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Sea Hornet

from the cockpit



Alan J. Leahy


Ad Hoc Publishing


S u m m a r y

Title and Author Sea Hornet From the Cockpit No.5
by Alan J Leahy
Ad Hoc Publications 2007
ISBN: 0-946958-61-0
Media: Soft, glossy, laminated card, colour covers; A4 portrait format, printed in black and white on 84 good quality, semi-gloss pages. Includes 4 pages of colour artwork and 125 black and white photographs.
Price: GBP14.95
Review Type: First Read
Advantages: Excellent examination, by the people who flew them, of the last piston-engined fighters to be withdrawn from front-line Fleet Air Arm service. Superb collection of mainly unpublished black and white photographs.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended


Reviewed by Steve Naylor

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Buying (and indeed, reviewing) books is much like catching the bus; you wait for ages for the next one to arrive and then several turn up together. In this case, one could be forgiven for thinking that the wrong bus may have turned up, as this book (the third in this series to be published) is actually No.5 in the series! No matter. When the subject in question is the De Havilland Sea Hornet, any alteration to the timetable is forgiven.

To 'pilot' this new book, Ad Hoc have called on the services of Captain Alan J Leahy CBE DSC, one of the Royal Navy's most distinguished postwar pilots. Serving in two Sea Hornet squadrons, he went on to command 738 (Sea Hawk), 803 (Scimitar), plus 700Z and 809 (Buccaneer) squadrons. Throw in an introduction by renowned test pilot Captain Eric Brown CBE DSC AFC and contributions from a host of former pilots and observers, and the story of the Sea Hornet is engagingly covered in a comprehensive and uniquely personalised manner.

Graphically, the book's layout follows the now established format. Text is printed two-columns-per-page, and interspersed throughout with black and white photographs, either as inserts or forming the frame or background to the text on each page. Modellers will find much to interest them in these images and they certainly provide an excellent backdrop to the story of this aircraft in service, especially as the majority of these superb photographs appear not to have been published before. As an adjunct, there are again four pages of colour artwork (profiles), illustrating squadron colours and markings, including a more extensive two page spread covering the author's own aircraft, as flown from RNAS Culdrose in April 1948.

Captain Leahy's text provides the skeleton around which the book is formed, but the 'meat' on those bones are the separate accounts written by other service personnel of the period. These include the recollections, comments and opinions of former members of both 801 and 809 squadrons, as well as those from second-line units. Nominally, the book is divided into chapters or sections and following the 'Introduction', the book looks next at the 'Requirement' (long-range escort fighter), 'Manufacture', 'From the Cockpit' (the pilot's viewpoint), 'Weapons and Tactics' and finally 'Ships and Squadrons'. Taken together, these accounts give an excellent feel for the Sea Hornet in service, as well as offering some fascinating insights into Royal Naval operations of the period.




Arguably the most elegant, possibly the most beautiful, piston-engined aircraft to serve in the Fleet Air Arm, the Sea Hornet was certainly the fastest. This is, after all, an aircraft which, in the right hands, could pull up from a powered dive, feather its propellers and complete two (2!) complete loops before power and propeller pitch had to be reapplied! Speed and looks did not ensure the Sea Hornet's future however, and it suffered the same fate as other aircraft of the time; designed for a conflict that ended unexpectedly and was then promptly superseded by the newer technologies of the age. Even so, it is a sobering thought that if the later fleet carriers (Eagle and Ark Royal) and the Hermes class 'medium fleet carriers' (all with more hangar room) had been commissioned sooner, it might have been the Sea Hornet, and not the Sea Fury, which would have fought in the skies over Korea.

Fans of naval aviation, especially FAA aviation, are certainly going through a 'Purple Patch' at the moment regarding new publications. 'Sea Hornet - From the Cockpit No.5' is another excellent title from this publisher and with three more such titles due later this year, it may be time for some of us to think about getting that new bookcase!

Highly recommended.

Thanks go to Ad Hoc Publications for the review copy.

Copies should be available to order from most good book outlets, but can also be ordered direct from;

Ad Hoc Publications
Wattisham Road
Suffolk IP14 2HX

Tel: 07776 134277 Email: adhocpub@aol.com


Review Copyright 2007 by Steve Naylor
This Page Created on 03 April, 2007
Last updated 24 December, 2007

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