies and the Russians as the war in Europe played out. We encounter the Luftwaffe pilots who flew the Arado 234 and share in the author’s joy in building a rapport with some of the survivors. A brief history of the Aradocompany tops things off.

The author is tripping over himself to tell us lots of stuff and this gives this heavily but superbly illustrated book the feel of an extended magazine article – a bit like a special supplement. The layout of the book betrays a feeling it wanted to be bigger on a coffee table scale, but the publishers have restrained matters into a more modest format that works splendidly. The book is translated from the original French by Heather Williams and she has done well to avoid the minefield history books like this often present.

The net result is a genuinely entertaining and quirky book I really like. This is a serious history and while I described it as funI want to emphasise that the breezy enthusiasm that created it had a proper story to tell. The effect smacks of a vanishedboys own sort of style some might find a tad on the light side but we can have no complaints. I love it.

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online

By Philippe Bauduin
Translated by Heather Williams
Pen & Sword Aviation
ISBN: 978 1 47382 339 6

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.