S u m m a
Title and Author
||Allied Wings No. 7
Boeing Fortress Mk. I
Phil H. Listemann
||40 pages plus a card cover (65mm X 265mm), 35 black and white photos, 3 colour profiles by Malcolm Laird, several maps and numerous lists.
13.50 € available online from Philiedition's website
||Many of the B&W photos have never before been published; excellent artwork.
|| The title does not quite tell the story. It should have added “In Combat Trials with the RAF”. Nonetheless, the book is complete, with everything you would want to know about the early B-17s doing the job for which they were designed.
Reviewed by Glen Porter
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The prototype Boeing Model 299 first flew on the 28th of July 1935. Although this prototype crashed in October, Boeing persisted with further modified models and in August 1937 the AAC ordered 10 B-17Bs. They were delivered between October 1939 and March 1940 and were quickly followed by an order for 80 B-17Cs of which only 38 were delivered as Cs with the remainder as B-17Ds. The Ds had many changes including armour plate protection for the crew, self-sealing fuel tanks and a 24 volt electrical system instead of the 12 volt system in the C and were considered the first “Combat Ready” B-17s.
Meanwhile, the British Air Ministry's War Mission had inspected the B-17 in 1938 and although not impressed with the lack of armament and protection for the crew, had been keen on the aircraft's long range. In late 1940, with the US Goverment's help, the British ordered 20 B-17Cs for trial purposes with the intention of buying Ds and Es later.
The US Government was keen to see their aircraft used in combat and the results of the trials was the modifications seen in the B-17Ds.
This book then, Allied Wings No. 7, covers those trial aircraft, flown in combat situations by the RAF.
Following the same format as the six earlier titles with the first half having very interesting and readable text, intersperced with many photos, lists and two of the three colour profiles and covers the use of these aircraft by Bomber Command's No. 90 Squadron, RAF over Europe and later the Middle East and Coastal Command's No. 220 Sqadron, RAF for long range ASR, Anti Submarine and Convoy Escort patrols.
The 90 Squadron trials over Europe by day were a definite failure with very few bombs dropped and several aircraft lost but the “Powers That Be” decided that perhaps a change of theatre may help. Some aircraft and crews were mover out to Egypt with much the same result. Reliability had been a problem in both theatres but those that reached their targets then, more often than not, found the target obscured by cloud. Operating at extreme hight, they found the enemy fighters were often unable to reach them which was just as well because most found their guns frozen solid and any unfortunate to be forced to a lower altitude found they didn't have the firepower to protect themselves.
Those aircraft remaining in the United Kingdom were handed over to Coastal Command's 220 Squadron for a new set of trials. After a period of training, their main role was as convoy escorts, four anti submarine patrols were flown along with some ASR sorties and these were flown without major incident. This convinced Coastal Command that the B-17 would make an excelent patrol aircraft and the B-17Cs would remain as training aircraft for the later marks of B-17 as they were delivered.
The second half of the book, as with the earlier titles, is all B&W photos, maps showing the operating areas, lists of every persuasion and Malcolm Laird's final colour profile. This makes it quite complete but I must emphisize that this book only covers the trials with these early aircraft by the RAF.
Finally, under the heading of “Lessons Ignored”, the British concluded the B-17, even with better defensive armament and armour protection for the crew, was not fit for unescorted daylight raids. The Americans on the other hand, who were watching the trials quite closely and in fact participated in them and therefore knew of the British thoughts on the matter, went ahead and flew unescorted daylight raids anyway. I guess, on some subjects, lessons must be learned the hard way.
I really like these Allied Wings series by Phil Listemann. There are plenty of books on the Spitfire but where else would you get one specifically on the Mk. XII. It is the same with the other aircraft featured - they are either a rare aircraft in themselves or part of a popular subject that isn't often seen.
Either way, thanks Phil, keep 'em coming!
Thanks to Philedition for the review sample
Review Copyright © 2009 by Glen Porter
This Page Created on 20 May, 2009
21 May, 2009
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