Book Review: The Royal Navy Wasp. An Operational & Retirement History

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The Royal Navy Wasp: An Operational & Retirement History

So, I have another book from those fantastic people over at Pen & Sword Books to have a look at, this time it’s a subject matter with wings that are rotary rather than my usual fixed wing interest.

This publication looks at the small but mighty Westland Wasp, this was the first helicopter in the world to be designed to be deployed at sea.

The book begins by looking at the conditions during the post war period that lead to the development of the Wasp as a solution. Anti-Submarine operations using aircraft were nothing new, in fact aircraft have been used since the first world war to attack submarines, albeit in a much less sophisticated manner. During WWII though things were advancing rapidly but still ships and aircraft alike needed to catch their prey on the surface to launch an attack.

Technology continued to advance and by the 50s aircraft were able to detect even submerged vessels. It was at this point the Navy decided the use of a small helicopter that could be launched from destroyers and frigates as a weapon carrier in anti-submarine warfare operations could be an effective tool.

From the outset the book includes anecdotes from pilots and crew. From the test pilots, to those that were to use the aircraft in operations and finally those that went on to operate the aircraft in a civilian role. These are taken not only directly from the crew members or official reports, but also from articles in publications such as Cockpit! or Flight Deck Magazines for example. I found many of these to be really fascinating and I loved being able to read these first-hand accounts of what the aircraft was like to operate and the tasks it was asked to carry out.

Moving on we take a brief look at the company that would eventually go on to secure the contract for providing this ship-based aircraft, The Westland Aircraft Works, and how it came to purchase Saunders Roe and with it their prototype project P531. This aircraft was subsequently developed into the land-based Scout and what was briefly named the Sea Scout, which was the basis of what became the Wasp

The development of the Wasp during the early years is looked at, covering everything from engine improvements to safety systems such as the flotation devices for a ditched helicopter. Weaponry and aircraft roles are looked at next including the development of new roles for the Wasp to be utilised in as a counter to emerging threats such as the advent of the Fast Patrol Boat for example.

As the book continues we hear about the initial deployment of the aircraft to the vessels it was to serve from and the trials that those early crews faced, both the flight team and the ships company. More articles from Flight Deck and Cockpit provide a great insight to what these early days of Wasp operation was like.

There are more anecdotal articles describing first-hand what it was like to work with the aircraft including a brief diary covering a year of operations by a Naval Air Engineering Mechanic on board the HMS Naiad during the early 80s. There are also accounts from three different vessels carrying Wasps that were deployed during the ‘Cod Wars’ of the 70s. This makes for interesting reading due to the unusual and sensitive nature of the situation.

Returning to the 80s we head into the Falklands conflict, looking at the aircrafts first real operations in a theatre of war. This section begins with the account of the flight on HMS Endurance which was the only Navy vessel in the area when hostilities began, and it is during this account that we hear about the encounter between the Argentine submarine Santa Fe and the Wasp that saw the first guided missile ever fired by the Royal Navy not only being fired but also meeting its target.

Falklands missions are also described from Flights aboard several other vessels including HMS Plymouth, HMS Yarmouth, the hospital ship HMS Hydra along with HMS Herald and HMS Hecla. Missions after the surrender are also looked at from other vessels.

There are then more personal accounts from crews that flew the aircraft during its service with the Navy, including the book authors own experiences with the aircraft.

Moving away from the Wasps service to the UK the book takes a look at their 2nd lease of life which was to be found abroad. Service was to be seen with New Zealand, The Netherlands, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil and South Africa with some aircraft remaining in service well into the 90s and beyond, impressive considering the type first flew in 1962.

Finally, the book looks at the few Wasps that are still active although not in military service. With the aircraft now in civilian hands the trials and tribulations they have faced since becoming civilian owned are covered, such as an impromptu search and rescue mission during a 2016 air show after another aircraft was forced to ditch into the sea.

In conclusion, I have found this book to be a very interesting read. I found the stories from operations to be very compelling and those centred around operations in the Falklands in particular were my favourite part of the book. Whilst it is true that this is an aviation history book more than anything else there are still some great reference images for modellers alongside the fantastic stories and I don’t think the level of detail the book goes into should be off-putting to anyone with an interest in military, naval or aviation subjects.

If you fancy picking up your own copy of this title then you can do so over at Pen & Swords Website, I would also recommend having a good look around on the site too as there are loads of great titles to be found.

