Spitfire Aces of North Africa and Italy
This is the 98thtitle in Osprey’s Aircraft of the Aces Series. The softcover book has 98 pages, including nine pages of color side profiles, a bibliography, index and appendices. The appendices include detailed information on each of the 36 color profiles. There is also a comprehensive listing of the aces that flew Spitfires in the theater that includes the units they flew with, their theater claims and their total claims. The front cover has a dramatic painting of Spitfires attacking Me-323 transports over the Mediterranean Sea. The encounter is described in detail on the page facing the table of contents and makes for some very interesting reading.
The narrative is basically a history of the Spitfires service in the theater, starting in June of 1942. Up until that time, the Germans had enjoyed a decisive advantage in the air. The arrival of the Spitfire V evened the tables with the Me-109F that was currently in service with the Luftwaffe. The book is filled with excerpts from unit diaries that confirm the success of the British fighter and the part it played in helping to turn the tide in North Africa.
In many cases the author has gleaned information from interviews with the pilots themselves. This leads to some very interesting reading and a great appreciation for the valor of these men. One of the surprising things was the number of different air forces that were represented in the theater. In addition to the RAF, there were aces from the air forces of South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, France, Poland, Rhodesia and the US.
The book follows the various Spitfire units across Africa through El Alamein and Tunisia and then across the Mediterranean. Early 1943 saw the arrival of the Mk. IX variant of the Spitfire, which was more than a match for the Me-109 and was able to hold its own against the Fw-190’s that were now being encountered. The preparation for the invasion of Sicily and the subsequent invasion of Italy in the fall of 1943 is covered in detail from the perspective of the Spitfire aces. Of particular interest is the variety of Axis aircraft described, from Me-109s to Ju-52s to Do-217s carrying Hs-293 guided bombs. The book concludes with the Spitfires service over the Aegean Sea and the Balkans which mostly consisted of ground attack sorties.
There are dozens of black and white pictures throughout the book, many of which appear to be from private collections and are probably published here for the first time. There are numerous photos of the aces themselves, which tends to make the narrative more interesting to be able to put a face together with the action. Generally the overall quality of the photos is very good, and they are reproduced at a reasonable size.
For most modelers, the meat of the book will be the color profiles and their corresponding descriptions. If you like Spitfires with tropical filters, then you will have plenty of choices. The lack of top and bottom views is not really a problem due to the availability of that information from many other sources, not to mention the uniformity of British camouflage patterns. There is even a profile of a Mk. VB floatplane, which was tested briefly over the Aegean Sea.
This is another quality publication from Osprey, and can be highly recommended. Author Andrew Thomas has done an excellent job tying together the accounts of these Spitfire aces and the text flows together well chronologically. The color profiles are beautifully done, and should provide the modeler with lots of inspiration. I feel the sudden urge to dig out that Tamiya 1/48 Mk. V that has been in my stash way too long. My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this excellent book.