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Entering service at the end of the Battle of Britain, the pugnacious Bristol Beaufighter was deployed in numbers by Fighter Command just in time for the start of the Luftwaffe's night 'Blitz' on Britain. Flown by specialised nightfighter squadrons - several of them elite pre-war Auxiliary Air Force units - it was the first nightfighter to be equipped with an airborne radar as standard. Thus equipped, it combined the ability to 'see' the enemy at night with the devastating hitting power of four cannon and six machine guns. This book covers the exploits of the men who made ace in the Beaufighter and includes stunning original artwork together with first hand accounts of the action.
The World War 1 concept of the two-seat fighter persisted during the interwar period, with the RAF's biplane Demons being replaced by the twin-engined Blenheim IF - a fighter derivative of the light bomber then in service. By the start of World War 2 four regular and three Auxiliary squadrons of Fighter Command flew them, although very soon over a dozen more received them, albeit some used the Blenheim as interim equipment. The Blenheim IF flew some of Fighter Command's early offensive operations, and the type soon proved vulnerable when pitted against single-seat fighters. However, for much of 1940 the Blenheim fighter squadrons provided the RAF's main long-range convoy escort and nightfighter capability. Indeed it was a Blenheim that achieved the first night victory using then secret airborne radar, and many of the RAF's leading nightfighter aces were to learn their craft when flying the type. In the mid-1930s, in an attempt to capitalise on its expertise in power-operated gun turrets, the Boulton Paul company developed the Defiant, a single-engined fighter in which all the armament was concentrated in the turret behind the pilot. Intended as a 'bomber destroyer', the Defiant had its combat debut over Dunkirk, and initially achieved some considerable success. It sustained heavy losses when confronted by single-seat fighters, however. Later, with the Battle of Britain at its height, the two Defiant squadrons were deployed to southeast England, where, in spite of some early victories, they sustained crippling losses. These units, joined by a further ten squadrons, were then switched to nightfighter work, and achieved considerable success in holding the line through the night Blitz. The last examples were not finally withdrawn from frontline units until 1942. The fall of France saw an increasing number of American-built aircraft that had been ordered by the French government flown to Britain, including large numbers of Douglas DB-7 light bombers. Named Havoc by the RAF, some were fitted with radar for nightfighter duties and others replaced the Blenheim as night intruders. They proved successful in both roles. Less successfully, Havocs were also modified to mount an airborne searchlight to illuminate enemy bombers whilst others were employed as airborne minelayers to lay parachute mines ahead of enemy bombers. A total of 11 pilots claimed five or more victories when flying these three types to become aces, whilst no fewer than became 33 more aces claimed at least part of their scores when flying the Blenheim, Defiant or Havoc. More than 100 further aces also flew them, often honing and developing their skills before moving onto more efficacious nightfighters such as the Mosquito or Beaufighter.
Modified for low-level operations to counter Luftwaffe attacks on the south coast, the Griffon-powered Spitfire XIV became the best low-level fighter ofWorld War 2. Squadrons moved to southeastern England to counter the V1 flying bomb offensive, and daring pilots tipped the V1 over with the aircraft's wingtip to disorientate the bomb and became "doodlebug aces." Andrew Thomas also investigates the role played by the modified Spitfire squadrons after the V1 offensive, both in the attack on Germany and after the war in Malaya and Palestine. First-hand stories, photographs and color profiles complete this account of the aces who flew the most powerful Spitfire variant ever built.
The Hurricane saw widespread action with Allied forces, as the RAF's first monoplane fighter. This book describes its many feats throughout 1945. It served as a fighter-bomber on the Channel Front, where the American Eagles and Polish units were amongst the Fighter Command squadrons flying the Hurricane, and where some of its highest-scoring aces operated. The Sea Hurricane was the principal fighter deployed by the Fleet Air Arm in the Mediterranean, and Hurricane units continued to operate from bases in India and Ceylon until 1945, following their failure to defend Singapore and Malaya from the Japanese.