Book Review: Flight Craft 16 Hawker Hunter in British Service

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Flight Craft 16: Hawker Hunter in British Service

This issue in the Flight Craft series focuses on the Hawker Hunter in British service. This is an aircraft that has always been able to lay claim to being one of the most elegant jets to have graced the RAF in service. It is a design that despite its emergence during a period of rapid advancement in British aviation, was able to remain in service until the final flight of XL612 in 2001.

The Flight Craft series are fantastic resources for modellers and this edition is no exception, as always the aircraft’s history is looked at, starting rightly with the prototypes of the design we move swiftly through the various marks to enter RAF service. The concise descriptions of the upgrades each revision saw are often accompanied by the reasons the modifications were sought, all alongside the usual excellent standard of photographs that are always present in the series.

Next the book continues by covering the two seat variants of the aircraft in a similar manner and then moves on to take a brief look at the naval GA.11 variant, again all accompanied by great quality images and captions.

The Camouflage and Markings section comes next with its array of fantastic artwork covering many of the types and schemes the Hunter has been found in during its history. This section has been my favourite part of previous Flight Craft titles and this is no exception. The quality of artwork really is fantastic and the with the variety of schemes covered you are sure to find inspiration for a future build.

Modelling the Hunter is covered next with images of some great completed kits and conversions before finally the book moves on to look at the Hunter’s cockpit, this includes some great detail photography of the cockpits and ejection seats.

Overall this book is yet another great addition to the Flight Craft series, if your planning a build in the future of pretty much any variant of the aircraft in British service then there should be something for you in this book.

I know I say this at the end of every book review but my thanks really do go out to Pen &Sword for the continued opportunity to review titles like these. You can pick up your copy of this book, along with many other fantastic titles over at their website.

Book Review: De Havilland Comet. The World’s First Commercial Jetliner

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This volume of World’s Greatest Airliners looks at what in my opinion is one of the most beautiful airliners to grace the sky, De Havilland’s Comet. The book’s concise text is accompanied throughout by some fantastic images of the aircraft, and whilst I could never grow tired of looking at photos of the Comet, its storied history during such a time of development and change for the aviation industry makes for great reading.

The book begins with a brief introduction describing the build up to the Comet’s first flight, an event that saw Britain as the world leaders of jet airliner development, barely four years since the end of the second World War.

We then jump back 7 years to look at the circumstances that lead to the development of the Comet. The formation of the Brabazon Committee during the war believed that there would be the need for 6 different types of aircraft to serve the Empire’s post war civil aviation requirements, Type IV being the most radical of the requirements. This was a demand for the fully jet powered airliner the Comet was to end up fulfilling.

The book follows the Comet’s rapid development, from authorisation to production in barely 4 years, leading up to that exciting afternoon on the 27th of July 1949 that saw her roar into the skies above the Hatfield factory.

Continuing to look at the Comet’s seemingly unstoppable rise, the initial success and the development of the Comet is covered. This saw it grow not only in engine power, efficiency and customers, but even in size as the Comet 3 prototype comprised of longer fuselage to accommodate increased passengers and fuel loads as the Comet moved, without rival, into routes all over the world. All with levels of luxury not before seen in the sky.

On we continue to what was some of the darkest days for the type, the loss of multiple aircraft and many lives lead to the grounding of the entire Comet fleet in 1954. The subsequent investigations are looked at as well as briefly describing the testing methods that lead to discovery of the ultimate cause of the accidents.

The rebirth of Comet which saw the development of the airframe into the larger Comet 3 and 4 saw BOAC again place its faith in the type. Indeed, it used the extensive testing period the Comet had endured because of the 1954 accidents to its advantage describing the Comet 4 as ‘The worlds most tested jetliner’

Next, we move on to the Comet’s slow decline that begins with BOAC, the Comets biggest supporter to date, moving its fleet over to the larger Boeing 707 to enable it to remain competitive on the scheduled routes whilst moving its fleet of Comets to its smaller subsidiary airlines across the Empire.

Overseas operators are covered next with Comets being used by airlines across the world, but the aviation industries shift towards chartered flights during the 60’s for the rapidly expanding package holiday market was already seeing the type become uncompetitive.

Still the type was to remain in service with what had become the operator of the single largest fleet of Comets, Dan-Air, until the end of 1980 when the type made its final commercial flight.

As the book nears its end it looks at the Comet’s service with the RAF. The chapter covers the roles of types during their service with 216 Squadron and 192 Squadron, the latter being renumbered 51 Squadron, before the most extensive modifications saw the Comet inspired maritime patrol aircraft The Nimrod come into existence.

