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from the cockpit No.13


Eric Brown


Ad Hoc Publications


S u m m a r y

Title and Author Seafire
from the cockpit No.13
by Eric Brown
Ad Hoc Publications
ISBN: 0-946958-74-0
Media: Soft, glossy, laminated card, colour covers; A4 portrait format on 136 semi-gloss pages (8 in colour).  Includes 39 colour artworks and 179 photographs.
Price: GBP17.95 net
Review Type: First Read
Advantages: The usual stuff -  superb photographs, insightful text, useful aircraft profiles.
Recommendation: Shines a new light on yet another less-well known aircraft.  Packed with fascinating insights and profusely illustrated.


Reviewed by Steve Naylor

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“Make-do and mend”, was an oft quoted maxim during the Second World War.  This approach definitely applied to British naval aviation of the period and to some extent, described the situation in the immediate post-war years as well.  Lacking a suitable carrier fighter with anything like the airborne capability of the RAF's land-based Spitfire and in view of the relative success of the Sea Hurricane, 'making do' thus led manufacturer Supermarine to offer a navalised version of the Spitfire to the Admiralty and thus the Seafire was born.

Guiding us through the history of this next aircraft in Ad Hoc Publications' series, is distinguished test pilot, Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown CBE DSC AFC, an aviation figure for whom no introduction is really necessary.  This is Eric Brown's second foray into print for Ad Hoc, having authored his first title ('Firebrand -  From The Cockpit 8') back in 2008.



Including the 'Introduction', the author pens the first five chapters of the book, taking us from the first deck landing trials on an escort carrier in a Seafire Mk.1B, through to the ultimate Seafire, the 'muscle-bound', contra-prop, Mk.47.  The shear amount of work and risk undertaken by Captain Brown in the development of just this particular aircraft, is humbling.  The fact that he went on to fly some 487 different aircraft types in his career, accumulating a record 500 deck landings along the way, speaks volumes for his contribution to aviation generally and to his voracity as an author.  Many of these trials were conducted to prove new types in anticipation of specific operations, such as Operation 'Avalanche' (the landings at Salerno) or Operation 'Dragoon' (the invasion of Southern France) and as we shall see, these and other operations are discussed by others, later in the book.

Having thus set the scene, the author then takes a well-earned break from the narrative, as one of the main facets of the 'From The Cockpit' series comes into play, namely the continuation of the story by other contributors with knowledge and experience of the type.  The first tranche of these reminiscences, comes in the section entitled, 'More From The Cockpit'.  Here, as usual, former Royal Naval personnel recount their own experience of the Seafire, albeit that the majority are from the just-Post War period.



Photographic content, as always, is superb, with a plethora of interesting and detailed imagery (all in black & white) peppering the narrative throughout the book.   There are many which could be singled out for comment, but mention should be made here of a very interesting photograph at the top of page 55.  The scene depicted, would make for a very unusual diorama subject for the modeller.  The photograph shows a jacked-up and tied-down Seafire Mk.17 (SW98?), being used for bale-out training.  With the engine running (apparently controlled remotely by man at the Port wing-tip), the trainee pilot practices baling out through the Seafire's cockpit side door, safely(?) into the welcoming embrace of a canvas-covered net, suspended from the wing rearwards to the tail and an outrigger post.  Rather them than me!

As I alluded to earlier, detailed discussion of the operational use of the Seafire is also covered, and this comes in form of two chapters (Seafire At War – Chapters 1 and 2) by distinguished former naval pilots.  The first, by Rear-Admiral Ray Rawbone CB AFC, outlines his introduction to the Seafire, his initial training, work-up to operational flying and then ultimate deployment to the Mediterranean theatre in World War Two.  Then follows a more detailed description of his involvement in Operation 'Dragoon' (and the days that followed), followed by operations in the Greek islands and then deployment to the Far East (Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, etc.), taking us to the end of World War Two.  The second, and slightly shorter '... At War' chapter, is authored by Commander Tommy Handley MiD, and describes his experiences with the Seafire in the Post-War period.  Arriving in Singapore by a somewhat circuitous route (courtesy of the Admiralty) in 1949, he describes his involvement in Malaya, the defence of Hong Kong against the Communist Chinese threat, before his squadron are temporarily relocated to an airfield in Japan.    Although brief, the description of conditions at the time in a peacetime Japan are fascinating, covering an aspect of history that is not often mentioned.  Time for rest was short however, as the Korean conflict then began.  Commander Handley's participation in that theatre, thus brings us to the end of the main commentary of the book.



We now move on into what might be described as the book's 'Role Call' section, as Captain Eric Brown returns, to introduce the chapters on Seafire squadrons.  Broken down into 'Front-Line', 'RNVR' (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) and 'Second-Line' squadrons, the chapters detail each squadron, its various locations and deployments, giving commission date(s), aircraft types and variants, plus a list of commanding officers and of senior officers (if known).



Regular purchasers will know by now, that the final section of these books, contains colour artwork profiles of the subject aircraft, crafted by Roger Chesneau.  Unsurprisingly therefore, eight pages of such illustrations are provided, covering various marks of Royal Navy Seafire (there being no foreign operators of the type) and very good they are too.  Within these, is a four-view of Seafire F Mk.XV 'NS490' (the second prototype), as flown by the author, Captain Eric Brown, from RAE Farnborough in July 1944.





Overshadowed in history by its illustrious progenitor, the Spitfire, Supermarine's Seafire forms part of a cadre of Royal Navy 'Cinderella' aircraft.  Mostly unsung, the Seafire still emerged as a thoroughbred in its final form, despite the lack of a real test of its abilities.  This 'From The Cockpit', at least shines a new light on a another less-well known aircraft which supported naval flying through to the true jet era.

So another excellent title from Ad Hoc Publishing, packed with fascinating insights and profusely illustrated with superb black & white photographs.  Vampire, Vixen and Venom are (I think) the only notable Royal Navy aircraft with 'Sea' in their names, not yet covered by this publisher.  Who knows what comes next, but whatever it is and based on this and previous titles, its sure to be a winner.

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: sales@adhocpublications.com


Review Copyright 2010 by Steve Naylor
This Page Created on 9 December, 2010
Last updated 9 December, 2010

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