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No 56 Sqn RAF/RFC (Aviation Elite Units) Paperback – 10 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey (10 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846034280
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846034282
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 0.8 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 222,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Even readers familiar with Alex Revell's "High in the Empty Blue - The History of No. 56 Squadron 1916-1920, "will find this new 128-page book to be a proportionally comprehensive look at the unit's men and missions in World War I." -Peter Kilduff, "Between the Bookends" "While I readily admit to a heavy bias towards WWI aviation, I maintain that this is the best Osprey book on wartime aviation now in print. And, I've bought plenty of them. You should buy this one whether your interest in WWI aviation is slight or intense for this is an important, well researched and written look at one of the most famous and influential air fighting groups in history. I recommend it without reservation." -Michael Scott, "International Plastic Modellers' Society "(January 2010) "The author does an excellent job of telling the story of 56 squadron in this series' usual diary format. There are highlights of some of the more memorable missions to add spice to the read. All of this is even more enhanced by a superb collection of period photos of the pilots and aircraft . In addition there are 28 full color profiles profiles and upper/lower drawings. Appendices include an aces listing, fatalities in the unit and those Germans who were victorious over 56 squadron aircraft." - Scott Van Aken, "Modeling Madness" (October 2009) ..".does a fantastic job ofpresenting a comprehensive sotry of 56 Squadron and is highly recommended for your World Wat I aviation library!" -Jim McCloskey, "Aerodrome "(#158)

About the Author

Alex Revell has been interested in World War 1 aviation since the age of six and he began serious aviation research in the early 1960s. Primarily interested in people and their role in the 1914-18 air war, he traced and interviewed many ex-members of the RFC/RAF/RNAS and is particularly proud that many of them became personal family friends. An internationally acknowledged researcher into the history of the RFC/RAF and RNAS during World War 1, Alex Revell has had many articles published in specialist aviation magazines and the journals of Cross and Cockade International and The First World War Aviation Historical Society, of which he is a founder member. His has written a number of aviation-related World War 1 titles over the years. Alex Revell's latest book, British Single-Seater Fighter Squadrons on The Western Front in World War 1, was recently awarded 'Book of the Month' in Aeroplane Monthly. The author lives in Cornwall, England.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Smithy on 21 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
First off, I own Mr Revell's "High in the Empty Blue" which I personally believe is one of the greatest books on air warfare, not just from WWI but from any period. This Osprey title can be viewed as a condensed and edited version of that earlier work. Owners of "High in the Empty Blue" will be familiar with 99.9% of the photographs and 100% of the information in the text. What will be new to these readers is that this new Osprey title contains a lot of new full colour profiles of 56 Sqn's SE5s and SE5as which will be hugely enjoyed by scale modellers.

This is an excellent title containing Mr Revell's phenomenal level of research and continues Osprey's reputation for high quality and competitive pricing. Recommended but do hunt down the simply magical "High in the Empty Blue" if you enjoy this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By KOMET - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Last night, I finished reading this wonderful book. It chronicles the development and flowering of No. 56 Squadron from its inception in the summer of 1916 to its deployment in France in April 1917, and on til the Armistice in November 1918.

Given its initial complement of highly experienced pilots (e.g. Albert Ball and Cecil Lewis, later to become one of the founders of the BBC and famous for his wartime memoirs, "Sagittarius Rising"), 56 Squadron within 4 months of frontline service had already been credited with 100 enemy planes shot down, and acquired a reputation among the Germans as a specialist "anti-Richthofen" squadron. (Manfred von Richthofen - the so-called "Red Baron" - was the top German ace and the leader of a squadron and fighter group that was the scourge of the British air services during 1917 and 1918.)

For anyone interested in First World War aviation, this book provides a well-rounded overview of one of the premiere fighter units of the war. Among the top pilots who were affiliated with 56 Squadron: James McCudden (like Ball, a holder of the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for bravery), R.T.C. Hoidge, Arthur Rhys Davids (a participant in one of the epic dogfights in history, credited with shooting down the great German ace --- and rival of von Richthofen --- Werner Voss), and Richard Mayberry.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
56 Squadron over the Western Front! 29 Oct. 2009
By Michael OConnor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
56 Squadron was one of England's top-scoring fighter squadrons of the Great War. The first to take the Scout Experimental 5 biplane fighter into combat, the unit claimed over 400 victories by war's end and earned great renown thanks to luminaries like Albert Ball and James McCudden. WWI aviation authority Alex Revell chronicles the life and times of these 'dogfighting kings' in this 2009 Osprey 'Aviation Elite Units' volume, #33 in the series.