Before ending the book, the author treats us to a chapter of anecdotes from RAF Comet pilots Brian Burdett and Peter Bowright

As you may guess by the way I go on a bit in this review this is an aircraft and story I love. The tale of its birth from war time meetings to its retirement at the dawn of the 1980s is one that provides times of fantastic highs of record-breaking journeys and cutting-edge development and terrible lows.

It took place during a time of great turmoil for the British aviation industry, which saw many of the famous names from wartime aviation disappear. Whether that be due to liquidation or their merger into large corporations desperately trying to be able to keep the British aviation industry competitive and relevant on a global stage.

Thanks to the author, this is a story any aviation fan can enjoy. Whilst including enough detail to keep the enthusiast interested, I think the balance is well done and it should not be off putting to those with just a passing interest in the subject and throughout, the story is accompanied by an array of beautiful photographs.

I would as always like to thank Pen and Sword books for allowing me the opportunity to review this book. You can pick up your copy of this book, along with many more great titles at their website.

Book Review: Images of War. The Desert Air War 1940-1943

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This book looks at the conflict fought in the skies above the Mediterranean and North Africa during the period from which Mussolini declared war in June of 1940 until the Italian armistice of September 1943.

Over the course of the book the author looks at the types of aircraft used by their relative air forces during the conflict, from the CR.32 & Gloster Gladiator biplanes of the Regia Aeronautica and RAF respectively during the early months; to the Douglas Boston DB-7’s of the SAAF and the Ju-87 Stuka’s of the Luftwaffe.

The book looks at the roles each type of the wide range of aircraft involved played during the various stages of the conflict and the conditions they and their crews were operating in.

Whilst the vast array of photographs included may not provide many opportunities for the modeller to examine the details of each aircraft, they are sure to provide plenty of inspiration for potential builds and dioramas.

Overall, I found this book to be a good introduction to an area of the second world war that I had not really spent much time looking at before, with the text providing a good amount of historical detail whilst the selection of photographs covers a good variety of subject matter helping retain a high level of visual interest too.

As always my sincerest thanks go to Pen and Sword Books for the copy to review, you can get your copy over at their website!

Book review! Flight Craft 15: The Supermarine Spitfire. The Mk.V And It’s Variants.

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This edition of the Flight Craft series takes a look at what for many is one of the most iconic fighter aircraft, the Spitfire.

The book begins, as is typical with the series, with a concise history covering the development of the Spitfire. From its roots held within Supermarine’s Schneider Trophy winning aircraft, through the early types and then focuses in on the Mk.V that served as the basis for development into so many of the later variants.

The journey through design and development is accompanied by an array of fantastic photographs of development and service aircraft, with their details providing a valuable source of reference photographs.

The colour profiles included in this edition are spread throughout the latter parts of the book rather than being in one specific markings section as they were in the previous titles in the series. They cover a variety of types and operators and include some beautiful looking schemes which are sure to provide inspiration to the modeller.

The modelling specific section of the book takes a different approach to looking at the Spitfire in model form than I have seen in the other editions of Flight Craft by taking a more historical look at the Spitfire in its plastic guise. There are so many kits and editions available covering so many different variants across so many different scales it would be impossible to look at each kit individually without it becoming a work in its own right.

Even without going into the details for specific kits this section still provides plenty of information and details with regards to the various manufacturer’s offerings, whilst still focusing on the Mk.V, as well as pointing out the almost countless opportunities for detailing.

Finally, we are treated to Frank Reynolds write up of a build of the Airfix MK VB Trop. Which is accompanied by more great photographs of built kits and colour profiles.

Overall this is another great addition to the Flight Craft series, containing a wealth of information and great images to provide the modeller with both a source of reference and inspiration.

The Flight Craft series of books are available from Pen and Sword Books, to whom my thanks go out to for allowing me review this copy, pick up your copy here!

Book Review! Flight Craft 14: The Messerschmitt 109

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Flight Craft 14: Messerschmitt Bf109

This edition of the Flight Craft series looks at the iconic German fighter the Bf-109. As with other editions in the series the reader is treated to the history of how the aircraft was conceived and developed over its life time and its numerous revisions.

This is followed by the service history of the type, covering the major theatres the aircraft was used in and by which air-forces. The accompanying captioned images provide the scale modeller with plentiful reference images of the various types and a few of its adversaries too.

The camouflage and markings section has 16 fantastic large colour side profiles of various types of Bf109 from various countries, including one of a development aircraft, one from the Spanish civil war and even a captured type in RAF markings.

Finally the kit reviews come next and these cover offerings across a wide range of manufacturers, scales and types and again even covers a conversion kit. The reviews are all well written and accompanied by images of some beautifully built offerings which should provide plenty of inspiration for any scale modeller.

