David Knights' Weblog

June 8, 2017

Book review: The Life of Maverick Ace Adrian Warburton

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 9:12 am
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Book review: The Life of Maverick Ace Adrian Warburton
Author: Tony Spooner
208 Pgs
ISBN 978 0907 579434

Adrian Warburton was one of the most unusual personalities of WWII. He was an average pilot at best.  He never seemed to master the concept of torque generated by piston engines on takeoff.  He took a bride early in the war and then abandoned her and never looked back.  He was a reconnaissance pilot, who at one time was the highest scoring pilot on the island of Malta.  Adrian Warburton was all this and much more.

The author, Tony Spooner, served briefly with Warburton during his time on Malta.  He left such an impression on the author that he felt compelled to write a book chronicling Warburton’s life.  It is good for us readers that he did as this book provides an insight into one of the most unusual personalities of WWII.

The son of an RN officer, Warburton grew up in relative privilege. When WWII came, he became an RAF pilot, though he was only rated as average, due in large part to his poor takeoffs and landings.  He served without distinction in the UK and his personal life there was a mess, with a marriage that seemed to be motivated more by a desire that someone should benefit from his eventual death, rather than from undying love. He also ran up debts he could not pay, a nearly unpardonable sin for an RAF officer, even in wartime.

In order to avoid embarrassment to Warburton, his commanding officer arranged to transfer him to Malta to get him away from his problems.  This had a profound effect on Warburton’s life.  Once in Malta, Warburton became synonymous with the resistance of the island thru his exploits.  Flying a twin engine Martin Maryland, he began flying recon missions all over Sicily, Italy and North Africa.  In the process he shot down numerous enemy aircraft and gained a reputation for always coming back with the photos that were needed.

After the Allies drove the Axis from North Africa and invaded Sicily and then Italy, the pressure on Malta was relieved.  In many ways this had a profound effect on Warburton and once the pressure of constant danger was off the nerves that would have long ago gotten to lessor men finally seemed to catch up with Warby as he was known to all associated with him.

Flying from Europe in preparation for D-Day, Warby disappeared over Europe while Flying a F-5E (the recon version of the P-38) When the author wrote this book, Warburton’s ultimate fate was unknown.  However, party inspired by this book a number of people teamed up and in 2002 the crash site of Warburton’s aircraft was located and some of his remains recovered.  Those remains were buried in England shortly thereafter in a ceremony attended by high ranking RAF officials and Warburton’s wife.

This short review fails to do justice to this book and all of the detail it provides on this most interesting of WWII personalities.  I highly recommend picking up a copy.  You won’t regret it.

June 7, 2017

Book review: The Doomed Expedition

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 8:05 pm
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Book review: The Doomed Expedition
Author :Jack Adams
Publisher :Leo Cooper 1989
286 pgs

This book covers the British army efforts in the ill-fated but endlessly fascinating Norwegian campaign.  The author has a special knowledge of the subject as he was a participant as a member of the Sherwood Foresters battalion and was deployed to Norway during April and May of 1940.

While the invasion of Norway is often times referred to as the first Air-Land-Sea combined arms operation in history, this book’s focus is just on the British Army efforts in Norway.  It does cover allied army efforts (French, Polish and Norwegian) insofar as they were connected to the British efforts. The book also touches on the naval and air efforts of the allies from time to time but by no means presents the complete history of those efforts.  The book also only lightly touches on the political and strategic issues which led up to Norway being involuntarily dragged into a conflict she wanted no part of and tried hard to avoid.  As much of the political story doesn’t reflect well on the leaders of the United Kingdom, it is understandable that a British author might not want to dwell upon this area.

As with all coverage of the Norwegian campaign, the author is faced with the challenge of how to tell the story of operations in three divergent and only slightly connected areas (Navrik, Bodo, and Central Norway).  Different books take different approaches to this problem.  This author has chosen to tell the story by operational area rather than strictly chronologically.  The author resolves any confusion this creates by periodically reminding the reader what was occurring in other operational areas at the time where necessary.

The details of the story of the British efforts in Norway are compelling and frustrating at the same time.  It’s the story of bravery and incompetence and reaction rather than action.  At the time of the German invasion the British were prepared to move in a number of army units to “peacefully” occupy parts of Norway.  Yet, when the Germans struck, the British dithered and their half-hearted response came more than a week after the Germans had invaded, giving the Axis forces time to gain their balance and consolidate their hold on the initial invasion areas.

The Brits committed troops piecemeal and never in a concentration sufficient to achieve their aims.  In many cases, the upper echelons of command had no clear idea of what their aims even were.  As always in war, the troops were the ones to suffer.  They arrived in theatre without supporting equipment such as tanks, radios, sufficient anti-aircraft and regular artillery.  In the face of the overwhelming air superiority of the enemy, these deficiencies doomed the British efforts to failure even before they began; Thus, the title of this book.

While not strictly a book related to modeling, the stories are sure to provide some inspiration and could well lead a modeler to build a model or two from Operation Weserübung.

May 10, 2017

Chinese people in Roman Britain

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 11:26 pm
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This is interesting.  If correct, it would indicate that ethnic Chinese were in Britain at the time of the Romans.  It is known that the Romans and Chinese traded, mostly thru intermediaries, but this would indicate more than that.  Very interesting.

