Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
The is not one of the normal Boys titles – which feature post WW2 aircraft types and are solely the reminiscences of those who flew or maintained them. This volume is a reworking (into the Boys format) of interviews with Beaufighter air and ground crew, which the very experienced author, Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork, carried out for another uncompleted project. Graham was familiar with the Boys format having written the successful Buccaneer title (helped by the fact that he himself was very experienced on that type).
The Bristol Beaufighter, somewhat surprisingly, had its first flight in mid-1939 – i.e. before war was declared. Like many WW2 types it took a while, and a few marks, before the type really found its métier. In this case it was ground and maritime attack. Chapter One gives a good overview of the shifting strategic use of the aircraft, which by the Mk VI version could carry bombs (or a torpedo), rockets, and Browning machine guns.
Chapter Six carries a tale of great gallantry by Charles Corder of 248 Sqn, who carried out many challenging maritime attack missions in the Med, Atlantic, and North Sea in 1942-3. By contrast, two chapters later is a real dud, the war diary of one George Dowding, which is just that, a rather dry diary. The most interesting chapter is that by one of Pitchfork’s better educated interviewees, Tom Freer, who writes well about his experiences in the Med, with plenty of local colour.
Several of the interviewees relate how they later met their victims, or those who shot them down, underlining the intimacy of WW2 air combat. Pitchfork brings out how the effective use of the Beau required the two man crew working in great harmony. The nav/AI radar operator was as crucial as the pilot to a mission’s success. Roy Butler in chapter nineteen explains this well, with a high degree of empathy, nay telepathy, building up between the two.
The Beau also played a key role in the war against Japan, with its role mainly being the interdiction of the enemy’s supply lines. Its operations ranged as far East as Timor. The aircraft has probably not had the attention its operational success warrants, and Graham Pitchfork’s excellent book goes someway to redressing the balance.