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Books - War in the Air - British Aircraft

RAF on the Offensive – The Rebirth of Tactical Air Power 1940-1941, Greg Baughen. Looks at the slow evolution of the RAF in 1940-41, a time in which RAF orthodoxy believed that the only way to win the war was with a fleet of heavy bombers, despite an ever increasing amount of evidence to suggest that close support of the army on the battlefield was at least as important. Makes a good argument for his case that the RAF hierarchy left the force less effective in 1941 than it had been in 1940, while tracing the slow evolution of proper close support in North Africa (Read Full Review)
The Avro Type 698 Vulcan Design and Development, David W. Fildes. A look at the design and development of the Vulcan bomber, almost entirely presented using original documents, including material from AVRO, the Air Minstry, RAE, RAF and other interested parties. We look at the original idea that developed into the Vulcan, the design and construction of small scale test aircraft and the first prototypes, and the ongoing development process that turned the prototypes into a satisfactory service aircraft, then kept updating it, first in an attempt to improve its high altitude performance, then to make it more suited for the new low level role. The heavy use of contemporary documents makes it quite a dry read in places, but also makes the book of great value if you are interested in the process of aircraft design. (Read Full Review)
Sydney Camm – Hurricane and Harrier Designer – Saviour of Britain, John Sweetman. A useful biography of Sydney Camm, the chief design at Hawker during their period of dominance in the 1930s and into the jet age, but who is most famous for the Hawker Hurricane, the most numerous British fighter during the Battle of Britain. Camm comes across as a somewhat divisive figure in the workplace, with an abrasive management style, but also someone who could be won over by a good argument, and with a impressive grasp of the technical aspects of aircraft design, at least until the post-war jet age (Read Full Review)
The Territorial Air Force – the RAF’s Voluntary Squadrons 1926-1957, Dr Louise Wilkinson. A detailed analysis of the RAF’s three different attempts to provide a volunteer reserve in the interwar period – the Auxiliary Air Force, the Special Reserve and the RAFVR, the first two formed as an experiment to see which method worked best and the third in the immediate pre-war period after it became clear that the AAF. Quite specalised, but the author’s research is impressive and they argue their case well(Read Full Review)
Runways to Freedom - The Special Duties Squadrons of RAF Tempsford, Robert Body. A splendid history of Nos.138 and 161 Squadrons, the Special Duties squadrons that carried agents in and out of occupied Europe, dropped supplies and generally supported the work of the resistance movements. Highly secret during the war, their records were declassified fairly quickly, but this is a rare full length study of the two squadrons, and is well overdue! Not quite a day-by-day history, but not far off, with coverage of just about every lost aircraft as well as many successful missions (Read Full Review)
Sir Alan Cobham – The Flying Legend who brought Aviation to the Masses, Colin Cruddas. A biography of one of the most famous British airmen of the inter-war period, a pioneer of long distance aviation, publicist for air power (running a series of popular touring air shows) and a pioneer of air-to-air refuelling, most famous for ‘Cobham’s Flying Circus’, four years of touring air shows that were seen by 75% of wartime aircrew volunteers!(Read Full Review)
De Havilland Enterprises - A History, Graham M. Simons. Looks at the impressive range of aircraft produced by de Havilland, from the earliest flimsy biplanes, to the versatile Mosquito and on to the post-war jet age, including the famous Comet, the first jet airliner. A useful reference for anyone interested in de Havilland, and also a guide to just how far aircraft came in a single lifetime. Well illustrated and informative, this book covers an impressive amount of ground in just over 300 pages (Read Full Review)
English Electric Lightning, Martin Derry and Neil Robinson. Very much aimed at the modeller, with an emphasis on paint schemes and liveries. Does include a useful mark-by-mark and unit-by-unit history of the Lightning, which will be of interest to the general aviation enthusiast, as well as a large selection of colour plans of the aircraft, reviews of the various kits available, and an impressive selection of colour photos of the aircraft, which will be of great value to the modeller (Read Full Review)
Thunder Bird in Bomber Command, Sean Feast. A biography of Lionel Anderson, the brother of Gerry Anderson, covering his all too brief career in the RAF during the Second World War, and built around the lively letters he sent home while training in the United States, covering his flying training, descriptions of the local area and adventures while on leave. Concludes with a look at his period of active service, which tragically ended on his first mission on the de Havilland Mosquito. The result is a very entertaining biography that covers an unusual area of the RAF experience of the war [read full review]
