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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fundamental reference book on WW2 Desert Air War
A major revision of an old classic, originally pubblished in the seventies and dedicated to the aerial warfare over the desert from 1940 to 1942. The author, exhaustive and authoritative as usual, has been able to actually turn his work into a must-have reference book for anyone having an interest in this argument. The italian co-authoring by Giovanni Massimello, equally...
Published on 9 Aug 2012 by Paolo

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Patchy
Slightly disappointing. Although reasonably comprehensive in coverage of day to day operations, the style is repetitive. It inevitably lacks any real strategic analysis as the air element was secondary to ground operations in the theatre. In the past there would have been an erratum slip covering the many instances of sloppy editing. Incidentally, the embedding of...
Published 16 months ago by OldSchoolie


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fundamental reference book on WW2 Desert Air War, 9 Aug 2012
By 
Paolo (Milan, Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
A major revision of an old classic, originally pubblished in the seventies and dedicated to the aerial warfare over the desert from 1940 to 1942. The author, exhaustive and authoritative as usual, has been able to actually turn his work into a must-have reference book for anyone having an interest in this argument. The italian co-authoring by Giovanni Massimello, equally authoritative, is a wellcome addition to the current edition, offering a real guarantee that even the Italian counterpart has been accurately researched and reported and contributing to a better and complete picture of the day-by-day operational situation of that particular theatre of war. Volume 2, covering the later war years, being also expected at a later stage. Highly Recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterly treatment of a difficult subject, 16 Sep 2012
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Mr. Edward G. Negus "Geoffrey Negus" (Solihull, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
Christopher Shores has been writing about the World War Two aerial conflict in the North African/Mediterranean sphere for four decades. He must be considered one of the most knowledgeable - if not THE most knowledgeable author on the subject. His writing style is clear and easy. Giovanni Massimelo and Russell Guest are worthy stable-mates.

The authors manage to explain high-level strategy as well to convey the acute discomfort of war in the desert. I particularly enjoyed the well-chosen extracts - some of which are allowed to run to several pages - from participants' memoirs. The entry of the Luftwaffe, the doomed Cretan business, Operations Battlaxe and Crusader, RAF night bombing, the Axis raids on the Nile delta area and the operations around Tripoli are all here.

The day-by-day format that has served Shores well in previous books is used again - at the end of each day's summary are tables of the relevant claims and casualties. This, together with the really thorough index, means you should be able to pin down a particular encounter or follow the involvement of a pilot or unit without difficulty.

There are 560 solidly packed pages, plenty of photographs of both the aircraft and personalities, and maps of the area under discussion as and when you come to need them.

The jacket says that Volume Two will cover the North African Desert War from 1 February 1942 to 31 March 1943. I genuinely can't wait.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Promising start for new series, 21 Jun 2013
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R. P. Carter (edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
This yet another great book that gives the straight facts without any glossy fiction to entertain you. It gives the day to day facts and interpretation of the fog of war to give the reader as true a picture of what really happened in this area of operations in the second world war. I found this entertaining and informative. If you want anything other than concise documentation then this is not for you. If you want the facts and only the facts then this will be the book for you. Personally I am looking forward to the rest of the series which I understand will be 8 books released one a year over the next 8 years.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile, 3 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
As usual with Christopher Shores this is an immaculately researched and presented book giving a very detailed, mostly chronological, account of the first 18 months of the air war in the Med.Well illustrated with a large number of new (at least to me) photographs reasonably well reproduced. Excellent
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Patchy, 29 April 2013
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
Slightly disappointing. Although reasonably comprehensive in coverage of day to day operations, the style is repetitive. It inevitably lacks any real strategic analysis as the air element was secondary to ground operations in the theatre. In the past there would have been an erratum slip covering the many instances of sloppy editing. Incidentally, the embedding of requests to "see... (my other books)"in the text is a regular irritation as the designer appears not to have heard of footnotes.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wealth of research and detail. A reborn Classic!, 15 Dec 2012
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C. Simmonds (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
I have the original copy of Chris Shores work and I can that the authors have in the new volume done an immense amount of work adding new information, correcting old mistakes and leading us into a far clearer understanding of the complex air war of the Western Desert. Format is a day by day blow by blow straightforward account of the action as it unfolded. If you are looking for a mass of personal accounts and reminiscences then you will be disappointed, likewise if you want colour profiles and pages upon pages of detailed photos, again you will be disappointed. The photos that are support the text adequately and it must be remembered that this is a standard reference book not a coffee table album. As an excellent reference book it succeeds very well as had its predecessor. Greatly looking forward to Volume 2.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not for the fainthearted, 2 Dec 2012
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M. Steedman (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
Although this is a rewrite of his earlier book covering this period and area, it is clear the author has spoken to more people, as a result of his earlier account.
However the main reason for the rewrite is the release of previous secret documents, not least of which was the enigma decripts.
The book is one of a set that all follow the same format, concentrating on an area of operations and giving a day to day account of air activity on that day. Clearly reference has to be made to the ground campaigns but the book concentrates on the air war.
The book heavily cross references other books in the series, when activities covered by that book effect the events in this. An example is aircraft moving between the desert and Malta, when the air war over Malta is covered in other books
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 30 July 2014
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
Excellent book, worth the cost
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A must have, but very far from being the "definitive" work, 11 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
Since my rule is "de proximo tuo, aut bene aut nihil", I hate writing negative reviews. This is particularly true in a case like this, where the Authors have been - and still are - so fundamental in my erudition. I felt nevertheless obliged to write this unpleasant review, after reading so many laudatory ones which apparently ignore what could (and should) have been better done to easily write the true "definitive" book that every aviation enthusiast waits for.

