The author served with 14 Squadron and was appointed Honorary Secretary of the 14 Squadron Association. Now an airline pilot, he has undertaken careful research to produce an accurate account of the career of 14 Squadron from the end of WWII to 2015. Complete accounts of this kind provide definitive books on their subject and will not only sell well to a defined readership on publication, but continue to be sought-after reference works for many years to come. The text is well-supported by an excellent selection of illustrations, including maps, photographs and full colour drawings. The text flows nicely and encourages the reader to work through the book. Strongly Recommended.
NAME: Blue Diamonds, The Exploits of 1 Squadron RAF 1945-2015
AUTHOR: Michael Napier
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: RAF, fighter-bomber, air superiority, jet fighters, jet bombers, Mosquito, Vampire, Hunter, Canberra, Phantom, Jaguar, Tornado, Shadow, reconnaissance
DESCRIPTION: The author served with 14 Squadron and was appointed Honorary Secretary of the 14 Squadron Association. Now an airline pilot, he has undertaken careful research to produce an accurate account of the career of 14 Squadron from the end of WWII to 2015. Complete accounts of this kind provide definitive books on their subject and will not only sell well to a defined readership on publication, but continue to be sought-after reference works for many years to come. The text is well-supported by an excellent selection of illustrations, including maps, photographs and full colour drawings. The text flows nicely and encourages the reader to work through the book. Recommended.
The RAF regularly disbands and reforms squadrons. In the process, a squadron may reform on different types of aircraft and perform different roles. This can be mystifying to a reader starting to develop an interest and knowledge of military aviation and it must be said that it sometimes mystifies the squadron personnel. There are also squadrons that have served since the formation of the RAF in 1918 and consistently been equipped for the same role over the decades.
For want of a better description, 14 Squadron has been a fighter-bomber squadron for most of its career. In 1945, it was equipped with the superlative Mosquito which can claim to have been the first true multi-role combat aircraft. This included the DH Mosquito FBVI and the DH Mosquito B35, essentially intended for the fighter bomber, or tactical strike, role and still able to hold their own in a world moving over to jet aircraft.
The Mosquito was followed by DH Vampire FB1 and FB5 which took 14 Squadron into the jet age with the second jet aircraft type to serve the RAF. The Vampire was followed in 14 Squadron service by the Hawker Hunter which had been intended as an air superiority fighter but proving itself a very competent fighter bomber,
In the early 1960s, 14 Squadron flew the English Electric Canberra bomber which was a first generation jet that proved to have a long and successful life in RAF service, In its later life, the Canberra was used mainly in specialist reconnaissance roles and was part of an innovative program to produce a reconnaissance platform and supporting computers that could provide a significant advance in threat identification and assessment. The good flying qualities and stability of the Canberra made it an ideal machine for the program where computers compared film shot over a number of sorties to identify detail changes in threat levels.
14 Squadron then converted to the McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR2. This aircraft offered a considerable increase in all respects, with Mach 2+ performance that gave it a capability to dog fight with air superiority fighters, or to be used in the ground support role equally. The switch to Jaguar single seat ground attack aircraft was another change of pace, but still within the broad role that 14 Squadron had performed since 1945. When this aircraft was followed by the Tornado GR1 and GR4, it was an important upgrading of capability, still within the same broad role. That pattern was broken in 2011 when 14 Squadron became a Beechcraft Shadow equipped reconnaissance squadron. This was to be a significant conversion to a twin turbo-prop aircraft, originally developed for corporate transport, that works very closely with the Army in gathering intelligence on enemy operations. Shadow is equipped for a number of intelligence gathering duties, including ELINT and SIGINT providing some of the capability that was lost with the premature withdrawal of Nimrod as a political cost cutting exercise.
The story of 14 Squadron is therefore particularly interesting and reflects the key changes in military priorities and expectations within the direction of venial politicians who are always seeking ways of cutting military budgets to and into the bone. The premature move to scrap the Nimrod jet, including new aircraft completed but not yet delivered, left a major hole in the ability to carry out intelligence gathering missions. The Shadow is not a true replacement but part of a series of fudges to mitigate some of the worse consequences of budget cuts that are not supported by threat reduction. The senior officers may consider the most likely threat to be asymmetric warfare in the Middle East, but threat tables never remain the same and the war that has to be fought is rarely the war that was planned for. The RAF is now dreadfully short of squadrons with the experience built up over decades by 14 Squadron.
This is a book that needed to be written and deserves to be widely read. In producing this interesting history of a single squadron in the RAF, the author has painted a picture of the military scene as it has developed and changed in the period since WWII.