Fighter Aces of the RAF in the Battle of Britain.

Author:Hoblit, Jerry
Position:Book review

Fighter Aces of the RAF in the Battle of Britain. By Philip Kaplan. UK: Pen and Sword Aviation, 2007. Photographs. Bibliography. Index. Pp. x, 203. 19.99 [pounds sterling] ISBN 978-1-84415-587-3

The Battle of Britain is the benchmark defensive air battle in history. Its participants were virtually all legendary and subjects for school children's study and admiration. Kaplan focuses his book on anecdotes relative to five RAF Aces: Al Deere, Geoffrey Page, Peter Townsend, Brian Kingcome, and Sailor Malan.

Al Deere had some difficulty with his instructors and was prone to ignore station regulations. He showed little patience in peacetime training that emphasized formation flying with little work on individual aerial gunnery practice. Early in this section, Kaplan gives a good description of the development and characteristics of the Spitfire as well as the groundbreaking Command and Control (C&C) system used in conjunction with early radar systems that gave the RAF the required edge in their duel with the Luftwaffe. The last days leading up to the Battle and Deere's first day in the fifteen-week conflict are well described and might become classic prose in aerial warfare. This series of events was marked by sometimes tragic failures of the new C&C system; improvements were hastily worked out under German fire.

Geoffrey Page made three kills before being shot down over the English Channel. He was horribly burned but managed to bail out in the Channel and was recovered. Fifteen operations and two years later, he returned to flying. Hate-filled from his ordeal by German fire, he was assigned to the Air Fighting Development Unit, whose mission included access to the newly arrived P-51 Mustang. Another wounded pilot and he cooked up a scheme to mount two-ship, low-level attacks on German night-flying and bomber fields as far south as Paris. The idea was to surprise aircraft returning from their missions. On their first attempt, the two men accounted for six German kills. This brought Page satisfaction in his quest for vengeance but seemed to increase his need for revenge and lust for killing the enemy.

Peter Townsend was ecstatic when selected as a fighter pilot, a role for which he was well suited, having the mentality and temperament of a loner. Not long after his first kill, Townsend was patrolling over Scapa Flow when he was signaled to return to base. Instead he turned off his radio and went on with the search in which he shot down another...

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