The Mosquito developed into one of the most versatile aircraft of World War 2, entering service with Fighter Command in early 1942. The 'Mossie' was soon defending raids on Britain's Cathedral cities and became an integral part of the country's night defences. Its airborne radar gave it the ability to 'see' the enemy at night, and its speed and devastating fire power made it the finest nightfighter deployed by any side during World War 2. This book examines the infamous Mosquito, the nightfighter that was used by many leading RAF, Commonwealth and American aces.
The P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt were the finest American fighters of World War 2, and both saw service with the Royal Air Force in substantial numbers. The RAF began flying the Mustang in 1944, using it to fly bomber escort missions, and deploying to support the ground campaigns in Italy and the Balkans. It was also flown by a number of Polish units in the RAF. The P-47 Thunderbolt was the best fighter available in CBI theater, where it was flown by a number of aces against the Japanese, mainly in a ground support role. Although these two fighter types are most associated with the Americans, they performed an important role serving in the RAF.
The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) served with distinction in every theater of war throughout World War II. From its poorly equipped beginnings - it started the war with few suitable, modern, carrier-born fighters - to the final campaigns over the Japanese home islands, the FAA proved an effective fighting force wherever it went. Desperate action over Malta and the Mediterranean during 1940-42, in the Indian and Pacific Oceans over Sumatra, the Atlantic battles and Artic Convoys, and the invasion of Okinawa, were just some of the famous and terrible actions they took part in. FAA Pilots, despite the initial poor equipment, had the distinction of being responsible for both the first, and last, enemy aircraft to be shot down during the war.Featuring first-hand accounts, combat reports, photographs from private collections, and an array of color plates depicting the range of profiles and symbolic markings that were used, this book will detail the history and combat experiences of these forgotten pilots who served with such distinction for the Allied cause.
The Japanese Army Air Force's invasion of Burma during 1941-42 was at first a huge success against the RAF who struggled to support the Chindit expedition on the ground. Yet the arrival of the Spitfire was to change the fortunes of the RAF and the outcome of the battle. Proving a huge boost to morale, the Spitfire played a large part in defeating the enemy and covering the subsequent Allied advance through Burma, protecting the ground troops and providing vital supplies. The arrival of Spitfire units at this crucial time also had an immediate effect in blunting enemy air raids on Calcutta and along the coast of East Bengal, whilst in Northern Australia, the Spitfire was called upon to defend against surprise raids by the Japanese. Covering the little documented aerial war over Burma, this book tells the stories of the 54 aces who flew against the Japanese, and also those who fought in India and Australia. Full-color artwork reveals the markings and paint schemes of this most-famous of British planes, whilst first-hand accounts and archive photographs bring the aerial battles of Burma, India and Australia to life.
The Spitfire was the most iconic and famous British fighter of World War II and was first deployed to Egypt in the spring of 1942 as German success in North Africa reached its zenith. Although few in number, in their early battles with the Luftwaffe the RAF and South African Spitfire squadrons made an immediate impact and in contributed to the successful build up to the Battle of El Alamein and in the subsequent advance over the desert. Soon afterwards, further Spitfire squadrons, many led by experienced aces form Europe who soon began adding to their scores, were landed in French North Africa. In the bitter fighting that followed, the units wrested air superiority from the enemy in the skies above Tunisia until the final enemy surrender in May 1943. The RAF, RCAF, RAAF and SAAF Spitfire squadrons then played a huge part in covering the Allied landing in Sicily and in supporting the island's subsequent capture. Based in captured airfields these units then also covered the Allied landings at Messina and Salerno as the Italian campaign began. They were to see bitter air fighting against a determined Luftwaffe and a significant number of pilots became aces whilst other aces added to their scores. The Spitfire squadrons were heavily engaged in the fighting following the landings at Anzio and also in the long and bloody battle at Cassino. Among the many aces that commanded squadron here was the now Sqn Ldr Duke, who took his score to 26 destroyed. During the summer of 1944 Italian-based Spitfires supported the Allied landings in Southern France - Operation Dragoon - and also flying sorties over Yugoslavia in support of Tito's partisans. The large number of Spitfire squadrons continued in action against the enemy into 1945, though as the Luftwaffe had been heavily defeated and largely withdrawn to Germany, encounters were few and far between. Close to 100 aces either attained this status or added to their scores when flying Spitfires during the North African and Italian campaigns whilst many more aces flew the type in action there, though without making any claims.
