Flying to Victory: Raymond Collishaw and the Western Desert Campaign 1940-1941.

Author:Willey, Scott A.
Position:Book review

Flying to Victory: Raymond Collishaw and the Western Desert Campaign 1940-1941. By Mike Bechthold. Norman OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xiii, 231. $34.95 ISBN: 978-0-8061-5596-8

Professor Bechthold teaches history at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, specializing in World War II air-power and Canadian military history. In this expansion of his doctoral dissertation, he covers Canada's second-highest-scoring ace of the First World War, Raymond Collishaw. But the focus is not on Collishaw's early fighter service. Rather, the subject is his command of what was later to become the Desert Air Force in North Africa early in World War II.

To understand the then-commodore's service in Egypt-Libya, Bechthold gives the reader an overview of Collishaw's military experience beginning with his service in the Royal Naval Air Service (and, after its formation, the Royal Air Force) from 1916 to the end of the war. With 61 aircraft and 8 balloon credits, he is remembered primarily as a fighter pilot; but he also became one of the early practitioners of low-level missions supporting the army. High losses on these missions greatly affected his later command philosophy. After the Great War, he flew in Russia supporting the Whites; served in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and the UK; and was aboard an aircraft carrier for a number of years. These postings required working in cooperation with both the Army and the Navy--interservice cooperation and relationships were important in his professional development.

At the start of World War II, Collishaw was given command of No 202 Group. The Italians in Libya posed a threat to Egypt and the Suez Canal. Although outnumbered, the British decided to attack westward and push the Italians away. Operation Compass was a high point in air, naval, and ground forces cooperation. Collishaw believed the best use of airpower was in stopping the enemy's ability to push supplies and forces to the front--hit his airfields, logistics centers...

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