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Michael Parkes

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Harrier: The Biography
Harrier: The Biography
Price: £8.50

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A history of everything interspersed with Harrier facts., 9 Jan. 2014
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I purchased the Kindle version of this book as it was the cheaper option but i still feel that was nearly £8 wasted.

I am 50% of the way through this book and can safely say that I have probably skim read and skipped through 50% of that! I was looking for a book on the Harrier not bogged down by too many technical details but a plotted history of its inception, development and service history with reasons behind its retirement. The book barely scratches at these points without digressing off into massive tangents that only fulfil to massively pad the book out.

'A wonderfully entertaining book, a rich mixture of science, social history and politics written with the verve, expertise and infectious enthusiasm we have come to expect from Glancey. Unlike the politicians and the MoD, this man knows what he is doing. --Patrick Bishop, Sunday Telegraph Takes you on a vivid tour through the history of the aircraft and the men and women who created and flew it. --Daily Express'

The above review from the Daily Express highlights the content of science, social history and politics. This is true but I would say that this is the main content with sudden burst of information about the Harrier woven in. It very much feels that the author has managed to associate the Harrier with historical events rather that the other way round.

The book starts with the withdrawal of Harrier service at RAF Cottesmore and a brief insight into the political reasons behind this. Good start. Then when it goes onto give you the thinking behind VTOL aircraft, it descends into a laborious story about magic carpets, Arabian Nights and Hindu gods! It waffles on about airships and Nazi prootype aircraft to name but a few. This would be ok but the references made about this stretches into pages and not paragraphs. I feel that only short concise connections to this history should be made. All padding.

Any mention of a key players turns into a draw out synopsis of their life and references to alternative aircraft types seems to give more information about them than the Harrier. I feel the book flies through the development of the Pegasus engine and the main problems associated with getting the protoypes to fly. Before you know it the book tells us that RAF Germany is equipped with Harriers, they are stationed in Belize and then we're onto the Sea Harrier!

This chapter on the Sea Harrier descends into a chapter about the Falklands war in general with a historical background to the Islands and Argentina dating back to the 1700s! This information merely pads the book out. If I wanted to know a plotted history of Argentina then I would by a book on the subject.

This basically sums up the book as a whole. I'm an avid aviation enthusiast and I feel any aircraft book is aimed at such a person. Therefore a lot of background information can be assumed to be known by the reader (I must stress I'm no aviation expert just well read in the subject) and in some cases aviation books confirm details and 'fill in the blanks' for the reader, this does neither.

A poor attempt at what could be an easy, non-technical, read of one of the UK s greatest technological achievements.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 21, 2014 4:57 PM BST

SABAT (Memoirs of a Cold War Warrior)
SABAT (Memoirs of a Cold War Warrior)
Price: £3.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing changes, 27 April 2012
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Fantastic read which had me in fits of laughter! I joined the RAF in 1999 and spent five years as a Rigger on a squadron and after reading this book it brought back loads of great memories. Its funny how I joined up 25 years after the author and nothing seemed to have changed. I can almost match up people I worked with with those in the book as it seems all squadrons had these characters. Some of the escapades and stories, to the average man on the street, may seem outrageous and but having been a liney myself I can testify that all these stories will be true, those of you who have been a young airman on a squadron know that a certain animal instinct comes out and nothing seems to be taboo, although I must say that some people had greater limits than I.

All in all a great read for all serving and ex-RAF, even civvies who want to know what the real RAF is like. I have just downloaded SABAT 2 so hoping for more of the same.

Upward and Onward: Life of Air Vice-Marshal John Howe CB, CBE, AFC
Upward and Onward: Life of Air Vice-Marshal John Howe CB, CBE, AFC
by Bob Cossey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better, 19 April 2012
I finally purchased this book after having it on my wishlist for many months and was looking forward to finding out about the extraordinary career of AVM Howe, but I was left feeling a little disapointed. I have many biographies from RAF personnel and really enjoy hearing about their exploits and little stories that makes the book 'about' them. I appreciate that this being an biography and not an autobiograhpy that the personal touch isn't there but I felt that it was executed too clinically and didn't really give me a greater insight into exactly what sort of person AVM J Howe is; the only thing I picked up was that he was a hard but fair man but no more than that.
I felt that the book was padded out too much with details about the history of the squadrons, aircraft and stations/posting that John was connected with which made me skip these these paragraphs as to me this was information I already knew. Some people who read this review this may say that fills in the blanks but Im of the opinion that anyone wishing to read a book about the career of a Royal Air Force Air Vice Marshall would at least have sufficient knowledge of the history of the EE Lightning, McDonnell Douglas Phantom and the role of RAFG and the cold war to name but a few. The chapter on his time in Korea was really just a list of entries from John's log book and his time as a FAC during the Suez Crisis rambled on about the history and politics behind this campaign and only made a couple of small referneces to the role he played. To me I felt that it was all unessary padding that could of otherwise be filled with more information about John. There already is an extensive appendix that all this information could be added to.
I had just finished reading Stay the Distance: The Life and Times of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham and comparing the two this book gives a far better insight into the career of an acomplished serviceman, Upward and Onward should have consisted of the same level of content and detail considering he had such a long and interesting career.
All in all a good read but could of been much more.

Boy Entrant; The Recollections of a Royal Air Force Brat
Boy Entrant; The Recollections of a Royal Air Force Brat
Price: £1.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't seem much has changed., 23 Jan. 2012
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Having just bought a Kindle I stumbled across this book whilst browsing for books about the Royal Air Force, and what a good find it was too. I myself served in the Royal Air Force, joining in 1999, and I thought it would be interesting to see what life was like, all be it as a boy entrant, while undergoing initial training and trade training some forty years before my time. I instantly found the book engrossing and from my point of view shocked at how similar the RAF was compared to when I joined at the end of the ninties, 'if it aint boke don't fix it'! Ok, we no longer have pay parade, the technology has moved on and we have stay-brite buttons on the tunics so no more endless polishing, but during my trade training they seemed to teach us about 1950s technology even though it was most definatly obselete by my time (the MK17D oxygen regualtor for those in the know, didnt see that one on a Tornado?!)so maybe somethings don't change. It was interesting to see that the traditions, rules and regs and vocabulary that I used were still the same back in the 50s; so for me I could really empathise with the author, especially seeing as he was fifteen at the time, I was twenty and found it a daunting prospect.
I would throughly recommend this to anyone who has served or has at least an interest in other aspects of the RAF that seem to be overlooked in books and that is the lives of the ordinary airman or airwoman.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2012 7:29 PM GMT

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