Spitfire Aces of Northwest Europe details the exploits of the 37 piolts that "made ace" flying Merlin-enguned Spitfires in bitter aerial clashes over northwest Eurpose in the final years of World War II.After seizing air superiority over France before D-Day, the Spitfire battled Luftwaffe fighters over the V-2 rocket sites and Nazi Germany itself. The iconic Spitfire underwent steady development throughout its service life, and by the start of 1944 it was the RAF's most numerous day fighter, equipping dozens of squadrons in the newly formed 2nd TAF and the Air Defense of Great Britain. Squadrons of both commands were heavily involved in the "softening" of tactical targets in France before D-Day, not only with fighter-bomber attacks but also escorting Allied medium bomber raids. Although the Griffon-engined Spitfire was entering service, it was the Merlin-engined variants (models V, IX and XVI) that predominated through to the end of the war. Based at airfields throughout southern England, the Merlin Spitfire squadrons provided the bulk of the air cover for the D-Day landings. Shortly afterwards, most 2nd TAF squadrons moved the Continent to be initially based on hastily leveled strips. As the Luftwaffe attempted to counter Allied air superiority, a large number of pilots flying Merlin Spitfires built substantial scores as they followed the Allied armies across Northwest Europe - it was RCAF Merlin Spitfires that claimed the first Me 262 jet to be shot down. As Allied forces entered Germany, the Spitfire units were often engaged by the Luftwaffe in savage air combat over the shrinking Third Reich. These encounters resulted in high scores for the Allied fighter units. The Merlin Spitfire squadrons from the RAF, RAAF, RCAF, RNZAF and "Free European" squadrons also flew an increasing number of ground attack sorties during the last months of the war. The 2nd TAF squadrons were formed into mobile wings, many of which were commanded or led in the air by some of the most successful RAF Spitfire aces, and many others would also command squadrons. This volume also covers the exploits of those Merlin Spitfire squadrons that remained under ADGB control, which were employed on long-range escort for the RAF's daylight heavy bomber raids against German industry. Several squadrons were also involved in the anti-V1 Operation Diver campaign, and the targeting of V2 rocket launch sites (Operation Big Ben).
Shortly after the Allied landings in France the Germans unleashed the first of their so-called 'revenge weapons' against London, the V1 flying bomb. Launched from specially constructed sites in northern France, the fast, small, pulse-jet powered and pilotless aircraft were aimed at London with the intent of destroying civilian morale in order to force the British government to negotiate a peace. This dangerous new threat drew an immediate response, and the Air Defence of Great Britain (as Fighter Command had been temporarily renamed) established layers of defence that included a gun line and balloon barrage. The main element, however, were standing patrols by the first fighter wings of the highest performance fighters available - the new Tempest V and Griffon-powered Spitfire XIV. Other types were allocated too, most notably the Polish Mustang wing, while night defence was left in the capable hands of several dedicated Mosquito squadrons. Although pilotless, the V1 was no easy foe thanks to its speed, powerful warhead and sheer unpredictability. It required a high degree of flying skill and cool courage to bring one down, for if the pilot fired at too close a range the missile's warhead could explode, with catastrophic results for the chasing fighter. Many hundreds of V1s were fired throughout the summer of 1944, giving pilots plenty of opportunity to achieve five or more successes to become a V1 ace. Many already established aces also made claims against this new weapon. In total, 154 pilots became V1 aces, 25 of whom were also aces against manned aircraft. In addition, a further 35 RAF and nine USAAF aces also made some claims against V1s.
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