Mike's Pick

Sky Guardians

There is inevitably something af a series about most of my selections for this page, with their subjects being those close to my heart in both my personal and modelling interests; this is the third of Roger Lindsay's masterworks on the RAF's fighters and their units of the days of what has Cold War Shield Vol.3now become my somewhat distant youth, and if I had to reduce my reference library drastically they would form one of its two remaining, and well-thumbed, cores. As with the first two volumes the cover tells you exactly what to expect both verbally and pictorially; the four principal subjects are listed, and the flight of three are 43 Squadron Hunter F.1s. It gives me great personal pleasure to see their straight leading edges, even if at this time they were still having problems firing their Adens and flying for more than thirty-five minutes was pushing it a bit! We are fortunate in having aviation enthusiasts, several of whom belonged to the Roal Observer Corps, who having pursued their/our collective hobby through the 'fifties and 'sixties recording and absorbing their observations have been able to draw on and collate these memories from when "spotting" was to some extent at least respectable, and of these Roger Lindsay is a foremost example.

A brief scene-setting introduction includes maps of the Fighter Command and 2TAF airfields of the period, and a few photos of some of the opposition; there's a brief section on the camouflage and markings of the four types covered helping to reassure modelling readers before beginning the individual detail sections - and I do mean detail! - of the aircraft and their unit, leading with the Swift. Each type is covered by command, squadron and chronology with profuse illustration in black and white (colour comes later) and with very detailed histories of unit, its people and its markings, with tables of its commanders - alright, bosses - and individual aircraft with code and serial. Many of the photos are of squadron groups, with an astonishing number of the aircrew named. This meticulous attention to individuals is reflected in the accounts of the events in which the units were involved .

The Hunter coverage is, not surprisingly, as big as a book on its own and shows the comparitively lage number of units that flew the early "non-dogtooth" marks before the bigger Avons came along. Yes, of course I'm prejudiced, and I'm very appreciativee - smug? - of the comments on 67 and XF317. This section, and that on the Javelin, are illustrative both literally and metaphorically of how our air defence assets shrank by the mid-sixties (Lightning coverage goes as far as the F.3/T.4 era), and this is emphasised by the Orders of Battle for April 1957 and December 1960. Support and second line units such as Central Fighter Establishment and Fighter Weapons School are included, and there's a list of Hunters "owned" and suitably marked by Squadron Leaders and Wing Commanders.

As with Volumes One and Two the colour is gathered together at the end of the book, showing the increasingly widespread use of colour film during ths period; these are followed by nine pages of colour profiles by Mark Gauntlett and I'm very pleased to see by Dave Howley, another who worked and recorded all through this era. The period covered by the three volumes has shown the re-intrduction of "fighter bars", the increasing colourful markings that were an instant identification of unit identity and treasured by observers and modellers alike, and now appear to be lost to "stealth"; Alan Carlaw has contributed fifty-four of these in colour on the last two pages, in themselves an invaluable reference.

If these were a single volume it would be my immediate choice for my desert island exile; they period and subject that they cover are integral to many memories of the time, and the subsequent backbone of my major interest and hobby. The research and compilation that Roger Lindsay has put in to this series illustrates his own profound personal interest, as well as the astonishing ability to put it all together, and while it's nearly ten years since the first of the volumes appeared its genesis at least must have been right back st the genesis of the period they cover. The length of his list of acknowledgements is an indication of the breadth of his ability to gather and marshal the vast amout on information that those of us who are "historical nitpickers" - Roger Bacon's splendid and very accurate expression - expect and rely on. Every one of us who picks this up will read and make use of it in our own way, and to each of us it will give enormous pleasure, and regret. My thanks, Roger, and admiration.

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