Action Stations Revisited - Volume 7  [9780859791557]

Action Stations Revisited - Volume 7
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Date Added: Wednesday 13. February, 2013
In 1983, David Smith’s book Action Stations 7 – Military Airfields of Scotland, the North-East and Northern Ireland was published, by Patrick Stephens Limited. It was well received and six years later the company published a second, slightly revised edition. AS7 was the seventh in a series of ten by various authors covering the United Kingdom, the last volume being a valuable Supplement and Index for the previous nine. The publications broke new ground and whereas the authors never regarded their books as definitive histories, they were highly acclaimed and created a highly commendable basis for further research and investigation.

Action Stations Revisited, Volume 7 – Scotland and Northern Ireland, which was published in 2012 by Crecy Publishing Limited, is a significantly longer book than the original even though it does not cover airfields in North-East England. In part, this is due to the inclusion of considerably expanded, if mostly brief but interesting histories of 35 sites in what is now the Republic of Ireland as well as comparatively obscure sites in Northern Ireland that were not included in the 1983 edition. Moreover, it includes a significantly greater number of photos, many of them previously unpublished, including recent verticals of Long Kesh and Maghaberry on which politically sensitive sections have been blanked out. This is significant inasmuch as the author, Martyn Chorlton, served in the RAF for at least 16 years, for part of which period he was a member of the Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (RIC) at RAF Aldergrove and, prior to that, of JARIC. Possibly, therefore, he had access to source records which were not readily available to the author of this review and to David Smith for that matter.
Unfortunately, notwithstanding Martyn’s positive achievement, the publication falls short of the standard of accuracy achieved by the 1983 and 1989 publications which is surprising considering his RAF background. Too numerous to itemise in this review, the inaccuracies include some statistics about airfield physical features and architecture which supplement the narratives for a large proportion of the airfields. At Langford Lodge, for instance, it is alleged there were nine T2 hangars when in fact seven T2s, three T1/Bellmans, a B1 and a rare Motherwell Bridge type were erected. At Long Kesh, it is alleged there were two T2s, two Bellmans and five Blister types whereas there were four T2s, two Bellmans and six Blisters while, at Maghaberry, there were four T2s not two. The details provided for Sydenham are particularly wide of the mark insofar as the number of hangars was much larger than the 29 alleged. To be fair in this particular case, the number depends on how one might define a hangar but what cannot be explained is the claim that the main runway was extended to 2800 yards during the Second World War! In fact, it remained at 1100 yards throughout the War and was extended to 1829 metres in 1952/53.

The narrative too contains a number of erroneous and questionable claims. For instance, I was amazed to read that at Nutts Corner, civil flying began in the early 1930s and that the first flying service to London began in 1934! There is no clue as to what the author’s sources are for this and other suspect claims but one possibility is a number of websites where the same disinformation is to be found. They include RAF Nutts Corner – Forces War Records, RAF Nutts Corner – Global Oneness, Lough Neagh Heritage – First Airfields, Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields: Northern Ireland and – inevitably – Wikipedia! Unforgivably though, Belfast International Airport’s website is also at fault on this point! Further errors appear to indicate superficial research on the part of the author and a tendency to jump to wrong conclusions. For example, he states that RAF Murlough Bay Radar Station was associated with the satellite landing ground at Murlough in County Down when in fact the station was on the north coast of Antrim and he is under the impression that Aldergrove too is in County Down! There is another example in the Eglinton section where a photograph of a crashed and burning Ju 88 is captioned as ‘One of Eglinton’s successes came thanks to 504 Squadron, which shot down this Ju 88 near the airfield.’ While Spitfires of 504 Squadron were certainly involved in the encounter, they were operating from their base at Ballyhalbert. Also involved was a Spitfire of 315 Squadron operating from Valley in Wales. All three aircraft attacked the Ju 88 which eventually crashed near Waterford in Eire. Sadly, the 315 Spitfire was damaged in the encounter and crashed near Dublin, its injured Polish pilot dying later, in hospital. Finally, I must mention an intriguing claim that the RAF established a small flying boat station during WW2 on the River Bann one mile east of Mullaghmore, possibly to facilitate quick access to the airfield! This claim may relate to the fact that RAF Marine Craft did have a presence on the River Bann at Portna close to Kilrea, as can be confirmed by Society member Gordon McIlroy on the basis of personal observation, but as for flying boats, Gordon and I are very sceptical.

My criticisms notwithstanding, noting that 247 airfield sites are covered, I would regard the publication as one to be read with caution by experienced researchers with sufficient knowledge to separate facts, of which there are many, from fiction.

Book Review, by Ernie Cromie
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]
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