- Ian Craighead
During the War, the Merlin engine was used in several aircraft from fighters (Hurricane & Spitfire etc), fighter bombers (Mosquito) and heavy bombers (Lancaster) but was also used to power tanks and motor torpedo boats. This was a highly versatile and successful bit of British engineering. It turned the American P-51 from an underperforming fighter with a poor ceiling to an excellent all-round fighter able to escort bombers all the way to their targets.
The bulk of the book is taken up with the history and service story of the engine taking it through the war into peacetime flying. A major part of the book though is the story from the pilots who flew Merlin powered aircraft, to the mechanics who ensured they could go out time after time. The book is stuffed full of photographs and diagrams to compliment the text. The author, Ian Craighead and Haynes have brought together a wonderful tribute to the Merlin engine. It may seem strange to put so much into what may just be an engine, but what a piece of machinery it was, and still is. Thousands thrill to the sound of the Merlin engine when the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight pass overhead. There is a complete Section to the BBMF who are tasked with keeping the iconic BBMF aircraft in the air.
There are five Appendices, the last three covering the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, further reading suggestions and a list of useful addresses for people wishing to get more information or see the engine in action. The first two Appendices though are really useful and between them show the versatility and pure genius of this engine. Appendix 1 gives all the aircraft that have been powered by Merlin engines complete with a photograph of the aircraft; while Appendix 2 explains the other uses that the Merlin was put to; powering the Cromwell tank during the war as well as being the power pack for Motor Torpedo Boats. Post war the engine was used to power hydroplanes in speedboat racing. What a huge range of applications this engine had and it truly was one piece of equipment that can definitely be classed as a war winner.
As ever, an excellent Index and references are included. All in all the author and publishers have come up with an absolute gem of a book. Four out of 5 Mr MRHs for this book.