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Colourful, ambitious, but poorly balanced coverage of the air war.
on 14 January 2013
A lot is achieved here in a modest size book of 187 pages, and it is certainly very attective visually. The colour profiles are very good and many little known types are illustrated (Spad A2, Lohner L, etc). Of course there have to be compromises: plan elevations would be nice to see but would have almost doubled the size of the book, and the text is short and somewhat simplistic, but the author does tackle the Middle East and the Italian front, together with the aircraft used on them, quite well, whilst the Russian Front at least gets a mention. Unfortunately there are numerous errors in the specifications, often from pounds being mistaken for kilos though others are inexplicable.
Mr Herris is an expert on and enthusiast for the German airforce and this becomes very obvious. Like many others he is smitten by the 'romance' of the German Jastas. There is far more here about the German airforce than any other. Its true he gives some credit to the RFC in the text but his admiration for the Germans- Boelcke, Richthofen and the rest- is only too clear.
As far a illustrations are concerned, the first fifty profiles include 25 German, 17 French and 5 British designs and the impression is given that we British were scarely present on the Western Front at all. The German strategic offesive againt Britain is 'glamourised' with seven colourful illustrations of Gothas and 'giants': there are no illustrations here of French or British equivalents: you have go on another 110 pages to find two pictures of Handley Page bombers. Totting up the profiles there are 7 Fokker DVII's, 8 Spad V11/X111's and 2 British SE Va's. I'm not one to complain (!) but....I'd also like to make a plea for the Russians: as Mickhail Maslov's excellent book 'Russian Aeroplanes, 1914-1918' reveals, the Russians designed more than 300 aircraft: its true not too many were built in quantity, but there are only two shown in this book. (I have written a review of Mr Maslov's book). Authors (like reviewers!) show their preferences and prejudices through the emphasis given in the narrative and in this case also through the choice of illustrations.
The statistics are curiously lacking in balance also. There are lists giving totals for German A and B types- but, oddly, not for the far more important C types that followed: Mr Herris does give this in one of his other books, so if space was an issue why omit C types here and yet include the A types? There is some similar data covering the French airforce but none at all for the British. The lack of such detail may reflect lack of available data, but I rather doubt that. Given that the remarkably agressive British effort on the Western Front really became the key feature of the whole air war at least some statistical information describing it would have been welcome -there is actually rather more about the Austro Hungarians. By 1918 the Royal Airforce was the largest in the world. It's tue the British concentrated on making relatively few designs in very large numbers, but much better coverage could still have been given here.
I do not deny that this is a fascinating and ambitious book from which most people will learn quite a lot- I certainly did. Moreover I dare say that few readers will even notice the criticisms i have made, and I expect negative reactions to this review- but as a patriotic Englishman I find it hard to tolerate bias towards anyone except my own countrymen- especially when it comes from an American author!