The major faults of this work are that it does not take into account all the known combats of the campaign, that it ignores many useful details and that it is crammed with (chiefly) minor yet annoying errors which spoil an otherwise unique book (nothing so vast and ambitious has been attempted so far). Of course, the Authors could have decided to select only the most significant facts: this would have been reasonable, had they explained the criteria of their choice. On the contrary, the reader can't understand why he doesn't find actions which have been thoroughly described not only in primary sources (that the Authors could have perhaps overlooked) but even in recent books published in English (which seem more accurate in their respective, if sectoral, fields). Being particularly keen on the Italian Regia Aeronautica, I refer to Slongo and Gustavsson's Desert Prelude 1940-41: Early Clashes (2010) and Desert Prelude 2: "Operation Compass" (White Series) (2011), concerning the first 8 months of air war in North Africa, and to Michele Palermo's North Africa Air Battles, November-December, 1941 (2011), concerning Operation Crusader. These important books are not mentioned in the bibliography and seem to have not been consulted, even though the name of Slongo appears among the acknowledged people. Moreover, little use (if any) has been apparently done of No 51 Repair Salvage Unit and 103 Maintenance Unit diaries, which could have otherwise much helped in discovering the true fate of many Commonwealth aircraft actually shot down in combat but not listed as such in their respective Squadron Operation Record Books.

The following is meant to be a by no means complete list of errata, but only an exemplification of what I found missing or wrong, when randomly comparing the narrative of this book with a primary source as Air Historical Branch, Air Ministry, "R.A.F. Narrative (First Draft), The Middle East Campaigns, Volume I, Operations in Libya and the Western Desert, September 1939 to June 1941", and with said "Desert Prelude" and "North Africa Air Battles".

Page 11, "Royal Air Force Middle East [...] fielded just 29 squadrons equipped with around 300 aircraft". I scratch my head, since in the aforementioned AHB's official narrative (page 177, Annex) I read: "In July [1940] the total strength of the operational aircraft under his [Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Middle East, Air Marshal Longmore] command, excluding units of the South African Air Force in Kenya, was approximately as follows: Fighters [...], 160; Army Co-operation [...], 45; Medium Bombers [...], 260; Heavy or Transport Bombers [...], 35; Flying Boats [...], 10; [TOTAL], 510".

Page 17, the Breda 65 was not "armed with four 12.7 mm", but with two 12.7 mm plus two 7.7 mm.

Page 24, 12 June 1940, "a direct hit on the elderly cruiser San Giorgio. The vessel caught fire". Even the AHB's Narrative had been more cautious about that hit: "A large ship believed to be the old cruiser San Giorgio was set on fire" (p. 35). In fact the ship survived the 4.52-5.02 hr attack unscathed, as every history of the famous cruiser explains.

Page 28, 21 June 1940, no mention of the action of Balbo in person, which, much in future Rommel's style, jumped down his personal SM.79, ordered to attack the Morris armoured car which was menacing the airstrip, captured it, climbed on the turret to address his soldiers and brought back to Tobruk in his plane the PoW's he had just made (Slongo, page 45).

