|Tuesday, 24 April 2012 00:00|
(by Anthony Cooper; ISBN 978-1-74223-227-0; University of New South Wales Press Ltd; 6in x 9¼in softback; 516 pages; illustrated; available from The Aviation Bookshop, 31-33 Vale Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1BS; £31.99 plus £5 p&p)
Another book on Spitfires, but with a difference as this covers Supermarine Spitfire operations over north-west Australia and islands off the coast.
The first raid by Japanese aircraft was in February 1942, and the last in November 1943. On February 19, 1942, bombers struck at Darwin, and later other targets were hit, the daylight raids being opposed by the United States Army Air Force’s 49th Fighter Group. Raids in March and September 1943 were dealt with by No 1 Fighter Wing of the Royal Australian Air Force, made up of Australian and British units, and it is this period with which the book is concerned.
The author says that Spitfire pilots had been credited with more than 60 victories, while Japanese records for losses quote less than a third of this figure, so he sought the reasons for this apparent difference. The Spitfire pilots numbered fewer than 100 and were constantly outnumbered by their opponents, whose aircraft recognition was faulty, some Spitfires being identified as Bell Airacobras or Brewster Buffaloes. Several pilots were lost while attempting to ditch in the sea, as the Spitfire did not ditch well and invariably overturned before sinking with its trapped pilot.
The last known penetration of Darwin’s air space was on March 2, 1945, by a Mitsubishi Ki-46 on a photo-reconnaissance mission – it escaped but the RAAF Spitfires scored their final victory on July 20, 1945 against a Ki-46.
This is an interesting story, but rather expensive for a softback.