Mike's Pick

Seventeen years? Really?

A little while back I wrote that for many of us, modellers and historians, with an interest in British aviation projects - largely unfulfilled - this was kick-started by Derek Wood's Project Cancelled in the late 'seventies and given a boost when a second, updated, edition appeared with expBritish Secret Projects - Jet Fightersanded information on the types covered. The baton was picked up with some articles in history-oriented magazines in the 'nineties, frequently written by Tony Buttler, and consolidated with his book British Secret Projects - Jet Fighters since 1950. Adding many more of us to this interest it began an increasingly successful series initially from Midland Counties Publications and carried on, to my great enjoyment, by Crecy. A welcome and continuing feature of the series has been the dramatic cover art, started here by Keith Woodcock with this "Fairey Delta 3" in 5 Squadron colours pursuing a Bear; this itself must have surely been responsible for many addicted modellers, including me, badgering those who make resin kits for us for one of this big fighter. If only...

Tony Buttler, although since followed by several distinguished colleagues, is still the doyen of the genre and is now updating his earlier volumes with a considerable amount of extra information, no doubt prompted I'm sure by this initial publication. With the Bombers volume to follow later in the year the first relaunch covers fighters; some of have these British Secret Projects, Fighters, 2nd Edhave become familiar to some extent because of the book shown above, though many have had expanded entries, and there have been some previously unknown additions (the number of pages is almost double!). The arrangement of this book follows that of the earlier, with almost identical chapter headings and only one deleted (on Hawkers - sob!), but with three rather than two appendices. The style of the illustrations is much the same, with many line drawings and several photos of models of the unbuilt.

I don't know how you approach this style of book; I probably shouldn't admit it but as soon as it gets into my hands - and I was lucky enough to have mine placed there by the ever-helpful Crecy management at Flying Legends - it gets the box of chocolates treatment as I look through the contents for probable favourites (Hawkers in this case, of course) before making one or two initial choices and retiring in to a dark corner to get their full flavour. Being easily swayed by good packaging I did go, with the aid of the index, to the Armstrong Whitworth AW.169 featured in Daniel Uhr's dramatic painting on the dust cover, and wondering about the chances of getting one - or perhaps two, or even three - in resin to carry Javelin squadron markings. 33's stripe would look good on that big fin, but this one wears those of, I think, 92; the surrounding gloom is doubtless to signify the all-weather role, but I needed a magnifying glass for the detail.

When you've had a first delve and collected sufficient "favourites" you then need to find a really large chair, and after dislodging the cat settle down to read the whole narrative, which is up to a point chronological by category, though somtimes it helps clarification to shuttle between a couple of chapters, and you will no doubt identify heroes and villains; in many cases their identities and careers are an essential part of the narrative. This can get interrupted by my ability to get easily sidetracked - once or twice so far it's made me to go back to the earlier edition - but it's well worth the perseverance to build a coherent narrative; after that of course you can dip back in at irregular moments to refresh the memory and, if you're a modeller, compile a list of those you would really like to see in three dimensions. It'll take a while for my copy of this book to find its niche in the designated bookcase; at the moment it lurks handily next to the high chair while I work out my list of requests, starting as always with the Hawker P.1091 and the Quasimodo of fighters the Supermarine 559. I do like that Armstrong Whitworth on the cover too, and it's not just the power of art. I'll have to move this volume on in a couple of months or so when its companion updated volume of bombers arrives, and you will realise how much I'm lookng forward to that.


Further reading!

Aviation Historian 20

By one of those unexpected coincidences, a couple of days after picking up the Tony Buttler book the latest edition - number 20 - of The Aviation Historian was delivered; it's always stuffed with interesting features, usually on Things I Didn't Know which is part of its fascination, and its lead article here is a useful companion to the Fighters book. Author Greg Baughan is writing a series of books on the history of the RAF, and this article commemorates the sixtieth anniversary of the "Duncan Sandys" White Paper; the "Endangered Species" of the title is the fighter pilot, and this coveres the period of the 'fifties and 'sixties when it was expected that the manned fighter would be phased out. It sets out the rationale for the decisions that led to what were widely seen at the time as substantial changes in the future shape and size of the RAF; with hindsight I can find some of these convincing, but I may be still somewhat prejudiced! Included as part of the article is a section on the contenders for the next generation of interceptors which turned out to be stillborn, with a page of their plan views by Chris Gibson, himself well-known as an author in the What If? field. As you may know I'm a big fan of this magazine and this contribution is a very useful sidebar to Tony Buttler's latest.

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