1 Group Bomber Command - An Operational Record, Chris Ward with Greg Harrison and Grzegorz Korcz. Split into two halves – a narrative account of the Group's activities within Bomber Command and a reference section covering each squadron and its aircraft. The narrative takes us day-by-day through the Group's main raids, including losses and a look at the success or failure of the raids. A useful reference work, and also a sobering reminder of the scale of losses suffered by Bomber Command throughout the war. [read full review]
The Men Who Gave Us Wings: Britain and the Aeroplane 1796-1914, Peter Reese. An interesting account of the early days of flight in Britain, from the research into gliders, through various unsuccessful attempts at powered flights and into the post-Wright Brothers world, when the pioneers of the British aviation industry came to the fore, a group of remarkable men that included the Short brothers, A.V. Roe, Geoffrey de Havilland and Sir Thomas Sopwith. [read full review]
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Aircraft Wrecks The Walker's Guide - Historic Crash Sites on the Moors and Mountains of the British Islands, Nick Wotherspoon, Alan Clark & Mark Sheldon . Focuses on sites where there is still something to be found, mainly on areas with public access, spread out across the high ground of Britain and Ireland. Includes accounts of the causes of the crash, the fate of the crew and their passengers, descriptions of the location of the crash sites and what will be found on them. [read full review]
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Images of War: RAF Fighter Pilots over Burma, Norman Franks. Focuses very much on the pilots, with most pictures showing pilots on the ground, in their cockpits or even in the bath. Supported by excellent captions that trace the careers of the pilots and useful chapter introductions that set the scene. Also includes useful pictures of RAF airfields and a good selection of aircraft on the ground, but will be of most value for the collection of pictures of pilots. [read full review]
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Images of War: The Few - Preparation for the Battle of Britain, Philip Kaplan. Covers a wider period that the title might make you expect, from the pre-war period to the point where the Luftwaffe switched from attacks on airfields to the attack on London. Has a different feel to other books on the topic, including poetry and a focus on the terrible strain suffered at the airfields subjected to heaviest attack and by the pilots themselves. [read full review]
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Caribbean Volunteers at War - The Forgotten Story of the RAF's 'Tuskagee Airmen', Mark Johnson . An excellent book that looks at the experiences of the black Caribbean volunteers who served in RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War, tracing their steps from their island homes, through the difficult process of volunteering, to their experiences of RAF life, combat and in some cases captivity as a POW. [read full review]
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Covert Radar and Signals Interception - The Secret Career of Eric Ackermann, Peter Jackson & David Haysom . Looks at the long career of a scientist who served with an honorary commission in the RAF, won the George Medal during the Second World War and went on to have a long career in the first part of the Cold War. [read full review]
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The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force 1942-1945, Bryn Evans. . Looks at the activities of the RAF's tactical air force in the North Africa and Italian Theatres, where it developed many of the close support techniques used with greater fame by 2nd Tactical Air Force in Normandy. This is a valuable account of the services of a key, but often overlooked, part of the wartime RAF. [read full review]
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Heroes and Landmarks of British Aviation, Richard Edwards and Peter J Edwards. Looks at the careers and long term impact of the life of a series of crucial pioneers of British aviation, from the birth of powered flight to the Jet age. Combines biographies of the key figures with a history of the companies they founded and key milestones they helped achieve. [read full review]
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Airway to the East 1918-1920 and the collapse of No.1 Aerial Route RAF, Clive Semple. An account of the disastrous failure of the RAF's first attempt to move large numbers of aircraft over a long distance by air, in this case from France to Egypt in 1919. Eight men were killed and many of the aircraft were lost before the attempt was abandoned, but it did provide some invaluable experience in the long-distance movement of military aircraft. [read full review]
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Adventurous Empires - The Story of the Short Empire Flying Boats, Phillip E. Sims. A look at the history of the Short Empire Flying Boat, from the pioneering long-distance routes flow by Imperial Airways to their unglamorous but vital role as a long range passenger transport aircraft during the Second World War. An interesting account of the adventurous and rather more romantic early days of civil aviation, with a useful section of the wartime service of the Empire boats. [read full review]
