SOME FLYING BOOKS
[Although these are not motoring books we make no excuse for reviewing them, for everyone owes a deep debt of gratitude to the R.A.F. and wishes to learn all they can about our gallant pilots and our invincible aircraft—Ed.]
British Fighter ‘Planes, by C. G. GREY (Faber and Faber.) 5/-. This is a really worthwhile five-shillings’ worth ; indeed, price apart, it is a book that should not be missed by anyone who is in the least interested in the subject. We have had flying novels, airmen’s biographies, Stories of the last war-in-the air and of this, quite outnumbering the motoring (lassies. It has been left to C. G. Grey to write a book about modern aeroplanes as such—and not a text-book on how the things fly. The publishers deserve the warmest congratulations for getting it to us at such a time at a so reasonable price, and no less does Charles Grey, late editor of “The Aeroplane,” deserve praise for his thoronghness. Here you have the early history of the fighting aeroplane, biographies of famous men and firms responsible for them, the pedigree.s of all the present British R.A.F. fighters and their specifications set out as you would find them set out in “All the World’s Aircraft” Moreover, the writing is typically Grey, from Chapter I to the Postscript. His views, which for so many years made “The Aeroplane” a completely individual paper, appear again in these pages, and he frequently resorts to typically” C.G.G.” stories Of, and methods of approach to, a subject of fresh interest, but in his old-time style. Even his most bitter critics must surely admit that the whole aspect Of the book is highly entertaining and that it is altogether delightful reading. If they do not agree (probably hceause at one time or another ” C.G.G.” has stood too heavily on their sensitive toes), at least they must accept his latest writings as an excellent source of reference. A description of Bristol and Rolls Royce engines and their pedigrees is given, to line up with like information Covering the Bristol ” Boulton Paul ” Defiant,” Gloster ” Gladiator,” Hawker ” Hurricane ” and Supermarine “Spitfire ” aeroplanes. The American
aeroplanes are listed and the pedigree of the Westland, ” Whirlwind ” is there. There may be a few historical inaccuracies, but they are not easy to spot. W. 0. Bentley unfortunately goes in as “0. E.” Bentley, and he is said to be “now con
cerned with Rolls-Bentley ears,” whereas at the outbreak of war he was rather more associated with the Lagonda. The output figures for the latest motors are in at least one instance a few hundred h.p. out. Against that, some very interesting incidental detail is intermingled with the historical facts. We like the author’s reference to the French Grand Prix, contested by cars the names of which “make music to any old-time motorist,” and entered by firms run by men who were “great sportsmen and great gentlemen.” The frequent references to the Schneider Trophy contest emphasise how much our successful fighters owe to air racing. We only hope Mr. Grey will produce many more such books ; a sister volume on the British bombers would seem to be his next task. The present volume runs to 200 pages, has 26 excellent illustrations (photographs and drawings) and is endowed with a detailed index. The price, we repeat, is 5/-.
War News Had Wings, by A. H.
NARRA.CPTT. (Frederick Muller.) 8/6. This book is better towards the end than it is at the beginning. The author was over in France before the capitulation, as Air Correspondent to “The Times,” and his book, like Charles Gardner’s ” A.A.S.F.” (reviewed in the August issue), covers the work of the Advanced Air Striking Force of the R.A.F. before Dunkirk. Much of the information is identical with that in Gardner’s book ; indeed, some of the accounts tally so closely that one is rather at a loss to know whether to explain this sameness as a compliment to the accuracy to which news reporters work or whether Narracott is merely paying Gardner a
direct compliment. . . . However, even if you have read Gardner’s work, you should read “War News Had Wings,” if only for the excellent closing chapters, which give such a very graphic portraitof what the retreat and evacuation in France was like. For a long time Narracott relied on a very doubtful Renault as personal transport, although the R.A.F. Hotchkiss and a French ” Metford,” presumably the Matford, are also mentioned. Narracott got home by sheer luck, just when things looked very desperate, in an A.W. “Ensign.” The value of road transport during the mass retreat before the advancing Nazi armies is well brought out in those great last chapters. Tommy Wisdom, incidentally, is shown to have been “doing his stuff” despite unsavoury conditions. It is surely very significant that these critical amounts of our failures in France should be published while the war is still in progress. Somehow these books show how confident we are of Victory and how ready to admit, and profit by, our early mistakes. One day they will be historic reading. This book has 224 pages, a neat index at the back, and is illustrated with 80 Air Ministry photographs.
The Battle of Bri1ain-1940,” by J. M. SPAIGHT, C.B., C.B.E. (Geoffrey Bles.) 10/6. Here is a beautifully produced book, well illustrated, and running to 281 pages, which is a comprehensive record of one of the most vital periods in our history. No one who is interested in history, warfare, adventure, mankind or machinery can afford not to have this volume on his or her library shelves. It is likely to
the standard reference work on that magnificent job which the R.A.F. did for us last year.