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bootneck

Operation Torch - the invasion of Vichy French North Africa

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OPERATION 'TORCH'

The Anglo-American Invasion of Vichy French North Africa

Book by AIRfile

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Following the invasion by German forces into France in 1940, the armed forces of that country became split as to their alliances. To the north and west the French capitulated to the Germans under the overwhelming power that the axis forces projected. The case was different in the Vichy area of south-east France, along with other French controlled areas bounding the Mediterranean; namely Morocco, Algiers and Tunisia. These areas became known as the Vichy French controlled areas

The Vichy French aligned themselves with Germany, as part of an agreement not to divide France up to the axis nations at the end of the war. This meant that access to the Mediterranean was threatened, not only from German and Italian forces but now also Vichy French forces. This situation was exacerbated by the French anger at Britain's attacks on the French naval bases in 1940, to prevent the French warships being taken over by the axis forces.

In Britain, plans were drawn up to invade the Vichy French controlled areas of North Africa and the invasion began in November 1942. Three operational sectors were allocated to the Allied invasion force: Morocco in the west was fully US controlled, with the US landing force being supported by P-40F Warhawks flying off from 4 US carriers. Oran, in Algieria was the central sector and this consisted of US landing forces transported by Royal Navy carriers. The eastern sector was Algiers and consisted of an Anglo-American landing force, also carried and supported by British carriers and warships.

The Book

This book is produced in the now familiar, A4 portrait layout and softback cover, similar to previous AIRfile publications. It is compiled by, well respected and renown in the modelling world, Neil Robinson and it is profusely illustrated by equally respected Peter Scott.

The first thing one notices when initially flicking through these pages, is the array of colour that adorns the aircraft during this campaign. The Second World War usually portrays an impression of aircraft in subdued camouflage patterns, especially for British aircraft, of browns or greys and greens etc., however the Vichy French aircraft contrast immensely with that concept and the first few pages of the book appear to be a profusion of brightly coloured aircraft. This will surely generate an interest in building and painting something just that little bit different from that war period.

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Some pages are dedicated to a single aircraft. These show a four-sided view of the aircraft, along with the description and historical notes. These layouts can be especially useful for the modeller as they depict an all round view of the colours and markings for that particular aircraft. Other pages show up to four profile views of aircraft, with a narrative depicting the history, colours and markings for that specific airframe.

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The next section in the book covers the British aircraft taking part in this operation and is further divided between aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force . It is interesting to note that all the current, operational, front-line Fleet Air Arm aircraft types were involved, from the newly introduced Seafire, to Sea Hurricanes, Fulmars, Martlets, Albacores and Swordfish; from the carriers, plus the ubiquitous Walrus which was launched from the battleships and cruisers taking part. It is noted in the book that Fleet Air Arm fighters commitment was 130 fighters and 30 Albacore and Swordfish torpedo bombers. From a Royal Air Force perspective, the aircraft covered include the Spitfire, Hurricane, Blenheim, Hudson and Beaufighter.

These aircraft show the 'American style' white star markings, in place of the standard British roundels, the reason for this being two-fold. Firstly, it was to avoid confusion of identifying allied and axis aircraft as the Vichy French had similar shaped roundels on their aircraft and, secondly, to give the impression that this was an all US operation; mainly due to the French feelings about the British shelling their ships at Mers-el-Kebir and other French controlled ports.

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The image below is an enlarged view from a page and shows the narrative which accompanies each excellently illustrated aircraft.

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The next section of the book depicts aircraft from the US Navy and US Army Air Force which took part in this operation. The identification markings, of white star over dark blue circle background was accentuated by a thick yellow ring surrounding the standard symbols.

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Some of the illustrations which adorn these pages are of full four sided views of a single aircraft, along with the narrative which is placed in a convenient area between the drawings. These 4-view illustrations should be of particular help in a model build as they show the demarcations of the camouflage, as well as the separation lines between upper and lower fuselage colouring. Another salient feature is that the placement of markings, such as the US Flag, in the illustrations which are another helpful aid for the modeller.

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Approximately two-thirds is taken up with details of the aircraft of the allied invasion forces, with the remainder of this fine book is being dedicated to aircraft of the axis forces which were deployed in defence of the invasion.

The section on Luftwaffe aircraft comes first and, like the previous sections, is profusely illustrated with well researched colour drawings of German aircraft. This starts with fighters and is followed by the various bombers in use at the time.

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It is interesting to note within these illustrations how the aircraft camouflage patterns differ across the region; such as the dark European theatre type camouflage of the Ju-87's above which were based in Tunisia; to the sand/desert type such as these Ju-88's below based at Sicily.

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The final part of this book describes the aircraft of the Italian air force in that area at the time. These drawings include some nice representations of the nose-arts that were painted on the aircraft.

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Most illustrations are in portrait format however, due to their size, some of the illustrations of bombers; as with the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 & 84 below, have been displayed in landscape format.

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This is not just a book of excellently researched and illustrated pictures of aircraft; it also contains pages of interesting information. An example which is illustrated below depicts the structure and breakdown of the RAF colour schemes and details of the RAF Wings/Squadrons at Gibraltar during this operation

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Similarly, within the Axis forces sections, there is informative data on the Luftwaffe and Italian air forces and their aircraft.

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Conclusion

This is a very well documented book concerning the aircraft involved, on both sides, during Operation Torch - the invasion of Vichy French controlled territory in North Africa. Within its pages are details of 152 different aircraft. The breakdown of illustrations is: Vichy French 36; US Navy 18; USAAF 25; Fleet Air Arm 26; Royal Air Force 15; Luftwaffe 36 and Regia Aeronautica 7. There is so much choice here and this should be of great benefit for the modeller wishing to research and build an aircraft of this period and theatre of combat.

AIRfile continue to produce informative and colourful publications for the modeller and this is no exception. Neil Robinson has compiled yet another really useful book which is not only informative but should also be a very an essential reference tool, especially with the many full colour illustrations produced by Peter Scott. The data supplied in the narrative of each aircraft, details the colours and specific markings which will help the modeller to super detail their particular model.

The illustrations, which I have scanned and produced here, have been reduced in size and quality to fit in the with the review layout and do not do the book enough justice. If you are intending to build a model aircraft depicting this period and theatre of operation then this book would be a very useful research tool.

Highly recommended.

Review sample courtesy of airfile-publications-logo.jpg

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Kindly mention Britmodeller.com to the supplier when making enquiries or orders

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