This book is almost equally divided between text and photographs. The photographs are outstanding and most are in stunning full colour – Most Highly Recommended.
The Spitfire has become such an international aviation icon that there are always new books being published and added to the huge mountain of print on this unique aircraft. It is difficult to identify just why this is the case. Each new book, and some of them are not of the first rank, sell in great numbers. This book deserves to be acquired and given space as a valued addition to any library. Someone made a study a few years ago and concluded that most readers who buy Spitfire books do not admit to any particular interest in aviation or in World War Two. Even technical books seem to sell to people who would not normally buy a technical book on any other subject. The Spitfire is by any standard a very beautiful aeroplane. It simply looks right. There are some much less attractive aircraft that have also produced great performance and several that were built in very large numbers, but they just can't match the pull of the Spitfire, which is the star of stars. The Hurricane, which shot down more aircraft than the Spitfire during the Battle of Britain, has its fans but it has always been in the shadow of the Spitfire and some of the achievements of Hurricanes have been long attributed wrongly to the Spitfire. During WWII, German pilots contributed to the Spitfire myth by hotly denying the fact that they had been shot down by a Hurricane pilot. In many respects, the Hurricane was a much better gun platform and highly manoeuvrable in combat. It was also much easier to build and repair, but it was essentially the product of a construction method developed for biplanes and had no further development potential, Hawker going on to produce excellent but completely new designs in the Tornado, Tempest and Sea Fury, whereas the Spitfire flew on well into the age of the jet fighter and continued to fight in the surrogate wars that marred the Cold War period. The Spitfire started out with the same Merlin engine that was fitted to the Hurricane and many other British warplanes, giving around 1,000 hp. It was faster than the Hurricane at the start and steadily increased its speed advantage, more than keeping pace with the German Me 109, and matching the later German FW 190. Its construction was key to its performance and scope for further significant development, but it made it costly and difficult to build. It could be seriously damaged and then be difficult to repair, where the Hurricane shrugged off battle damage. The Spitfire went on to replace its RR Merlin with the RR Griffin that was to produce more than twice the horse power for the final Spitfire Marks. In the process, it also had to move to twin contra rotating propellers to fully use the extra power without a swept area greater than its undercarriage could accommodate. The author has told the story well in words and pictures, showing the range of variants and the success of restorers who have managed to return so many Spitfires to the skies. The pictures are particularly fine and the production of the book is first class.