As it says on the jacket, this is a photographic record of an RAF fighter station from the Battle of Britain to D-Day and beyond. It is however also accompanied by some well-written text that probably amounts to almost 50% of the page space. An emotive record of the young men and their machines operating from RAF Westhampnett. Will appeal strongly to all those followers of WWII history and the air war in Europe, recommended.
NAME: A Fighter Command Station At War, a photographic record of RAF Westhampnett from the Battle of Britain to D-Day and beyond
AUTHOR: Mark Hillier
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, frontline
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Spitfire, Hurricane, Typhoon, Battle of Britain, Rhubarbs, fighter sweeps, Normandy Landings, air superiority, ground attack. USAAF Spitfires
DESCRIPTION: As it says on the jacket, this is a photographic record of an RAF fighter station from the Battle of Britain to D-Day and beyond. It is however also accompanied by some well-written text that probably amounts to almost 50% of the page space. An emotive record of the young men and their machines operating from RAF Westhampnett. Will appeal strongly to all those followers of WWII history and the air war in Europe, recommended.
The selected photographs illustrate the key stages of the air war from the perspective of a fighter station. The quality of the photographs varies and this is a virtue because it provides both authenticity and shows the range of photographs, including those personnel pictures shot by the pilots and ground crew during the war. The trend for manipulating images of war, just because enhancement is now relatively easy, has started to fall from favour and this book shows exactly why it is worth avoiding any temptation to remaster black and white photographs. There are many reasons why wartime photos are not all high definition professionally staged and shot images. The RAF personnel acquired their own cameras and used them to record personal images of colleagues and friends in all of the natural activities of the time. As the cameras varied, from the simple box camera to very expensive professional and large format cameras, the original images also matched that variation. There was then a range of processing facilities, including home-made dark rooms rigged up in RAF accommodation. Once processed, photographs were stored in a variety of conditions, some not helpful to preserving the plates and prints. Books written now often include images that have stayed within a family for more than seventy years, often forgotten for decades, and uncovered during the author’s research and interviewing of RAF personnel and their surviving family. The collection reproduced in this new book therefore conveys so much more by the photographs being produced in their current condition.
The story of RAF Westhampnett could be the story of almost any of the RAF Stations in South East England that withstood the brunt of the German attacks in 1940 and then went on to serve through the turning tide to victory. This particular station was used by some of the most famous pilots, including Douglas Bader. It was home and temporary sanctuary to Hurricanes and Spitfires. During the period, this included USAAF Spitfires which were much loved by their US pilots. Then Hawker Typhoons were based there in the run up to D-Day, the Landings, and the advance through France. As the Allied land forces advanced, the Typhoons moved to France and used airfields close to the fighting. As flying artillery, these aircraft were as important as the Hurricanes and Spitfires had been during the Battle of Britain.
The story of RAF Westhampnett is therefore an important story, told with respect and sympathy and pride. The author has an added connection, flying from Goodwood Aerodrome which today occupies what was RAF Westhampnett.