Aviation Elite Units - No 126 Wing RCAF
Author: Donald Nijboer
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
This exciting book is one of the latest releases in Osprey's Aviation Elite Units series. I was initially drawn to it because my friend Chris Cowx of Surrey, British Columbia knew No 126 Squadron pilot Flight Lieutenant Rod Smith, who amassed 13 kills during the course of World War Two.
Author Donald Nijboer details the differences in tactics between the RAF and the Luftwaffe and describes how the British were forced to change tactics to suit the realities both on the ground in the air. They were forced to abandon their doctrine of sending unaccompanied bombers over France in the face of terrible losses.
Nijboer describes in great detail the Wing's exploits. No 126 Wing was the top scoring wing within the Second Tactical Airforce with 87 victories. During the course of Operation Market Garden (described on pages 46-51) No 126 pilots shot down 22 of the 45 German fighters destroyed that day, a remarkable achievement. This wing was the first within the RAF/RCAF to shoot down a jet propelled plane on October 5, 1944. No 126 also shot down 24 planes in the counterstrike to the German Operation Bodenplatte attacks against Allied airfields on January 1st, 1945, which was a new record for a single day of air combat. In total No 126 Wing destroyed 333 aircraft (on the ground and in the air) during World War Two and had 26 pilots with six or more victories.
Credit must also be given to the aircrews of No 126, who worked so quickly as to allow 81 sorties to be flown in 10 hours on one particular day. The aircrews also maintained very high levels of serviceability, with numbers in the mid to high 80 percentile. This is a remarkable achievement when one considers that most if not all maintenance was done outdoors, regardless of the weather.
The transformation of the Spitfire from short-range interceptor to fighter-bomber-a role for which it was not designed-is discussed, as is the development of RAF fighter-bomber tactics. The importance of PSP-Perforated Steel Planking-in the creation of "instant" forward airfields is also explained. And the importance of the new GM2 gyroscopic gunsight, which helped No 411 Squadron's Flight Lieutenant Dick Audet become an ace in a single sortie on December 29, 1944, is discussed. Many aces who had mastered the art of deflection shooting were not impressed with the GM2, which was larger than its predecessor and restricted forward visibility. But it doubled the effectiveness of the average pilot's gunnery. Not only did Dick Audet shoot down 5 planes, he did so in a matter of minutes, and these were his first victories of the War. He had not even seen an enemy plane before the afternoon of the 28th!
And those modelers obsessed with painting D-Day Invasion stripes on their Typhoons, Tempests, Spitfires and the like with laser straight lines should take a good look at the stripes being applied to a Spitfire Mk.IX on the title page: they are QUITE messy!
This is a very informative book which I read from cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed. I highly recommend it and I would like to thank Osprey Publishing for providing the review sample.