My current project includes anything and everything connected with ship and aircraft wrecks from Malta. Along the way I have found many references to the Short Sunderland aircraft and, in order to learn more, I obtained a number of different books on the subject. In this instance, I have discovered an absolute triumph of dedicated research and, as one who understands the complexities of that subject, I acknowledge that aspect - which is the cornerstone of the product.
That said, there were minor annoyances - which could have been so easily rectified at the proof-reading stage. I mention two examples in order to reveal exactly how minor these errors are; Firstly, according to the Index, Malta is mentioned on a number of pages - although there is nothing to be found on some of those indicated. Secondly, the photograph caption on p. 39 states how the central character is identified as being the one wearing a trilby hat when no such headwear is apparent. Overall, however, these ‘annoyances’ were far too trivial when compared with the huge amount of information and detail which is provided.
Like so many of my generation, I first learned about aircraft from the many ‘Airfix’ kits I was given as a child. Of these, the Short Sunderland was an instant hit and has remained a firm favourite of mine ever since. Whereas I had not previously heard the term ‘Flying Porcupines,’ I was always generally aware of some of the duties of this aircraft during WW2. From this book, however, one learns such a great deal more.
In 1933, the Air Ministry published a specification for a certain type of aircraft suitable for use in all corners of the British Empire. The result was the Sunderland flying boat made by Short Brothers. In this work, author Andrew Hendrie traces its design, development and various roles before, during and after WW2 in order to provide a complete portrayal. We also learn that it was the aircraft’s ability to engage no fewer than six enemy fighters at a time which created the nickname ‘flying porcupine’ - the equivalent of today’s gunship!
Used in Coastal Command to attack and destroy enemy submarines (all of which are listed!), in the role of air-sea rescue, VIP transport (including kings, presidents and prime ministers), evacuations (military and civilian) and re-supply - this was the aircraft equivalent of a ‘Man for all seasons’ and if I loved the Short Sunderland - as a model, the aircrews would never have swapped theirs for the more prominent Spitfire or Lancaster!
The Mediterranean theatre of war is covered in great detail - as are the evacuations of Crete, Greece and Yugoslavia. Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Norwegian and South African squadrons are also included before the author moves on to post-war operations including the Berlin air-lift.
Well illustrated with a good number of B&W photographs appearing alongside the relevant text, I regard this as a complete work - something which is very rarely achieved.