RAF Fighter Pilots Over Burma (Paperback)
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It is a recognized fact that, had the war gone badly for the Allies on the India/Burma front, and had the Japanese succeeded in invading the Indian Continent, the outcome of the war would have been entirely different. Yet despite this, the campaign on the Burma front is offered surprisingly scant coverage in the majority of photo-history books. This new book, from respected military historian and author Norman Franks, attempts to redress the balance, noting the importance of this particular aerial conflict within the wider context of the Second World War.
Franks takes as his focus the pilots, aircraft and landscapes that characterized the campaign. Photographs acquired during the course of an intensive research period are consolidated into a volume that is sure to make for a popular addition to the established Images of War series. Many unpublished photographs feature, each one offering a new insight into the conflict as it unfolded over Burmese skies. The archive offers a wealth of dynamic images of RAF Hurricanes and Spitfires in flight, with shots of both the aircraft and the pilots employed during this challenging conflict.
To fly and fight in Burma, pilots really had to be at the top of their game. The Japanese enemy certainly weren't the only problem to contend with; weather, poor food, incredible heat and all its attendant maladies, jungle diseases, tigers, elephants, fevers... The Japanese were the real enemy but the British pilots had so much more to deal with. And they did it for years. In Britain, a pilot could look forward to a break from operations every six months or so on average. In Burma, pilots first employed in 1941 were still flying operations in 1944.
The collection represents a determination on the author's part to record the part played by these resilient and skilled RAF fighter pilots, the contribution that they paid in supporting General Slim's 14th Army and the part they ultimately played in defeating the Japanese attempts to break through into India. These efforts, all paramount and imperative to success, are celebrated here in words and images in a volume sure to appeal to Spitfire and Hurricane enthusiasts, as well as the more general reader.
This book really does live up to its title. The vast majority of pictures are indeed of fighter pilots, supported by a number of pictures of aircraft on the ground and airfields (the section on the Imphal airfields is particularly revealing, showing how badly they were overlooked by hills that were often in Japanese hands). There are some nice themed sections, including one showing pilots ambushed while taking a bath. Despite the claim on the back there are very few pictures of aircraft in flight - I only found three.History of War Web
The pictures are supported by excellent captions that provide interesting information about the careers of their subjects, before and after the picture. The picture sections are supported by 49 pages of chapter introductions (just under one third of the book), which give details of the Burma campaign, how it affected the RAF, the squadrons involved and the main air battles of the period under consideration.
The pictures themselves are of a generally high quality, and provide a good cross section of the varied faces of RAF pilots in Burma. I'd have liked more pictures of Indian Air Force pilots, but they are acknowledged, as are the two Burmese pilots who fought with the RAF.