RAF Fighter Command: Defense of the Realm 1936-1945

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Ron Mackay and Mike Bailey
Other Publication Information
Hardbound, 528 pages, 360 Color and B&W photos including 12 color drawing
Company: Fonthill Media - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate UK - Website: Visit Site
Front Cover

This book details RAF’s fighter command from just prior to the conclusion of WWII. Their job was to be the defensive shield for the home islands from all comers. This chapter explains how despite this mission the flying and training during this time did very little to prepare them for aerial combat much less the all-out struggle for survival during the early days of aerial combat in WWII!

The book is broken down into 17 chapters, beginning with as it is titled “The greatest Flying club in the world” giving an overview of planes and issues used by and facing the RAF from WWI up through1945.

Chapter 2 has the RAF playing catch up with the Nazis albeit with the sound and familiar designs of the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire. One of the biggest advances and advantages the RAF would have was with RADAR. This would, in the coming conflict provide a warning when the Luftwaffe was coming and give the RAF a precious time advantage. Here also is covered the means by which all of this new equipment would have the well trained personnel to operate it. The Nazi’s continued expansion finally culminated with Britain and France declaring war after the invasion of Poland. This came while the Home defense Force was still 25% short of the 52 squadrons needed.

Chapter 3, 4 and 5 covers the “Phoney War”, the fighting beginning in earnest and the evacuation at Dunkirk which saved may men to fight again. With buildup of RAF strength in France encounters with the Luftwaffe increased and the old FCA attack plans were proven to be anachronistic and would lead to a great loss of pilots and planes during the early days of WWII. But thanks to the armada of boats both military and civilian a vast number of personnel were saved and returned to England to fight again.

Chapters 6 and 7 cover the aftermath of the retreat from Dunkirk and the period known the world over as the Battle of Britain! This period between July and October of 1940 would play out in a desperate attempt to hold off the planned Nazi invasion of Britain, beat and counterpunch the Luftwaffe and begin the defeat of Nazism and the saving of the world. After this the process of taking the fight across the channel and to the Germans would begin.

Chapter 8 covers The Blitz time period where the Luftwaffe bombers made their nighttime raids in England and particularly London. Early RAF night fighters such as the Boulton Paul Defiant and later the Beaufighter took the fight to the German bombers. The final raid during the Blitz occurred on the night of May 10-11 and proved to be one of the worst nights of bombardment for London. Its conclusion would see approximately 2000 Londoners dead and large areas devastated. Only time would show that this raid was effectively the end to the Blitz until some attempts were made to repeat this in early 1944.

The remaining chapters, 9 through 17 cover taking the fight to the Germans. As more and better aircraft came out of British factories the fight gradually began to turn more and more against the Nazis. Aircraft such as the Typhoon, Tempest and Mosquito would join the Spitfire and Hurricane in challenging the Bf-109 and its much respected and feared stablemate, the Fw-190. Night fighters built at first to defend the country from aerial bombardment became nighttime hunters taking the fight to the Luftwaffe and wreaking havoc under the cover of darkness and coming full circle in taking the offensive from the Luftwaffe! There is also a good discussion on the lead up to D-Day and the long planned invasion of the continent! The RAF and American planes continued to pound areas of the continent to both soften up the invasion grounds and to obfuscate the location of the actual invasion. Once the foothold was secured it spelled the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. The vaunted Luftwaffe once the scourge of European skies, was now outnumbered and on the defensive. The many “wonder weapons” of the last months of the war such as the V-1,V-2, Me-262 and Ar-234 while tearrifying could not change the ultimate defeat that Germany was rushing toward as they were too little, too late. The book concludes with an overview of what was accomplished and how far the RAF had come from its early days in 1936 and its contributions to the demise of the Luftwaffe.

This is a good read. There is a lot of information within this massive tome. The authors do a great job of presenting a tremendous amount of information and historical data in an entertaining, informative and easy to read volume. Many interesting B&W photographs, color illustrations and a nice selection of mostly wartime color aircraft add a very nice touch, and do much to aid in the story being told! I recommend this book to all with an interest in the RAF, British aircraft, WWII and aviation history as well as modelers worldwide!

Our thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy and my thanks to IPMS/USA for the review opportunity


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