Powered by Invision Power Board


  Reply to this topicStart new topicStart Poll

> Darwin Spitfires, An account of 1 Fighter Wing 1943
Michael Louey
Posted: Aug 19 2011, 05:25 PM
Quote Post


Supermarine Spitfire (A58)
*

Group: Members
Posts: 41
Member No.: 99
Joined: 24-March 06



Hi,

Having a chat with Brendan early this week after noting missing threads in this subforum. Looks like Brendan has restored the threads, so I'll load a new review I discussed with him.

Cheers

Michael

Darwin Spitfires
• Author: Anthony Cooper
• Paperback: 584 pages
• Publisher: UNSW Press (1 Jun 2011)
• ISBN: 978-1742232270
• Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15 x 3.4 cm

This new book covers the operations of 1 Fighter Wing (1FW) ‘The Churchill Wing’ operating in the defence of Darwin during 1943. It covers the political, operational, strategic and tactical issues relating to the formation and operations of the 3 Spitfire Squadrons (54 RAF, 452 RAAF, 457 RAAF) in the Wing.

While earlier books have covered the campaign from a biographical view (Clive Caldwell Air Ace – Alexander, Spitfires over Darwin – Grant, Lions and Kings – 54 Squadron RAF account) or a more macro level (Darwin’s Air War, Official Histories - Gillison), Darwin’s Spitfires looks deeply into how and why the Spitfire squadrons performed the way they did in the Darwin campaign. It discusses the major personalities involved in leading the Wing (Caldwell, Bob Foster, Thorold-Smith, Walters, Ken James) and gives a background to why they acted as they did. Each of the major actions where the Japanese were engaged is covered in detail in chronological order.

Operational issues raised are the relative inexperience of the pilots in 1FW, many of the pilots having no or very limited combat experience. This was due to the standard rotation policy of the RAF. Training issues are also noted with the late arrival of Spitfires to Australia (Due to early shipments being diverted to the Middle East).

Technical issues with the Spitfires are covered and explained in detail. These include the problems with Cannon stoppages and runaway Constant Speed Units. These 2 issues were major contributing factors to limiting the effectiveness of the Spitfires in their operations. Shortage of drop tanks and the ongoing wear on the airframes of this harsh environment are also covered.

The narrative argues the tactics of using the ‘Big Wing’ caused considerable problems with the intercepts performed and in many cases took away the initiative from the Spitfire squadrons.

The descriptions of the engagements are extremely vivid and are viewed from the various pilot’s points of view. I believe that much of this has been taken after action reports based on interviews of the author linked to on his web site. Much analysis has been performed to tie up the numerous and sometimes conflicting accounts of the same action by various pilots. The accounts are also cross checked against the Japanese operational reports where they are visible. One issue highlighted from these accounts is that combat losses were mainly due to aircraft being ‘bounced’ rather than heavy losses in dogfights. Another major issue was the Spitfire pilots tended to split up once action had commenced leading to much of the combat being performed individually rather than as a team.

From the comparison of claims with Japanese loss records, the area of over claiming is examined. It is noted that this was probably not much better or worse than other campaigns where large formations were engaged (e.g. Battle of Britain). An interesting point is that part of the reason for the over claiming was the less stringent validation of claims by the staff officers, perhaps because of political/propaganda pressures. While much weight is taken of the Japanese loss records, Cooper does question the absolute reliance on these record and he makes notes of discrepancies of the loss details from different Japanese sources for the IJAAF raid.

Notwithstanding all the above, the book does highlight that for such relatively inexperienced pilots and with the multitude of tactical, technical handicaps, the pilots engaged the Japanese formations with determination and performed very well one on one against their fighter opponents. Though not performing a ‘Knockout Blow’ against the Japanese Air Forces, just by being able to intercept them in force, they forced the enemy formations to higher altitudes thus limiting their effect on their primary mission – nullifying the offensive arms of the Allied Air Forces (The RAAF Beaufighter squadrons and the USAAF long range bomber forces). It should also be noted that the Japanese Air Forces were no better in terms of over claiming and while the Big Wing may have caused tactical disadvantages, it may have had a dispiriting impact on the attacking forces by presenting them with a seemingly endless stream of replacement aircraft in large numbers regardless of how many they thought they had destroyed.

