There are a number of things that you notice when you first pick this book up to begin reading. Firstly the size and weight, it's a weighty tome in it's hardback form and contains 622 pages including the index. Secondly the front and rear dust jackets are visually striking.
- David Hobbs
The front cover is taken from the painting by Anthony Cowland of HM Ships Victorious, Ark Royal and Hermes exercising off Malta in December 1960. The rear cover has three Sea Harriers FRS 1 of three naval air Squadrons in formation. I'm pleased to say that in this case you can indeed judge a book by it's cover.
This is a well written and researched book.
Given that the author David Hobbs spent 33 years in the Royal Navy retiring as a Commander as we would expect he clearly knows his stuff.
He has also logged over 2300 hours as a fixed wing and rotary pilot
Commander Hobbs served as an RN exchange officer with the U.S. Navy helping develop Harrier operating techniques both for the U.S.N. and Invincible class carriers. He is a past winner of Aerospace Journalist of the Year (2005) and contributor to several journals and magazines combined with a stint as curator at Yeovil Fleet Air Arm Museum. Clearly Commander Hobbs knows his subject and this shows through out the book.
Opening the pages of the book we are met with a black and white image of HMS Eagle launching Sea Hawks Skyraiders and Gannets c1957.
This sets the tone for the whole book which is very well illustrated throughout with many photographs a lot of which have came from the author's own collection. I must confess my knowledge of the RN Aircraft Carriers was pretty much nil except for some old Swordfish flying off to attack Taranto and the Bismark, that was pretty much it and that probably only came to me via the Victor Book for Boys.
When thinking of the RN it doesn't much extend past In Which we Serve and The Cruel Sea plus what I saw on the news about the Falklands.
This book simply reminds us how large the Royal Navy was post war and perhaps it's modern glory days were WW2 to the Falklands. Some of the numbers quoted in the book are simply astounding for instance in 1945 there were 866,000 members of the RN,RM and WRNS. In 1946 the Royal Navy operated 513 Minesweepers across the world not ships simply Minesweepers. However a point which will ring familiar with today's sailors by 1947 this had been reduced to 65.
The Admiralty had expected the war in the Pacific to last until 1946 and the sudden end in 1945 caused it problems as men who had joined as hostilities only clearly expected to be demobbed. A manpower crises in 1945 effectively meant that the Admiralty had to drastically to reduce the number of ships predominantly in the Home and Mediterranean fleets simply to man the new ships coming on line. This included sixteen yes you did read that right 16 new light fleet carriers.
The first chapter for me sets the tone of the book up nicely.
The author slips facts and figures in almost casually so you don't feel that you are being bombarded by tech speak and jargon. From policing the Empire and familiar names such as Cyprus, Malta and Hong Kong to operations in Aden, Kuwait(1961) and Suez to the modern day such as the Falklands and Former Republic of Yugoslavia are all comprehensively covered.
Names that we may know from comic books of old such as HM Ships Eagle, Bulwark and Ark Royal with ships I'd certainly never heard of Triumph, Albion and Theseus. Aircraft from the first Jet the Supermarine Attacker which is still the only jet fighter to this day to have a tail wheel undercarriage through more recognisable names such as Phantom, Buccaneer and Harrier to today's new Carriers with the Lightning 2
Each is backed up by photo's and again written by a man who clearly knows his stuff.
From post WW2 carriers to the development of the Ski ramp for Harriers.
We learn how technically the British Carriers led the way in development of many of today's modern techniques.
Quirky facts too how the RN adopted the D Day stripes on its aircraft after Commissioned Pilot White was shot down flying his Seafire by a USAF B29. Last rescue by a Sea Otter biplane? 1950 rescued a USN Corsair pilot during the Korean War.
The writing flows along studying each ship and aircraft type as they enter service often backed up by a picture to give you a clear picture of what is being discussed.
With it comes a deeper knowledge of how the RN carrier Strike Fleet evolved in perhaps what may have been it's golden era. If you have ever served on a Carrier and want to reminisce or simply like me you don't know a great deal about RN Air Operations I would suggest his is the book to own. This is the definitive article on post 1945 Royal Navy Carrier Operations
At £35 RRP this book isn't cheap however if I may offer the following.
I have a kindle and it's loaded with books.
I have a book shelf which is also loaded with books.
This is a book shelf book I don't believe a Kindle could do it justice.
I think some books have to be physically held and read and this is one of them.
It will be a welcome addition to the book shelf and I intend to follow up with some of the authors other work to keep it company.
5 stars from me