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Images of War: Fighters under Construction in World War Two, Graham M. Simons. A super entry in the Images of War series showing most major British fighters at various stages of construction, allowing us to understand the underlying structures hidden beneath their skins. Also includes sections on propellers, the 20mm cannon, engines and the manufacturing process itself. A very useful book for anyone interested in Second World War aircraft. [read full review]
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The Strike Wings - Special Anti-Shipping Squadrons, 1942-45, Roy Conyers Nesbit. A history of Coastal Command's Strike Wings, dedicated groups of anti-shipping squadrons that devastated German coastal shipping during the Second World War, but at a very high cost, written by someone who flew in the same role after the war and with a great use of eyewitness accounts and both Allied and German sources. [read full review]
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Target London: Bombing the Capital 1915-2005, Peter Reese. Falls into three very different sections, examining the small scale bombing of the First World War, the massive bombing campaign of the Blitz and the V weapons of the Second World War, and the terrorist attacks of recent years. Does an excellent job of examining both sides of each campaign, including a look at the aims of each wave of attacker. [read full review]
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Javelin from the Cockpit, Britain's First Delta Wing Fighter, Peter Caygill. A study of the development, deployment and service record of the Javelin all weather fighter, a major improvement on the first generation of jet fighters to enter British service, but an aircraft that never saw combat. Also covers a large number of accidents involving the aircraft. [read full review]
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The Royal Air Force at Home, The History of RAF Air Displays From 1920, Ian Smith Watson. A comprehensive look at the history of RAF air displays and the aircraft that took part in them, focusing to a large extend on the post-war displays, including the huge number of 'at-home' displays inaugurated to commemorate the Battle of Britain [read full review]
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In All Things First - No.1 Squadron at War 1939-1945, Peter Caygill. A very details day-by-day history of the RAF's premier single engined fighter squadron during the Second World War, a period that saw them take part in just about every aspect of the air war, from the Battle of Britain to providing daylight bomber escorts over Germany. [read full review]
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Swift to Battle: No. 72 Fighter Squadron RAF in Action: III 1947 to 1961 Into the Jet Age & Cold War Operations, Tom Docherty. This third part of a history of No.72 Fighter Squadron takes us from the immediate post-war period to the end of the squadron's existence as a fixed-wing fighter unit, a period that saw its pilots adapt to the new jet age [read full review]
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Swift to Battle: No.72 Squadron RAF in Action: Volume II 1942 to 1947, North Africa, Malta, Sicily, Southern France and Austria, Tom Docherty. A very detailed, almost day-by-day, account of the activities of No.72 Squadron during the Allied advance from Tunisia, up the Italian peninsula and into Austria, that gives a good feel of life within an RAF squadron during these campaigns [read full review]
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Fledgling Eagle: The Politics of Air Power, Mark Andrews. This is a detailed history of the development of British air power from the tiny handful of fliers of 1914 through to the massive aerial armadas of 1945, from the point of view of the anti-strategic bombing camp. Andrews examines the role of air power in the two World Wars, as well as the creation of the RAF during the First World War and the choices it made during the inter-war period [see more]
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 British Aircraft Manufacturers since 1908, Gunter Endres. A very useful reference book which provides brief histories of seventy five British aircraft manufacturers, ranging from famous names like Avro or Supermarine, to more obscure firms such as Slingsby Aviation of Kirkbymoorside. The publication date of 1995 means that this book covers the entire history of all but a handful of the main First and Second World War Companies.
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Target Leipzig, The RAF's disastrous raid of 19/20 February 1944, Alan Cooper. A detailed account of one of the most costly Bomber Command raids of the Second World War, in which seventy nine Halifax and Lancaster heavy bombers were lost and 420 crewmen killed. At its best when Cooper takes us into the air with the bomber crews who took part in the disastrous attack of Leipzig. [read full review]

