On and off the Flight Deck: Reflections of a Naval Fighter Pilot in World War II, Henry 'Hank' Adlam


On and off the Flight Deck: Reflections of a Naval Fighter Pilot in World War II, Henry 'Hank' Adlam

Book 1: The Years 1941-1948

Henry 'Hank' Adlam served with the Fleet Air Arm from 1941 into the post-war period, spending most of the war flying Wildcats, Hellcats and Corsairs from a series of escort and fleet carriers. During that period he took part in convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic and Arctic, before moving to the Far East, where he was involved in the first major carrier operations in the Indian Ocean and the British return to the Pacific.

We start with a brief look at Adlam's flight-training - the section on his first deck landing sticks in the mind, as does the contrast between his own training period and the much more extensive training of later periods.

Adlam is refreshingly honest throughout the book. We thus get some interesting views on the carrier aircraft of the period. Adlam is generally very scathing about the British aircraft of the period, often with some justification. He is also willing to admit when his views changed, most notably on the Supermarine Seafire - he admits that it finally matured as a naval fighter in the Pacific, and when he came to fly it after the war discovered that it was a beautiful aircraft to fly.

He also has strong views on the British tendency to appoint non-fliers to key aviation posts, instead making appointments by seniority, blaming this for a series of unnecessary deaths that took place when non-fliers insisted on operations in unsuitable weather. He was also unimpressed with the design of British carriers, where aircrew were seen as very junior members of the crew, rather missing the point of the entire ship. He is also disarmingly honest about how glad he was to stop combat flying.

Adlam does a good job of getting over the mix of long periods of inactivity followed by short intense periods of combat that typified carrier aviation (at least until the British moved to the Pacific, where the pace was much more intense), and the ever-present risk of death in flying accidents or from enemy action.

This is a very valuable piece of work, and gives a good idea of how different life was in the Fleet Air Arm when compared to the more familiar RAF.  

1 Fledgling Flight
2 Fighter Course
3 A Pause
4 890 Squadron
5 Convoy
6 Some Happenings at Sea
7 Ashore and on Leave
8 HMS Illustrious
9 The Mediterranean
10 The Far East
11 HMS Atheling
12 HMS Indomitable
13 Palembang and the Pacific
14 Batsman and 1846 Squadron
15 Immediate Post-war: 1846 Squadron
16 Return to Yeovilton

Author: Henry 'Hank' Adlam
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 237
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2009, 2007 original

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