The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force, 1942-1945

 

DAF

The author has carried out detailed research to tell the largely unknown story of the Desert Air 
Force, DAF. There is a well-selected photo plate section and maps in the text body, to reinforce 
and support an absorbing text. This is an excellent account of air operations and tactics of the air 
battles in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Italy. There are also first hand accounts by the 
veteran airmen who served in the DAF.
reviews.firetrench.com
adn.firetrench.com
nthn.firetrench.com
bgn.firetrench.com
ftd.firetrench.com

 

NAME: The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force, 1942-1945
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
DATE: 180514
FILE: R1972
AUTHOR: Bryn Evans
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES:  223
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT:  WWII, World War Two, Second World War, 1939-1945, DAF, Desert Air Force, 
Sicily, Italy, close support, anti-armour, anti-shippng, strike aircraft, air superiority, tactical 
bombing, Mediterranean
ISBN: 1-78346-260-4
IMAGE: B1972.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/kkx3b8k
LINKS: 
DESCRIPTION: The author has carried out detailed research to tell the largely unknown 
story of the Desert Air Force, DAF. There is a well-selected photo plate section and maps 
in the text body, to reinforce and support an absorbing text. This is an excellent account of 
air operations and tactics of the air battles in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Italy. 
There are also first hand accounts by the veteran airmen who served in the DAF.

Perhaps one reason that the story has never been told completely before is that the DAF did 
not just cover the North African campaign and probably more flying hours were expended 
over the Mediterranean and during the advance through Sicily and on up the Italian mainland. 
The DAF story from 1942 to 1945 marks significant changes in the Allied fortunes and the 
considerable improvements in equipment and tactics.

When war broke out in 1939, Britain was comprehensively unprepared. There were some 
areas where this was not true entirely. The Royal Navy conducted exercises before the outbreak, 
mobilizing the reserves, bringing the reserve fleet back into operational condition and 
replenishing supplies and fuel at strategic locations around the world. When the exercises ended, 
the mobilization was maintained and this granted the Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm full 
operational status when war was declared after Germany refused to end its attacks on Poland. 
The Royal Navy also had a number of critical warships either completing construction, or joining 
the Fleet. It was not a complete preparation because the appeasers had allowed British Forces to
 contract and failed to provide modern aircraft in adequate numbers for the defence of British 
interests.

The Royal Air Force had decided to concentrate initially on rebuilding home defences with a 
modern radar equipped Command and Control System, upgraded air stations, and modern 
monoplane fighter aircraft. The progress in rebuilding the bomber force and particularly the 
maritime patrol and attack force was rather less effective but this recognized the funding limits, 
development conditions and factory output against the highest priorities.

The Army was the least prepared of the Armed Forces. Personnel were scattered around the 
Empire and involved in extra-Imperial duties in the Middle East where Britain has accepted 
responsibility for the policing and support of a number of nations. Senior officers were still 
thinking of a re-run of WWI with trench warfare in Europe requiring the major effort. This 
belief in static land warfare was further distorted by an over-confidence in the French defence 
line that had still not been completed and crucially left most of the border with Belgium 
unprotected. This was partly a political situation where France was keen to avoid the Belgians 
feeling cut off and left to their own devices, but it was a critical mistake when the Germans 
attempted to follow the invasion plans of 1914, but this time with a mechanised spearhead 
that punched through the hasty attempts to plug the gap with the British Expeditionary Force 
and its small air defences that were not increased as the front crumbled because it was realised 
that Spitfire and Hurricane fighters would soon be required to defend the British Isles from 
invasion.

This general lack of preparation was worse, the further from the British Isles, with the forces 
spread across North Africa, the Middle East, India and the Far East, protected by poorly 
organized and trained second line troops and equipment. Beyond Europe, the RAF was still 
a largely biplane air force, the Army was equipped mainly with WWI vintage small arms, 
vehicles, armour and uniforms, and the Royal Navy was also equipped with its older warships 
and a significant lack of air defence capability at a time when the advantage was moving very 
rapidly from the naval big gun to the torpedo and bomb equipped aircraft.

The result was that the start of the war saw British forces in Egypt facing Italian forces in Libya 
that were at that point neutral. The Mediterranean was still devoid of German Forces and the 
vital Suez Canal was not yet directly challenged. That changed suddenly as the Italians saw 
opportunities from declaring war on a Britain that seemed doomed and a France that might be 
divided between Italy and Germany. Although the Italian forces in North Africa were nor 
strong, they matched the British and a back and forth flow began as one side advanced to over 
stretch its supply lines and be forced back by an equally rapid and spectacular counter offensive 
by the enemy. The area was ideal of rapid armoured warfare and a perfect opportunity for air 
power. From the beginning, the RAF had been developing tactics and equipment to suit this new 
battlefield that had not been planned for. Before El Alamein, which was a last opportunity to block 
a German advance on the Suez Canal and serve as a spring board for the complete defeat of 
German and Italian Forces, the British were still dependent on ANZAC forces and volunteers 
from the British African colonies and on obsolescent and obsolete equipment.

By 1942, all of that was changing. Not only was the US newly involved in the war, but planning 
had already started on a pincer attack on the Axis forces in North Africa and their complete defeat, 
but also on invading Sicily and Italy. The US provided an enormous increase in factory output of 
tanks and aircraft. Although the battle with the U-Boats was still fluctuating, increasing volumes 
of supplies and weapons were convoyed across the Atlantic to Britain and North Africa, and 
convoys were still forcing their way through to Malta, keeping the garrison alive and enabling it 
to mount strikes with MTBs and aircraft against the Axis convoys attempting to re-supply the 
Afrika Korps.

The Desert Air Force continued to receive less effective aircraft, such as the P40, but was now 
receiving the latest and most effective British and US fighters and bombers. This ensured that 
the Germans would never be able to make an effective counter attack and would be squeezed 
between British, Empire and American forces, until total victory had been achieved. From there 
the DAF would be available to support the invasion of Sicily and the invasion of the Italian 
mainland. Tactics were adapted, but the North Africa skills of ground attack were very important 
to the progress of Allied forces North through Italy. When the time came land in Normandy, these 
skills had influenced the tactics that were to be so effective in blocking and destroying German 
armour in France.

It is important to understand how the DAF helped turn the tide of war and the author is to be 
commended for such a clear account of the operations and tactics developed in North Africa 
and the continuing role of the DAF in fighting through Italy