For all the great prose and considered analysis of the historians, nothing compares with the accounts of the men that actually did the fighting. The collection of huge numbers of first-hand accounts is one of the hallmarks of Chris Goss’s publications, and Luftwaffe Fighter-Bomber Over Britain is typically crammed with the dramatic words of the airmen that flew the so-called “Tip and Run” attacks against Britain between March 1942 and June 1943.
The Dams raid of 16/17 May 1943 has been the subject of so many books, particularly in recent months with the increased attention shown due to the 70th anniversary of Operation Chastise, that it may seem superfluous to add yet another title to that long list. Dam Busters Failed to Return is, however, a little different from the rest.
Instead of merely repeating the story of the design, development and deployment of the bouncing bombs (though the book does open with a brief explanation of the build-up to Operation Chastise, as one would expect), the authors have concentrated on the crews of the eight Lancasters that crashed, either through accident or enemy action. To do this, they have delved, in detail, into the backgrounds and earlier service histories, as well as the final moments, of some of the fifty-six men who did not return (of whom, three were captured and became prisoners of war) – Pilot Officer Vernon Byers, Flight Lieutenant Bill Astell DFC, Pilot Officer Tony Burcher DFM (PoW), Flight Sergeant John Fraser (PoW), Pilot Officer Robert Urquhart DFC and Squadron Leader Melvin Young DFC & Bar.
Few names resonate more loudly in the British conscience than that of Ypres. From the First World War only the Somme conjures up more graphic images in the public imagination than those of that fortified city in Flanders. Ypres, or Ieper, is now a lovely place to visit, as so many do; the daily ceremony at the Menin Gate being the spectacular and intensely moving highlight attended by huge crowds. Understanding exactly what happened in and around Ypres almost 100 years ago, however, is far from easy and a detailed guide book is essential, thus the need for publications such as Jon Cooksey’s and Jerry Murland’s book, the first of a new series.
It is a truism that a picture tells a thousand words. Thus it was that during the Second World War that to assist air and and ground crew to understand their own and their enemy’s aircraft, visual aids were used in the form of large posters and diagrams.
Whilst some such illustrations were simple depictions of the silhouettes of enemy aircraft, others were highly detailed cutaways. They were produced by highly-skilled artists and amongst that number was Peter Castle, whose illustrations are included in this unique book.
Graphic War is packed with highly detailed drawings of aircraft from all the main combatant countries of the Second World War, including such interesting posters as demonstrating the safe height for bombers to explanations of fighter tactics for Soviet pilots.