The RFC’s 20 Squadron was the highest scoring fighter squadron and was known as the Winged Sabres in RFC and RAF service. This new book provides an insightful study of the history of 20 Squadron fought through the changing air war over the Western Front. – Most Highly Recommended
NAME: Winged Sabres, One of the RFC's Most Decorated Squadrons FILE: R2727 AUTHOR: Robert A Sellwood PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword BINDING: hard back PAGES: 300 PRICE: £25.00 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: WWI, World War One, World War 1, First World War, The Great War, air war, fighter aircraft, design, innovation, FE2, Bristol F2FB, fighter-reconnaissance, Western Front
IMAGE: B2726.jpg BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/yahs8duy LINKS: DESCRIPTION: The RFC's 20 Squadron was the highest scoring fighter squadron and was known as the Winged Sabres in RFC and RAF service. This new book provides an insightful study of the history of 20 Squadron fought through the changing air war over the Western Front. - Most Highly Recommended 20 Squadron flew two distinctive aircraft types in the fighter/fighter-reconnaissance roles during a period of amazingly rapid technical progress. The FE2 was an interesting but cumbersome attempt to dog fight enemy aircraft. The basic challenge for all WWI fighter aircraft, beyond the relative frailty of construction and flammability, was the propeller. It was quickly appreciated the the most effective fighter design was able to fire its machine gun(s) forward and enable the pilot to manoeuvrer into a position of advantage, ideally being an aircraft where the pilot was also the gun aimer, pointing his aircraft at the enemy. Unfortunately, the propeller was a considerable barrier to achieving that tactical operation because the most effective aircraft had their engine and propeller in front of the pilot. The only WWI solution was to employ interrupter gear to stop the gun firing as a propeller blade crossed the muzzle, or to place a light air-cooled drum magazine gun on the upper plane to fire above the arc of the propeller. At that time the relative frailty of the wings made the WWII approach of wing mounting guns to fire on either side of the propeller, converging at a chosen point ahead of the aircraft, impossible. The consequence of interrupter gear and drum fed machine guns was in the rate and duration of available fire. The Lewis gun provided a light drum fed gun but when mounted on the upper wing, it was very difficult to change magazines. The pilot had to stand and fly the aircraft while bringing the Lewis gun closer on its mounting rail and removing the empty magazine before fixing a new magazine, a physically very difficult operation that had to be followed several times in combat because of the small capacity of the drum magazines. The typical fixed gun was a Vickers that was belt fed, providing a long belt of ammunition that provided good duration of fire, but at a much reduced rate of fire, due to the interrupter gear. The FE2 met the challenge in an awkward way that was a cumbersome compromise. A pusher design, with the engine and propeller behind the pilot, it could have provided a simple solution with a fixed gun, or a pair, being mounted in front of the pilot with an uninterrupted field of fire and with the pilot having a clear view through the sights to bring his gun(s) to bear. The FE2 was built as a two seater and that meant the gunner handled the guns but had to sit in front of the pilot restricting his view ahead. Instead of mounting two guns with restricted traverse, fired by a sitting gunner, the designers had placed one gun to fire forward and another, on a large post mount, to fire to the rear. That meant that the gunner had to stand to fire to the rear and sides, blocking the pilots view, and then to switch over to the forward gun and fire from a seated position if the enemy flew past. He was also unlikely to see an enemy attacking from the front if already engaging aircraft behind, while the pilot's vision was blocked by the gunner's body so that he couldn't spot the new threat either. Given the limitations of the FE2, it was amazing that Winged Sabre crews survived, much less achieved a commendable kill rate. The second aircraft was a massive step forward for 20 Squadron. The F2FB was a two seater but also a superlative design. It was fast, manoeuvrable, powerful and versatile. It was intended as a fighter- reconnaissance aircraft and therefore required a second crew member but its crews developed a very effective tactic. In a fight, the pilot flew and fought the enemy with his fixed forward firing machine gun as a single seat fighter pilot would do. As he flew and fought, his observer behind him watched for any aircraft getting on their tail and shot at the enemy with a flexibly mounted machine gun. As the F2FB could be equipped also with bombs, it was an early tactical fighter that could range across a battlefield strafing and bombing enemy ground forces but still able to dog fight enemy fighters and win. This also made it a pioneer of 'shock and awe' when it was used in the Middle East to bomb and shoot up tribal villages as a flying policeman. The author has made a very good job of presenting the history of 20 “Winged Sabres” Squadron and their aircraft. From the detail packed into this book, it is easy to see why the author spent more than fifteen years in researching for it.