I found this book to be very even handed and very well researched. While covering many aspects of the air war over Darwin the accounts of the actual combats is quite engrossing and should keep all readers attention.

The layout of the book is quite well done and the photos are well reproduced though pretty much all of them are from the AWM database so would have been seen before by anyone who has spent a bit of time searching this wonderful repository. The only really obvious quirk in the layout is the use of a PR19 Griffon Spitfire as a motif on the pages. It would have been much more appropriate to show a Mk Vc though this may have necessitated some new art work. The retail price of $40 is quite a bargain and I expect this is the result of a 'non profit' attitude by the University of NSW which was probably more interested in making this research available rather than making a commercial return.

While containing a bibliography, index and references, the author was obviously limited in size for the book and has setup a web site with much more additional information including a number of appendices. Of course it would have been nicer to have all this in the book to have it in one place however there must be limitations due to cost/limits placed by the publishers. The site is well worth having a look at:

http://www.darwinspitfires.com

It is interesting that the ADF serials site is one of the referenced links so the members may feel they have contributed to this production in some way.

This post has been edited by Michael Louey on Aug 22 2011, 09:24 AM
PM
Top
Brendan Cowan
Posted: Aug 19 2011, 06:16 PM
Quote Post


Messageboard Co-ordinator
*

Group: ADF Serials Admin
Posts: 2,306
Member No.: 48
Joined: 20-September 05



Thanks Michael,

For both the tip off and the review.

This forum had been set to archive after thirty days, but I've switched that off now and we have normal transmission again!

Cheers

BC
PMEmail PosterUsers Website
Top
Dave Masterson
Posted: Aug 21 2011, 04:31 PM
Quote Post


C-17A Globemaster III (A41)
*

Group: Members
Posts: 527
Member No.: 25
Joined: 24-June 05



Micheal

Yes I have recently finished reading Darwin Spitfires...a good read. I must say there is another book out, just releaed by Mark Johnston called "Whispering death" it is about the RAAF in the Pacific war...I am about a 3rd of the way through it. It is a very good book, highly recommended.
PMEmail Poster
Top
Warhawk
  Posted: Aug 21 2011, 05:09 PM
Quote Post


ADF Serials Research Co-ord
*

Group: ADF Serials Admin
Posts: 1,927
Member No.: 82
Joined: 9-March 06



Hi Chaps,

I too have purchased both books.

I have just browsed the Darwin Spitfires so far, since I'm a little busy.
The author seems to cover it well by judging same docs I've read.

I'm sorry he didn't creep over to 1944 for there were several more intercepts of Japanese aircraft and for the "nothing ever happened" exploits per the 1944-45 sorties of the RAF wing on "offensive"operations on the Nei Islands that lay north ex Darwin, as serialised in our story in the ADF-Serial Telegraph, in previous issues and the next two forthcoming issues.

But as he said, he concentrated on the 1943 period. Well done, and its shaping up to be a good Historical read.

54Sqn RAF in Flight

Best
Gordy

Attached Image
Attached Image
PMEmail Poster
Top
Michael Louey
Posted: Aug 22 2011, 09:17 AM
Quote Post


Supermarine Spitfire (A58)
*

Group: Members
Posts: 41
Member No.: 99
Joined: 24-March 06



Hi Dave,

I'm reading Whispering Death right now - about 15% through it. I'll get to talk to the author tonight at a parent teacher night - He is my son's history teacher. I can field any questions to him if you get them to me today ^_^

Hi Gordy,

I'm sure the 44 campaign would be interesting to historians like us, however it probably would have less drama than the 43 campaign. I'm sure Anthony Cooper wanted a clean close off point for the book. Still, this gives the opportunity for some other gifted author :D

Cheers

Michael
PM
Top
0 User(s) are reading this topic (0 Guests and 0 Anonymous Users)
0 Members:

Topic Options Reply to this topicStart new topicStart Poll

 



[ Script Execution time: 0.0308 ]   [ 11 queries used ]   [ GZIP Enabled ]