Formed in 1916, 56 Squadron first saw combat in April 1917 after reworking the recently introduced Se 5 into an effective fighting machine. Richard Blomfield, 56's first CO, had handpicked his pilots, the squadron boasting a larger than normal number of experienced pilots and promising newcomers. Though Ball was the initial star of squadron ops, those other pilots - Geoffrey Bowman, Arthur Rhys Davies, Gerald Maxwell, Reginald Hoidge, etc. - started making a name for themselves. In August 1917 McCudden, another Blomfield pick, arrived, his subsequent achievements eclipsing Ball who had been killed in May. Unlike Ball, McCudden was an exemplary fighter leader, the young Irishman training many of the unit's future aces. McCudden, in his Se 5a, was such an effective air fighter that, during some months, he WAS 56 Squadron, his victory claims outweighing all other squadron claims combined! By war's end, 56 Squadron had 427 confirmed victories to its credit. In return, 40 pilots were KIA; another 31, POW.

Revell does a workmanlike job of relating the unit's history. Because 56 Squadron was so heavily involved in air combat, the book is bursting with accounts of dogfights including personal reminiscences from pilots. Revell does include glimpses of squadron life and the various personalities who made up 56 Squadron. However I suggest NO 56 SQN RAF/RFC is best enjoyed a chapter at a time lest the dogfight accounts blur together.

For that reason and the fact that nowhere does Revell summarize the squadron's war record - victories, losses, etc. - I'd give the book 4 1/2 stars if possible. (The figures above came from Wikipedia).

The book includes dozens of rare and evocative photographs of 56 Squadron pilots, British and German aircraft, squadron life, crash sites, etc. along with 10 pages of wonderful color profiles by Harry Dempsey.

If your interests lie in World War I air combat, NO 56 SQN RAF/RFC will provide you with a comprehensive, well-illustrated and easy-on-the-pocketbook summary of a famous British fighter squadron at war. Recommended.
In 1995, Revell wrote the definitive history of 56 Squadron entitled HIGH IN THE EMPTY BLUE. Published by Flying Machine Press, the 448-page volume merits a six-star rating. Used copies sell for $120.00.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A solid treatment 12 Dec. 2009
By Barrett Tillman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Alex Revell's definitive 1995 study of No. 56 Squadron, High in the Empty Blue, set the standard for Great War unit histories. Therefore, it's hard to compare that 450-page volume with his Osprey account of the best-known British squadron of the Great War. But certainly no one is better qualified to tackle the subject.

This much shorter treatment of "Number 56" still has much appeal, as it hits the highlights and manages to impart a sense of the unit's corporate personality. While the inevitable stars are well covered--Ball, McCudden, Rhys Davids and others--the author also dips a wing in tribute to the workaday pilots who watched the aces' backs. There's even acknowledgment of the No. 56 band, and when have we ever seen that before?

The photos are well chosen--some new to this reviewer. And Harry Dempsey's excellent artwork includes SE-5/5a profiles throughout the squadron's combat career. However, modelers and some historians would like to know more about the evolution of No. 56's markings--a seemingly overlapping series of changes from numbers to flight position (`A2' or `B6') to letters and back to numbers.

There is also constant reference to machinegun stoppages but little information as to what caused them. Some details would be helpful, especially for the technically-minded readers.

Nevertheless, Revell does a fine job of covering a familiar topic--no easy task when so many WW I aero enthusiasts already are familiar with the story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By P. A. Panozzo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Previous reviewers have done an admirable job reviewing this title! I really enjoy the Osprey Aviation Elite Units series. These books help preserve vital aviation history, and Alex Revell is a preeminent aerohistorian who has spent most of his life in pursuit of Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force history. You may be familiar with his previous work High in the Empty Blue: The History of 56 Squadron, Rfc/Raf 1916-1920. Recently he has executed a history of No. 60 Squadron No 60 Sqn RFC/RAF (Aviation Elite Units). Albert Ball, ace with 44 victories, was a founding member of 56 Squadron. A decent book to consider for a closer look at Ball would be ALBERT BALL VC: THE FIGHTER PILOT HERO OF WORLD WAR I. Revell has another new title available Fall of Eagles: Airmen of World War One. Duncan Grinnell Milne was the last commanding officer of No. 56 Squadron. His memoir is unique among memoirs! Wind In the Wires The Celebrated Memoir of a World War I british Air Ace
A Small But Solid Book 22 Jun. 2011
By SCT - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book with particular interest because my grandfather was mentioned in it. Regardless of that mention, the book was well written and very readable from cover to cover. Despite a handful of small errors and inconsistencies (such as in 2nd full paragraph on page 57, the date should have been "27 October" and not "23 October"), the book was highly informative and I learned much about my grandfather's former unit. The book is also full of photographs I have not seen elsewhere, a huge plus. And the Appendices are particularly helpful for following the main-story text as well.

For anyone interested in World War I aviation, this is an excellent book and highly recommended reading.
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