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Seahawk

Airfields and Landing Grounds of Wales: West

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One of the delights of going on holiday is finding a book, new or secondhand, on the local aviation history.  Some are absolute gems: visitors to Cornwall are unlikely to be disappointed by Peter London's In Cornish Skies or Geoff Wakeham's RNAS Culdrose, for example.  Others in the same vein are Mike Hughes' The Hebrides at War and Guy Warner's Flying From Derry.  Others however should carry a health warning.  The book in the title of this thread is one such.

 

Let's be fair; the title is Airfields, not Aviation.  For all I know this book may well be a completely excellent survey of the history of the airfields and landing grounds in SW Wales and the remains to be found today.  I certainly suspect this is where the author's heart lies.  However, when I shelled out £16.99 for this book's 192 pages, I was rather hoping for some rare photos of aircraft operating from the clutch of interesting airfields in this neck of the woods (Angle, Dale, Lawrenny Ferry, Brawdy, St Davids, etc, etc) and the cover photo of DH 86B L7598 was encouraging.  I've now been through the book carefully and by the end was completely unable to take any of the photo captions at face value.  As illustrations:

 

  •  Beaufighter TT.10 RD761 is NOT serving with 595 Sq at Pembrey (p.35) or even with 4 CAACU at Carew Cheriton (p.75).  It is making the RAF's last ever operational Beaufighter flight from Seletar, a few thousand miles away.
  • Henley K5115 (p.56) never went anywhere near 1 CAACU Manorbier: as the first prototype it spent its entire life on trials work
  • Mosquito PR.I W4089 LY-T (p.51, repeated p.114) is NOT serving with 8 (C)OTU
  • The "photographic reconnaissance 16 Spitfire" on p.50 is in fact Spitfire PR.XI PA935 R in full SEAC markings.
  • The Anson marked as VX-F of 206 Sq (p.69) has no turret and is, I suspect, the preserved Strathallan aircraft. 
  • Natural metal Fortress HB792 ZZ-U of 220 Sq is a Mk III, not a IIa, and certainly not in September 1943.  An opportunity missed to comment on an interesting photo.
  • Liberator GR.VI "TF" (p.173) is not serving with 53 Sq at St Davids but is KG907 serving with 1674 HCU.
  • Hawk XX256 (p.161) is not of 1 TWU, Brawdy, but undergoing aerodynamic trials of the Sea Eagle missile.  Clue: whacking great missile underneath.

 

And so it goes on.  I get irritated when authors lazily illustrate their works with stock shots of aircraft rather than finding photos of aircraft with the units and/or at the bases under discussion.  This book plumbs new depths by actually claiming that the aircraft are serving with units or at locations when they are, sometimes manifestly, not.  

 

Some bits are better than others: occasionally the author seems to laid hold of someone who actually knows something about the aircraft using the airbase (or even something about aircraft) and the Lawrenny Ferry entry benefits from photos sourced (via an intermediary) from Ray Sturtivant, who gets his name spelled wrongly for his troubles.  There are also some photos of ASW and Met Halifaxes that I hadn't seen before.  For FAA a photo of Fireflies NF.Is P8F and P8N of 784 (not 792) Sq flying from Dale was the best I hadn't already seen already in the collected works of Sturtivant and Ballance.  

 

So a curate's egg: good in parts.  But the good parts are small: look before you leap into shelling out £16.99 - and be prepared to hold your nose.

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