Overall this is another great title in the Flight Craft series and if anything was going to make you want to pick up a 109 kit from the local hobby store, or dig one out from your stash, it’s this book.

As always my thanks go out to Pen and Sword Books for the opportunity to review this title, why not head over to their site and treat yourself to a copy!

Book Review: Flight Craft 13 The Gloster Meteor In British Service

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This volume of the Flight Craft series takes a look at Britain’s first generation jet fighter, The Gloster Meteor.

Starting with the prototypes the book contains a wealth of reference photos all with concise captions whilst the accompanying text provides one with a detailed history of the aircrafts development through the years moving through each of the production variants, explaining the alterations made during each stage where possible and pointing out both the visual and non visual differences between them.

There is a treasure trove of images for scale modellers and the good news doesn’t stop there! The book covers the history and development of types used by the UK including Photo Reconnaissance, Night Fighters, Targets, Tugs and Royal Navy Meteors plus some of the more unusual configurations in the Miscellany section before moving on to the Camouflage and Markings section.

This section contains 22 pages of full colour art work that was specially commissioned for the book, there are the familiar side profile images along with some of the aircraft being shown from a second either topside or underside view, again a fantastic resource for the scale modeller.

The book then moves on to provide a list of Scale model kits that were available for the Meteor at the time of writing, all the major scales are covered and whilst some more recent re-boxing’s may not be covered it does provide a fantastic source of information about each kit listed including which variants can be built and are covered by the decal sheets included. There is even a brief list of Alley Cat Conversion Sets. Finally we are treated to a gallery of various Meteor Models that have been built by well known modellers.

I had no personal experience with the Flight Craft series prior to reading this volume and I find myself wondering how I have missed these in the past. This volume is a fantastic resource for any modeller wishing to build a British Meteor, or even for anyone with an interest in the aircraft type.

As always my thanks go to Pen and Sword Books for the copy to review, please head over to their site for your copy!

Fact File: Fighter Aircraft Since 1945 – Frank Schwede


This book provides technical data along with a brief history of the development of each fighter type and it’s variants which are all organised by the country/bloc of origin. There are fighter aircraft from America, Russia, China and Europe covered with each being accompanied by some fantastic images of those airframes. The selection of aircraft included in the book illustrates the shift from the quest for greater speeds and altitudes for the worlds air superiority fighters to the quest for stealth and technological advancement instead.

Whilst the book does have a nice selection of photographic content, the images tend to be more generic images of the aircraft in question rather than the detail shots that modellers crave, this does not detract from the book though which is a great little title that should find its place on any aviation enthusiasts bookshelf.

Messerschmitt Bf-109, The early years – Poland, The Fall of France and The Battle of Britain


This book is part of Frontline Books Air War Archive series covering various historical and famous aircraft types with this one taking a look at the Bf-109.
This title is a fantastic resource for modellers, it begins with a short description of the aircraft type, development during service, with an explanation of the markings they wore during this time.
The book then continues on with a wealth of fantastic images, each with a detailed caption full of the intriguing and incredible stories of those aircraft and their airmen captured in the images.
The images begin with shots of pre-war aircraft of 1939 and continue on through the ‘Sitzkreig’, the fall of France, the Battle of Britain and end with images from 1941.
Whilst the images provide a great source of reference material for the modeller, their captions give further life to the images and make this a great addition to anyone’s collection of wartime reference material.

Focke Wulf 190: Birth Of The Butcher Bird 1939-1945


This book unsurprisingly covers the development of the FW190, a German aircraft that really was a workhorse for the Luftwaffe during WWII with its many variants allowing it to be utilised for a wide range of mission, from air superiority to bombing missions in theatres from the Eastern Front to North Africa.

The book begins by concisely covering the development of the type from its prototype to production aircraft and the many variants developed for the various missions and theatres they were deployed for. This part of the book covers many of the improvements and alterations throughout the variants of the type, their armaments and their mission types; there is also an explanation of the colours and markings used on the type.

The book then contains over a hundred fantastic photographs, a few of which are even in colour, showing the aircraft in a huge range of situations, theatres and variants all of which are all captioned to explain what they show along with any other pertinent information about the photographs. The images published included some lovely detail shots and some images of rarely seen captured aircraft and a few other unusually marked airframes.

On the whole I found the book to be a great source reference material and information, whether it be for general interest or looking at it like myself as a model maker. The publication is a great source of inspiration and information about the type for anyone interested in aircraft of this era and is a superb resource for anyone looking for photographic reference material on this extremely important aircraft.

The book is available from Pen and Sword at: http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Focke-Wulf-190-Paperback/p/11806