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Bristol Blenheim

Blenheim Squadrons of World War Two, Jon Lake. This book looks at the entire RAF service career of the Bristol Blenheim, from its debut as a promising fast bomber, through the deadly disillusionment of the blitzkrieg, on to its work in the Middle East and Mediterranean, where the aircraft found a new lease of life. Lake also looks at the use of the Blenheim as an interim fighter aircraft and its use by Coastal Command.
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Love and Sand, Howard M. Layton. The autobiography of a RAF Navigator who took part in the campaign in East Africa and the evacuation from Greece, flew on the Trans-Africa ferry route and fought in the El Alamein campaign. Layton weaves his military experiences into the wider story of his life, taking us from pre-war Coventry, through North Africa, and on to his post-war life in America [see more]
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Bristol Beaufighter

Night Fighter Navigator: Beaufighters and Mosquitoes in World War II, Dennis Gosling DFC. The autobiography of a radar operator who took part in some of the most important spells of night-fighting during the Second World War, including the early days of radar interception and the desperate defence of Malta. [read full review]
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Bristol Beaufighter, Jerry Scutts (Crowood Aviation). A detailed look at the development and service career of the Bristol Beaufighter, the first dedicated night fighter to enter RAF Service. Superceded by the Mosquito in that role, the Beaufighter went on to serve as a deadly anti-shipping weapon, and to earn the nickname "whispering death" over the jungles of Burma.
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De Havilland Vampire


Link to review of De Havilland Vampire De Havilland Twin-Boom Fighters: Vampire, Venom and Sea Vixen, Barry Jones. Aviation historian Barry Jones traces the history of the Vampire and its twin boom fighter stable mates in UK and overseas service. This is a modern, up-to-date 192 page book with a great level of detail about these much loved aircraft and plenty of illustrations and archive photographs. [see more]
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Gloster Gladiator

Gloster Gladiator Aces, Andrew Thomas. A look at the wartime career of the only biplane fighter still in RAF service during the Second World War. Covers the Gladiator's service in Finland, Malta, North Africa, Greece, Aden, East Africa and Iraq, where despite being outdated it performed surprisingly well.
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Gloster Meteor

Gloster Meteor, Britain's Celebrated First-Generation Jet, Phil Butler and Tony Buttler. This is a detailed, well illustrated and well written look at the development and service history of the Gloster Meteor, both in British and overseas hands. The book covers the development of the E.28/39, Britain's first jet aircraft and the development of the Meteor, looks in detail at the prototype aircraft, the various versions of the Meteor and its British and overseas service careers. [see more]
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Jet Pioneers, Gloster and the Birth of the Jet Age, Tim Kershaw. A detailed and well illustrated look at the development of the Gloster E.28/39, the first British jet powered aircraft. The story of this remarkable aircraft is well supported by first hand accounts of the process, including new interviews with some of the participants. [see more]
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Handley Page Halifax


Review of Halifax Squadrons by John lake Halifax Squadrons of World War II , Jon Lake. This is a very good book on the combat record of the Handley Page Halifax. It covers much more than just its role as a front line bomber, with chapters on the Halifax with Coastal Command, the Pathfinders and SOE, amongst others. [see more]
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Halifax Squadron: The Wartime Operations of No 640 Squadron, Leconfield, Bill Norman, 2005. A complete operational history of the squadron from its formation in January 1944 to the end of the war. Packed with interviews with members of the squadron, this book gives an invaluable insight into the life of a Bomber Command squadron in the last two years of the Second World War. [see more]
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Hawker Tempest and Typhoon


Typhoon and Tempest Aces of World War War 2, Chris Thomas. This book tells the tale of the troubled Hawker Typhoon, concentrating on its use as a fighter rather than its more successful career as a ground attack aircraft, and its transformation into the excellent Tempest, one of the best fighters of the later years of the Second World War [see more]
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Short Sunderland

Short Sunderland Squadrons of World War 2, Jon Lake. A look at the service carrier of the most successful British flying boat of the Second World War, and a key component in Coastal Command's battle against the U-boat. Covers the introduction of the aircraft, its role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, West Africa and other theatres.
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Sopwith Camel


link to review of Sopwith Camel AcesSopwith Camel Aces of World War 1, Denes Bernad. The Sopwith Camel is probably the most famous British aircraft of the First World War. This book looks at the careers of the fighter aces who captured the imagination of the British public and provided some relief from the gloom of the Western Front [see more]
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Sopwith Triplane


Link to review of Sopwith Triplane AcesSopwith Triplane Aces of World War I, Norman L.R. Franks. An excellent guide to the operations of the Sopwith Triplane, covering all four RNAS squadrons that used the aircraft in 1916 and 1917. Although the Sopwith Triplane was not produced in large numbers, it [see more]
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Vickers Wellington


Alone I Fly - A Wellington Pilot's Desert War, Bill Bailey. Wider ranging than the title would suggest, Bailey served as a Wellington pilot in North Africa and from Malta, an airfield controller on Malta and as an instructor in the UK, all after surviving a fairly disastrous first mission in the desert. An engaging and wide ranging autobiography that gives an unusual view of the RAF at war. [read full review]
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Wellington in Action, Ron Mackay. A well illustrated guide to the development and service career of this classic British bomber. Mackay looks at the early development of the Wellington and the unusual geodetic frame that gave it great strength, the period when the Wellington was the mainstay of Bomber Command and the many uses found for the aircraft after it was replaced in the main bomber stream.
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