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Air Power Supremo (Hardback)

A Biography of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor

Aviation > Royal Air Force Aviation > WWI Aviation > WWII Military > Biographies WWI WWII

By William Pyke
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 280
Illustrations: 30 mono
ISBN: 9781399095525
Published: 7th March 2022


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Sir John Slessor was one of the twentieth century’s most distinguished wartime commanders and incisive military thinkers, and William Pyke’s comprehensive new biography reveals how he earned this remarkable reputation.

Slessor, a polio victim who always walked with a stick, became a First World War pilot in the Sudan and on the Western Front and a squadron and wing commander in India between the wars. When aerial warfare was still a new concept, he was one of the first to develop practical tactics and strategies in its application. In the Second World War, as the Commander-in-Chief of Coastal Command during the Battle of the Atlantic and the RAF in the Mediterranean during the Italian and Balkan campaigns, he made a remarkable contribution to the success of Allied air power. Then, after the war, as a senior commander he established himself as one of the foremost experts on strategic bombing and nuclear deterrence. That is why this insightful biography of a great British airman and his achievements is so timely and important as we enter a new era of strategic doubts and deterrence at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

William Pyke follows each stage of Slessor’s brilliant career as a pilot and commander in vivid detail. In particular he concentrates on Slessor’s writings, from his treatise on the application of air power in support of land armies to his thinking on nuclear deterrence and Western strategy.

"This comprehensive biography of Slessor is welcome, and chronicles his career authoritatively."

The Aviation Historian - Issue 43

This is an extremely well-researched biography that has arrived not a moment too soon.

Very highly recommended.

RAF Historical Society Journal

In all, Air Power Supremo offers a most welcome addition to the extant body of scholarship on military aviation and air warfare. Not only does it highlight Slessor’s key role in determining the
RAF’s initial force structure needs on the eve of a war for Britain’s national survival, it also describes the no less important part Slessor played during his 3-year tenure as chief of the Air Staff after World War II, when he successfully pressed for the acquisition of the RAF’s Victor, Valiant, and Vulcan jet bombers as the centerpiece of an independent British nuclear deterrent
against the Soviet Union.

Joint Forces Quarterly

A mark of a noteworthy biography is its ability to provoke further thought and comment.
William Pyke's book succeeds in doing this and like all good publications, its painstaking notes and comprehensive index, enable the reader to test the validity of its assertions to the limit. Thoroughly recommend.

Aerospace Magazine

William Pike’s biography of outstanding British airman, Sir John Slessor, is thoroughgoing and authoritative. In fact, after reading Pyke’s excellent account, one wonders why Slessor should have had to wait so long for a biography of this calibre

Thoroughly recommended.

Read the review here

Royal Aeronautical Society

"Pyke makes a convincing case that Slessor was one of the great air power thinkers of the twentieth century, a 'world-class military and political strategist,' and a successful battlefield commander."

A Blog on Winston Churchill, September 2022

His story is well-told, highlighting not only his expertise and his thinking on the use of air power but also his political nous which, as just one example, persuaded Attlee's cash strapped government to order 25 Valiants to start the build-up of the 'V-force'. With a 16 page black-and-white photo section and an index, this one comes recommended.

4 Stars.

Aeroplane - August 2022

This scholarly book was written with the support of the Subject’s grandson and is complete with copious endnotes, an extensive bibliography, a comprehensive index, and a number of appendices one of which details the many abbreviations and acronyms used throughout the narrative. In addition it is illustrated with over thirty photographs and several maps.

Paul Hare, Cross and Cockade

"This biography provides an excellent introduction to
Slessor’s career, with a comprehensive bibliography for further reading. Highly recommended."

Air & Space Power History, Autumn 2022

Well, this was a book that was full of surprises, having not read the info about the book from the back I had just gone by the front cover so I expected something detailed, dry and about an ‘office’ man. But I was quite wrong in that what this book provides us with is a story about a wily, courageous and distinguished fellow. A pilot in the first world war and during the inter-war years, he would eventually fly during the second world war and become an instrumental person in aerial tactics and the introduction of the new heavy planes of the nuclear weapon future. This was an enjoyable read and it was nice how the author took a linear approach to the book, I would certainly recommend this book about a man who had many talents and stories to tell.

Read the full review here

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About William Pyke

After a long career in the oil industry William Pyke decided to study the application of air power by the Royal Air Force throughout the twentieth century, and subsequently gained a distinction on the MA programme at Birmingham University. He has presented a number of papers on the subject and has made a special study of John Slessor’s career. He has had the active support of the Slessor family as he has compiled this comprehensive new biography.

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