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Taranto (Hardback)

And Naval Air Warfare in the Mediterranean, 1940–1945

WWII Seaforth Naval Holts' Battlefield Maps

By David Hobbs
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 456
Illustrations: 240 b/w photos and 6 maps
ISBN: 9781526793836
Published: 10th December 2020

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This is the first book to focus on the Fleet Air Arm's contribution to naval operations in the Mediterranean after the Italian declaration of war in June 1940. The Royal Navy found itself facing a larger and better-equipped Italian surface fleet, large Italian and German air forces equipped with modern aircraft and both Italian and German submarines. Its own aircraft were a critical element of an unprecedented fight on, over and under the sea surface.

The best-known action was the crippling of the Italian fleet at Taranto, which demonstrated how aircraft carriers and their aircraft had replaced the dominance of battleships, but every subsequent operation is covered from the perspective of naval aviation. Some of these, like Matapan or the defence of the ‘Pedestal’ convoy to Malta, are famous but others in support of land campaigns and in the Aegean after the Italian surrender are less well recorded. In all these, the ingenuity and innovation of the Fleet Air Arm shines through – Taranto pointed the way to what the Japanese would achieve at Pearl Harbor, while air cover for the Salerno landings demonstrated the effectiveness of carrier-borne fighters in amphibious operations, a tactic adopted by the US Navy.

The author's years of archival research together with his experience as a carrier pilot allow him to describe and analyse the operations of naval aircraft in the Mediterranean with unprecedented authority. This provides the book with novel insights into many familiar facets of the Mediterranean war while for the first time doing full justice to the Fleet Air Arm’s lesser known achievements.

David Hobbs has provided a meticulously researched and expertly told operational history of the FAA in the Mediterranean. Highly recommended as a major contribution to overall air power history.

Read the full review here

Tim Coyle, Australian Naval Institute

This well-researched and profusely illustrated book really is the definitive history of the FAA’s Mediterranean operations in the Second World War and is highly recommended.

World Ship Society - Warships, May 2021

If you want a book regarding the Royal Navy's Mediterranean war then I can thoroughly recommend this one as it goes into great depth, about the men, their ships, their crews and the aircraft plus the remarkable the courage to operate in such a hostile environment.

Read the full review [link=https://www.arrse.co.uk/community/reviews/taranto.1590/]here[/link[

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

There can be few better qualified to write this definitive and riveting account of what, in essence, was the coming of age of the Fleet Air Arm and Carrier operations, than Commander David Hobbs, a retired Naval Aviator, past Curator of the world renowned Fleet Air Arm Museum and now professional Naval historian. Based on extensive research May bulletin 169-224.qxp_Layout 1 25/04/2021 09:43 Page 54223 over many years, the author provides a very clear summary of the higher level command and organisation of the Royal Navy on the outbreak of War, with specific reference to the early development and state of the Fleet Air Arm which sets the context for the book. He goes on to give exceptionally clear summaries of the strategic importance of operations against the Vichy French and Italian Fleets in the Mediterranean from 1940 onwards and detailed, exceptionally clear accounts of the Taranto strike in November 1940, of the subsequent Battle of Matapan and Operations Torch and Dragoon and support to other operations in North Africa, Greece, Crete, Sicily and Malta, including the Pedestal Convoy. Concurrently he explains the development of fighter direction and strike tactics, including the use of air launched torpedoes at night against ships in harbour and at sea. The achievements of the Fleet Air Arm are all the more remarkable because throughout the early part of the Campaign in the Mediterranean their aircraft were outmatched and outnumbered, yet their performance contributed significantly to the outcome of the Campaigns in North Africa and Italy. The text is profusely illustrated with photographs, many published for the first time, and supported by detailed Appendices which include details of aircraft and weapon types and various statistics and comprehensive end notes. If you only read one book on the development of the Fleet Air Arm and Naval air warfare in the Mediterranean during World War 2 then this should be it. Most highly recommended.

Military Historical Society

There has been a number of worthy books broadly covering this topic, including the vivid recollections of participants from admiral to aircrew, but none so comprehensive, detailed and authoritative as this. It is quite simply the definitive text, a book of reference, the closest a person could get to the subject matter short of examining the primary sources. The writer is not only a painstakingly thorough and scrupulous academic historian but a fluent wordsmith capable of conveying the drama and momentum of events and the experiences of its participants. The book is, therefore, very highly recommended.

Mariners Mirror

This is a fantastic book looking at the Fleet Air Arm contribution in the Mediterranean and is a similar book to those you get that become the bible on one subject. This is a very thorough book in the telling and the information is very detailed and informative. The book reads very well indeed and doesn’t feel heavy at all. The book also covers subjects such as Operation Judgement, Matapan, the Pedestal Convoy and Operation Torch. I think that what also must be said is, along with the very high standard of writing and detail is the superb number of high-quality pictures and photographs featured in the book. They really do pop and standout. The fascinating part of the book really is the growth and early use of the Fleet Air Arm and seeing its progression, but the best bit has to be the courage and bravery of the men/pilots that carried out the fighting and flying. I really enjoyed the notes and the appendices at the back of the book, which I highly recommend. A definite 5-star rating from me.

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UK Historian

This book is a fine tribute to the carrier operations and the predominantly RNVR aircrew in the Med. This book is packed with detail, accompanied by a vast array of some fascinating photos, many from the author’s own collection; this really is the definitive history of FAA operations in the Mediterranean.

Warship World

This book has a pacier narrative, interspersed with a really useful analysis of the Fleet Air Arm challenges and personal stories. It is profusely illustrated with period photographs that are relevant to the text. It is an excellent read.

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Balkan Wargamer

If you only read one book on the development of the Fleet Air Arm and Naval air warfare in the Mediterranean during World War 2 then this should be it. Very highly recommended.

Military Historical Society
 David Hobbs

About David Hobbs

DAVID HOBBS served in the Royal Navy as a pilot, and later became the Curator of the Fleet Air Arm Museum. He has since established himself as an authoritative writer on naval aviation topics, with more than a dozen highly regarded books to his name, most recent of these being The Royal Navy’s Air Service in the Great War published by Seaforth in 2017 and The Dawn of Carrier Strike in 2019.

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