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on 22 October 2007
I am currently reading this book, and can assure those who are considering purchasing it, that the author does in fact discuss the Spitfire in a fair manner. I have heard the author speak about the book in London, and the comments of two former Battle of Britain Spitfire pilots, who were both convinced of the accuracy of this work. Contrary to what Sean has written, the author does discuss radar and the early warning system, Dowding and RAF command, the change in German strategy during the battle, the role of the Hurricane, and other aircraft, as well as many other points including the politics behind the project. I have not yet finished, but from what I have read so far, I can strongly recommend to anyone who has an interest in both the legend of this famous aircraft, and the true story behind it. I would suggest not taking too seriously the comments of someone who has based their opinion of a 417 page book on a 7 line synopsis.
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on 23 October 2007
Like the aircraft itself, this is an elegant piece of work with a depth of sophistication and understated complexity, totally befitting the subject matter! Unlike 'Mr Tuffet' below, I believe one needs to at least read the subject matter at hand before making such unqualified sweeping statements. Shame on him!..But more importantly, more fool him, as this study of R J Mitchell's finest hour tells the lesser known 'warts and all' story of this historic plane without the usual romanticisms.

From Beaverbrook, to the enlisted men on the ground who all worked so tirelessly to get, and then keep this legend in the air, I found this an enlightening and, at times, somewhat disturbing account of a national icon that quite literally may NEVER have been! One can scarcely imagine it now, but the pre-war blinkered adherence to the 'total bomber' doctrine, the factory workers who at times even refused to put her together mere weeks before The Battle of Britain, and the governments hell-bent attempts to cancel the project, give a huge insight into the somewhat darker 'unglossed' days of this extraordinary aircraft.

The research that has gone into this work is extensive. As a result, the author offers a refreshing new perspective on the conceptualisation, manufacture, and implementation of the beautiful Spitfire design. Fluid, and engrossing, this work is a compelling read. I was sat on my 'Maffett' throughout, eager and hungry for the next chapter!

A must for all those who think they know all there is to know about this amazing plane, and those associated with it. A joy to read !
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on 26 October 2007
I wanted to give this book four stars, but have given it five to counteract the ridiculous one star review given by Sean Moffat below. What on earth possesses someone to write a review of a book they haven't even read? Mr Moffat is reviewing the Amazon blurb, rather than the book - but surely everyone knows that this is written by the publisher, not the author.

Anyway... now that I've got that off my chest, what I really wanted to say was that this was a good solid book about the Spitfire, with the emphasis firmly on the way the plane was produced and modified, but with plenty of in-the-cockpit action as well. It is well-researched, especially the parts describing the chaos at the Supermarine company in the run-up to the war, which meant that far too few Spitfires were produced in time for the Battle of Britain. The author isn't quite Pierre Clostermann, and it's a bit short on tales of derring-do - and the Spitfire's role in the war after 1942 is glanced over fairly quickly - but, as the subtitle says, this is a 'portrait' not a comprehensive history. Still, I reckon he does discuss just about every aspect of this wonderful machine, if only briefly.

In short, it's worth a read.
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on 11 March 2008
This wasn't the book I expected. A better title would have been 'The Spitfire In Action'.

Having read Sharp and Bowyer's book 'Mosquito', I was looking forward to technical details about the aircraft including drawings, photographs and technical data. Photographs there are, but many are conventional three-quarter views from a distance. There is much mention of the cramped cockpit and poor visibility but no pictures. There is a lot of description of the technically brilliant stressed metal wings, but no photos or drawings, even of the highly criticised fabric-covered ailerons and their metal replacements. This is not a book for the propellor-head who wants to know about the engineering of the machine. It would have been interesting to see how the components were made.

What you do get is a thorough account of the various battles and events of World War Two and the often destructive political and personality clashes that lay behind the war effort. Leo McKinstry is excellent at describing the people involved and how they fought or co-operated. He is not afraid to make judgements. The reader is left in no doubt of his admiration for the Spitfire's designer Mitchell and for Churchill, Beaverbrook and Dowding, and of course the heroic men who flew. He makes his case well. He also spends much time adjudicating on the vexed matter of whether it was the Hurricane or the Spitfire that was the more significant.
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on 12 August 2008
As somene who flew, albeit very briefly, two Marks of Seafire and two Marks of Spitfire I found the book a very satisfying read. It had been well written and well researched. Friends to whom the book waa passed were impressed. All I might add is that when I flew a Vampire MkI back in 1949 I was reminded of the Seafire IIIl so much that I jumped at the chance of a place on No 208 Squadron with its MkXVIIIs: this book evoked long forgotten memories and that cannot suggest a negative review!
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on 5 October 2009
Unfortunately, this book has many technical mistakes. The text doesn't even have the correct serial number for the prototype, despite the fact that there is a picture of the machine.

If you're looking for a book which describes the technical features of this aircraft, and it's development, this is NOT the book for you.

If you want to know more about the politics and squabbling about the initial development and production of the aircraft, this may be for you, with the caveat that there are a number of technical inaccuracies, which leads to questioning about what else may be wrong.

Some very nice photographs, but (again) the labelling for a lot of them is wrong.

A shame, really. With some better proof reading, this could have been a much better book.
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on 8 January 2014
I served with 93 Squadron from 1942 to 1945 and had my memory well stirred, Wilf Sizer the first CO and Wilf Duncan Smith G/Capt. Of 324 Wing, among one or two I knew, not forgetting ,then, Sgt Ray ,Baxter. Wonderful aircraft,more difficult to maintain than the Hurricane though,read that book.too. As a hands on person, did not agree with everything written, but maybe that was picky. Did 37 years with the Air Force,.last job! Getting the Tornado into service..
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on 10 November 2014
This is a welll-written history of the Spitfire from beginning to end. For anybody who is seriously interested in aircraft histories including all the machinations and dithering of the government of the time they will not be disappointed. It goes into basic detail of the Supermarine history so you get a little more than the basic story but this is needed to understand RJ's story up to his death and the legend that lived on.

It incorporates pilots comments to great advantage and also some of the German pilots as well.

An excellent read and I highly recommend it.
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on 10 July 2015
An extremely well researched and well written account of the development of the Spitfire, its role in the Battle of Britain and beyond. Individual accounts taken from pilots' private diaries add to the portrayal of those desperate times. Certainly not just a 'gung-ho' account of bravery: on the contrary, it analyses the errors on both sides - and there were more than a few.. Not the first book I have read on the topic, it offers interesting and novel insights into the huge difficulties convincing those with a 'bomber mindset ' to even get the Spitfire off the drawing board of the designer, R.J Mitchell: it questions the strategy of Sir Hugh Dowding (more than doubtful in some surprising ways) and assesses the effect of the clash between his lieutenants, Keith Park and Leigh Mallory. Academic but hugely readable. Great stuff !!
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on 24 June 2013
Leo Mckinstry has really done his homework, he has assembled a mass of factual data and threaded it together with historical opinion, personal observations and acute summaries into a fascinating and interesting story.
We all know the part the Spitfire played but his spotlight swings over the design, engineering, political and management crises that I must admit after reading make me wonder how we ever got this wonderful machine into production. He sprinkles this with often amusing anecdotes and tales of personal heroism and dedication on the ground as well as in the air.
I must admit to having a 'soft spot' for the Spitfire but even so I took this book on with some trepidation expecting to find myself bored fairly early on but Leo's mix of scenarios and data did not allow that to happen and although like us all I knew the end I found myself wanting to read on to find out what happened next. A real test of a good storyteller.
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