Eagles War  [978090757953]

Eagles War
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Date Added: Friday 25. June, 2010
The aim of this book as stated by its prolific author (of more than 50 works on naval & aviation related topics) was to “give the full flavour of life aboard one of HM aircraft carriers in time of
war.” He succeeds admirably in this task and has produced a highly readable and interesting book, first published in 1995, so Crécy are to be congratulated in this inexpensive and timely re-issue.

By 1939, HMS Eagle was old, outmoded and slow, having been converted from the incomplete hull of the battleship Admiralte Cochrane, laid down in 1913 and originally intended for Chile. Between the wars she gave valuable service as the RN experimented
in the use of air power at sea, with such evocative types as Avro Bisons, Blackburn Blackburns, Fairey IIIDs and Hawker Ospreys – showing the flag as far afield as South America, taking part in exercises in the Mediterranean and chasing pirates in the South China Sea.

Being lightly armoured and armed this was perhaps the best use to which the Eagle could have been put but it by no means stopped her from having a very useful and active wartime record of service – escorting convoys in the Indian Ocean, joining the Mediterranean Fleet
in 1940 and taking part in many hazardous offensive and defensive actions in the seas around North Africa, Greece, Crete and Malta and then back to the Indian Ocean in 1941 and on into the South Atlantic hunting for surface raiders. Following a much needed refit in the UK it was back to convoy duties in 1942 and also flying off fighters to Malta, as part of the famous Force H, based in Gibraltar. It was on one of these convoys, the famous Operation Pedestal, in August, when Eagle was lost, sunk by a torpedo salvo from U-73. As regards the aircraft carried during these three years, they were mostly Swordfish, supplemented by Sea Gladiators, Fulmars and Sea Hurricanes – though many Spitfires were also flown off for Malta.

The author’s narrative flows along and is interspersed at regular intervals with verbatim memories from many of those who served in HMS Eagle, thereby conveying the story in a very accessible way – even recounting the fact that weevils were part of a sailors diet in the
Second World War. There are many good stories (see page 103 for the true story of the well known
“We are towing the target not pushing it.”) The text is supplemented by an excellent collection of photographs, mostly from private sources. If another edition is produced all I would suggest would be a cutaway drawing or outline plan of the ship plus a map or two. One other minor point is that the photograph on the back cover would appear to me to be the post-war Eagle? Highly recommended.

Ulster Airmail – July 2010
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]
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