April 12, 2017

Cool Hurricane decals

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 4:06 pm
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OK, I admit it, I am addicted.

April 3, 2017

Book review: First of the Few, 5 June- 9 July 1940

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 8:30 am
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Book review: First of the Few, 5 June- 9 July 1940
Author: Brian Cull
ISBN 978-1-78155-116-5
256 pgs
Review by D.M. Knights, IPMS/USA 17656, IPMS/Canada C6091

Brian Cull is one of my favorite aviation authors.  I believe I’ve read nearly everything he’s written, so I was looking forward to his new book, First of the Few.  This book covers the RAF operations (including FAA) from June 5th, the end of the Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) to July 9th, the beginning of the war over the Channel.  This is the time period where the RAF is fighting a retreat, covering the British troops as they evacuate from France.

While covering a time period of a little over a month, it was a hectic month with air operations continuing against the Germans while moving from base to base never knowing exactly when the French were going to capitulate.  The main focus is on the Hurricane squadrons which were part of the BEF and the AASF.  These squadrons had been fighting hard for over a month while constantly moving from base to base as the Germans advanced.  They had been badly decimated but still constituted the only air units which could protect the retreating British troops as they headed for the ports in Normandy and southern France to get out of France before the collapse that was inevitable after Dunkirk.

The stories of individual air combats are compelling and the author has done a good job of reconciling the records of the combatants, so that in many cases we know which pilot shot down another pilot in particular combats.  However, some of the most amazing stories are the pilots who had been wounded in combat and were recovering in France as they desperately made their way seeking any way to get out of the country.  Some pilots made their way, just like ground troops to the ports, while others stole planes from French air bases or civil airports and flew to either the Channel Islands, Britain or Africa.

Also covered in the book are the beginning of the Bomber Command’s strategic operations against both Germany and Italy.  It is amazing to read how small these initial operations were considering how big they became by the end of the war.

In addition to the 256 pages of text, the book has 10 pages of black and white photographs.  In one of the appendixes, the book lists all the Luftwaffe pilots who were released by the French after the armistice.  It includes a number of pilots who went on to become aces, in some cases many times over.

Mr. Cull has a follow-on book scheduled for release later this year.  Titled The Thin Blue Line, it covers the month of the air war over the channel in July and August.  It is unclear if he will continue on and cover the Battle of Britain proper.  I certainly hope he does. List price is $29.95 on Amazon, but shop around and you may find a better deal.

January 18, 2017

British Hi-tech

Filed under: Technology — dknights @ 10:18 pm
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This sounds interesting, if a bit far into the future.  I’ll be interested to see if they can pull it off.

January 6, 2017

AIrfix B-25

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 8:42 am
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Can’t wait for this one.  Here are some CAD renderings and marking illustrations.

December 9, 2016

SM-75

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 10:32 pm
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It used to be that I knew all the model manufacturers, even the small resin and vac companies.  Now, there are so many getting into the game that I find out about a new one all the time.  Balaton is apparently using 3D technology, at least to do its masters.  They have announced an SM-75. 

December 7, 2016

Airfix Hawker Hurricane Mk.I

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 8:03 pm
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Finished another one for 2016.  Airfix Hawker Huricane Mk.I

December 5, 2016

Book review: Operation Archery, Commandos and the Vaagso Raid 1941

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 10:49 pm
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archery-coverBook review: Operation Archery, Commandos and the Vaagso Raid 1941
By Ken Ford
80 Pages
ISBN978-1-84908-372-0

Review by D.M. Knights

After the British were driven from continental Europe in 1940, Winston Churchill realized that the British Army would not be strong enough to return for years, yet he saw the need for attacks on the continent in order to maintain a credible threat to Germany and to give hope to the occupied countries.  Churchill had an obsessive focus on Norway ever sense the outbreak of WWII, with disastrous consequences in the Norwegian campaign of April-May 1940.  Now however, Norway made sense as an area where the hit and run raids contemplated by Churchill could be implemented.

The raid on Vaagso seems a bit weird at first blush as the target wasn’t a radar, gun emplacement or airfield, but rather the target were several fish oil plants.  While fish oil plants don’t seem particularly military, the fish oil was used to make vitamin supplements which U-boat crews needed due to the lack of sunlight exposure.  Also the fish oil was used to make glycerin, a vital component of explosives.

The town of South Vaagso on Vaagso Island had 4 or 5 fish oil plans.  The island was just off the mainland of Norway and was guarded by a small infantry detachment of the Wehrmacht 181st Inf. Div. as well as some naval troops.  There were also 6 ancient 10.5cm WWI era German guns on the Island of Maaloy which lay next to the town of South Vaagso and protected its harbor.

This book does an excellent job, in its 80 pages of telling the story of the preparation for the raid, the raid itself and its aftermath.  It is an exciting tale well worth devoting an hour or two reading the book.  In addition to a well told story the book is illustrated with maps which help make the story clear, as well as many photos most taken during the raid as the British sent along combat photographers so they could exploit the propaganda value of the raid.

I particularly enjoy small unit action stories.  This makes this particular book even more enjoyable.  If you enjoy the story, you can also read the old Bantam War Book, The Vaagso Raid by Jospeh H. Devins, Jr. which was first published back in 1968.  It makes a nice companion to the Osprey Operation Archery book.

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