By early 1942, Luftwaffe Bf 109Fs were giving Commonwealth P-40s and Hurris a hard time. To regain air superiority, Spifires - Mark Vs and later Mark IXs - were belatedly committed to the North African fighting and soon had matters in hand. Andrew Thomas' SPITFIRE ACES OF NORTH AFRICA AND ITALY chronicles the exploits of the Spit pilots who flew and fought over the Desert and Italy in this entertaining 2011 Osprey Publishing release, #98 in their 'Aircraft of the Aces' series.
When Spit squadrons such as No. 145 and 92 entered combat in June 1942, they found themselves pitted against skilled, determined Bf 109 pilots flying the best Bf 109 models of the war. Nevertheless, pilots, some of whom were BoB aces, began taking the measure of the Messerchmitt. Pilots like Bruce Ingram, Joe Sabourin, 'Sammy' Samouelle, Neville Duke and Jeff Wedgewood all notched up kills. With the November 1942 Torch landings, Spit units like 242, 81, 93 and 111 Squadrons found themselves with a target-rich environment. Even as pilots like Lance Wade, 'Robbie' Robinson and Stanislaw Skalski rang up victories, the introduction of the redoubtable FW 190 in March 1943 threatened Allied air efforts. In short order, the British brought in Mark IX models and the see-saw battle for air superiority continued. The invasion of Sicily and then Italy in mid-1943 produced more opportunities for air combat but then, as the slog up Italy wore on, more and more Luftwaffe units were pulled out of the MTO for Reich air defense and air combat dwindled. By war's end, over 60 Spitfire aces had been crowned. More importantly, the Supermarine fighter had played a significant role in the MTO campiagn.
Andy Thomas, one of Osprey's better writers, covers the exploits of Desert/MTO aces in his usual entertaining fashion. The text is complimented by dozens of b&w photographs and nicely-done color profiles by Chris Davey. Also noteworthy is Mark Postlethwaite's dramatic cover art. It's one of his best artworks for Osprey yet.
All in all, 'Aircraft of the Aces' #98 is an informative summary of some sharpshooting Allied aces and an engaging read. Recommended.