15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2011
Beneath its striking cover this book is a fascinating examination of the Luftwaffe's final bombing campaign against London and other British cities in early 1944, Operation Steinbock.
In 1940-41 the highly trained Luftwaffe bomber crews had met very little opposition operating over the UK at night. The RAF lacked a suitable night fighter, radar to equip it with, and ground control to direct it. This situation gradually changed until by 1944 the RAF was almost as able to defend the night skies as it was the day. This increase in RAF power was matched by changes in Luftwaffe effectiveness. New aircraft such as the Ju 188, He 177 and Me 410 had been introduced, duppel (window) and new electronic aids were available, but these advances were offset by a decline in average pilot skill. This book describes what happened when these two greatly changed air forces again met in major combat over Britain.
The account begins with a 33 page introduction which looks at the history of German bombing of Britain up to 1944. This is followed by 360 pages which describe, day by day and raid by raid, the German offensive from its start in January to its final petering out in the summer. An overview of each raid is given followed by details of Luftwaffe losses giving individual aircraft and the names and fates of their crews. The authors are often able to link RAF night fighter combat reports to specific aircraft shot down.
Scattered through this chronological account are sections describing elements of the campaign in more detail. For example the authors note the damage sometimes sustained by Mosquitoes due to debris from their targets, describe the German 'Egon' navigation system and discuss prisoner interrogation. The book is copiously illustrated with photographs. Many of these show the remains of aircraft brought down over land or are portraits of their crewmen.
This section shows quite clearly how far the German bomber force had declined. The Luftwaffe's targets were, with the exception of Hull, very close to occupied Europe. Yet the standard of navigation had declined so much that some crews could not even find London. The raids on Bristol where a fiasco - only when German radio 'talked of swathes of devastation visited on the city' did the British realise that it had been the target as the bombing was so widely scattered. The increased lethality of the defences is also clear as Luftwaffe percentages losses were usually in double figures despite the short time spent in British airspace. This heavy attrition whittled down the Steinbock force to such an extent that the operation rapidly fizzled out as fewer and fewer aircraft became available. Five appendixes round off the volume.
The book has a few flaws. The lists of aircraft lost include operational losses over Europe and reconnaissance Bf 109s shot down Scapa Flow so covers more than Steinbock losses, but the authors nowhere state what selection criteria they used. A few more maps showing the routes of raids would also have been very useful, as would more on the ground based defences - radar and anti-aircraft guns. More importantly there is no glossary, index, bibliography or (astonishingly) even a table of contents, so using the book as a reference will be very difficult.
Thankfully these omissions do not detract much from a readable and thorough examination of Steinbock. The history of the raids is given in enough detail that the reader can easily understand how the various factors which came in to play led to a costly defeat for the Luftwaffe and make their own comparisons with Bomber Command's own night offensive proceeding in parallel.
Interested readers might like to try 'Night Fighter' by C.F. Rawnsley who briefly flew Mosquitoes during Steinbock, and 'Building Radar' by Colin Dobinson which has a chapter describing how Britain's early warning radar network fared.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2011
I picked this up via "Amazon recommendations" , until then I was unaware of the book being in print.
Published by Red Kite(Uk) , the book was produced in Poland , good quality paper ,the font size is good, illustrations are clearly reproduced , binding is first class and the construction of the book is good and solid.
Simon Parry one of the authors was instrumental in the Luftwaffe research which went into After The Battle's excellent trilogy "The Blitz, Then and Now" and along with Ron MacKay they have produced a work which is hard to fault.
On a night by night basis they link RAF, Luftwaffe , local records and first hand accounts to produce a solid history of the last major German bombing of Uk cities.
The book reads well , it is never boring, and produces a very balanced account of what was for the Luftwaffe) a losing battle from the start.
The "reply" to Bomber Commands attack on Germany simply could not be matched the resources and experienced air crew simply did not exist and when you see the faces of the young German airmen lost it brings this home.
The authors point out that the Luftwaffe returns for 1944 survived only in part and that to construct this book a great many records German, British and American) have been consulted, merged and really this book is very hard to fault.
You could say that some information on the various types of Luftwaffe aircraft and maps showing bases from which they operated but I dare say anyone buying this book will have that information to hand and will consider this in itself quite basic.
(The book contains a quite revealing view by the RAF on the HE-177 which is worth reading).
Worth buying - well I would buy it again no questions asked, very impressed with the format and content of the book.
( I would agree with Howard (Mitchell) some listing of the sources etc would have been a good ending to the book).
A quick word on the publishers , they only do good quality aviation books eg Theo Boiten's excellent "NJG War Diaries".
If you can get a copy of Simon Parry's book "Intruders Over Britain: Luftwaffe Night Fighter Offensive, 1940-45" (Airlife) it is a good one to read along side
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2014
I bought this to research air attacks over Somerset in 1944 (to try and trace the source of some ammunition cartridges found S of Bristol). But it was a fascinating book covering all the major raids in quite a lot of detail. It seems this is the only historical work on these raids.
The book is data rich and my only criticisms relate to the presentation of the material: showing a map of each raid would be a nice context, for example.
Overall: highly recommended for those interested in WW2 air warfare over Europe.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2011
Excellent research on topic with rare pictures. A detailed survey of the last air offensive against the British Islands provides insight in what happened during spring of 1944. What makes it desireable for modellers are the pictures of German bombers involved which give good ideas of camouflage and mmarkings.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2013
Delivered on time. A most interesting and well produced account of the last days of the Luftwaffe, 'The Last Blitz is an excellent reference book for professional historians and aviation enthusiasts in general.