Page 29, 25-27 June 1940. Four lines for three days of operations. Unless he owns Desert Prelude (I, pp. 50-51), the reader misses: the action by four CR.32s in the Amseat area and the British bombing of Tobruk on the 25th; the loss of one of the two SM.82s supplying Cufra, and the leaflets dropping mission by a SM.79 on the 26th; the SM.79s action in Sollum area, the Ba.65s attack in the Sidi Omar area, and the bombing on Sidi Barrani and Buq-Buq by 20 SM.79s on the 27th.

Page 39, 25 July 1940 (and p. 41, 1 August 1940), it was not Gladiator N5783 to be lost, but Gladiators N5768 and L9046 (see Gustavsson and Slongo's Gladiator vs CR.42 Falco 1940-41: 47 (Duel), page 48).

Pag. 40, 28 July 1940, "in the absence of any RAF claims for such an aircraft [Ro.37bis], it is assumed that this too fell to ground fire". No: Lysander L4719 reported the destruction on the ground of two aircraft and the machine-gunning of the crew (Desert Prelude, I, 88).

Page 76, 13 november 1940, Wikipedia would have sufficed to ascertain that the Italian raid on Alexandria hit the destroyer Decoy (sent to Malta for repairs which lasted until 1 February 1941).

Page 82, at the start of December 1940 "202 Group [...] provided a total of 48 fighters and 116 bombers". Unconvincing. According to the "Order of Battle Egypt/Libya - November 30th, 1940 [actually 8 December]", in AHB's Narrative (Appendix VI), No. 202 Group had: 36 Hurricanes in establishment plus 10 in reserve; 24 Gladiators I.E. plus 8 I.R.; 48 Blenheims I.E. plus 24 I.R.; 20 Lysanders I.E. plus 8 I.R.; 6 Gauntlets I.E.. H.Q. RAF M.E. had: 16 Wellingtons I.E. plus 4 I.R.; 8 Bombays I.E. plus 2 I.R.. No 274 Squadron had 16 Hurricanes I.E. plus 4 I.R.. No. 201 Group had 6 Sunderlands I.E. plus 0 I.R.; 3 Wellingtons I.E. plus 1 I.R.. Total is 76 fighters I.E. plus 22 I.R. and 75 two-engine bombers I.E. plus 31 I.R. According to AHB, Appendix XIX, serviceable in the M.E. (Mediterranean excluded) on 1st December were: 35 Hurricanes, 36 Gladiators, 41 Blenheims, 33 Wellingtons, 27 Lysanders, 9 Bombays, 8 Valentias, 5 Gauntlets.

Page 95, 14 December 1940, a missed occasion to emend an old error. Contrary to what has been often written (allegedly 50 CR.42s), the carnage of the Blenheims was in fact caused by only 11 biplanes: in Desert Prelude (II, 59-60) the reader even finds how many rounds each fighter fired.

Page 129, "During the period from 1 January-15 March, actual deliveries of aircraft to Egypt and Sudan had been as follows: [...] Hurricanes 0". Zero? According to AHB's Narrative, p. 186, "During January the air situation improved with the arrival in Egypt of 23 Blenheims, 50 Hurricanes and 3 Wellingtons", "Fifty Hurricanes had arrived in January, bringing the total arrivals to 137" (p. 187), "The position at the end of March was in fact none too promising from the Middle East point of view. Only 19 Hurricanes had arrived since the end of January" (p. 189). According to Playfair, "Arrivals of Reinforcement Aircraft in the Middle East (including those for Malta) by all Routes", The Mediterranean and Middle East Volume II, HMSO, 1956, Appendix 7, p. 361, the figures for the Hurricanes had been 44 in January, 30 in February, 13 in March (all of them via Takoradi).

Page 284, 1 November 1941, the action fought between 174 Sq. RST (recce) and No 18 and 107 Sqn. is missing. It is significant that a single SM.79, escorting a freighter and a torpedo boat, hindered the bombing by 6 Blenheims, saved both ships and, acting as a heavy fighter, damaged at least two bombers (see Palermo's book, page 25).

Page 301, 11 November 1941, the second attack was carried out by No 12 (not 21) SAAF Sqn., the "Bf 109s" were in fact one G.50 of 360 Sq., whose pilot (ten. Caracciolo Carafa) slightly damaged 3 Marylands firing all 600 rounds and was hit in the propeller hub by return fire (Palermo, 51).

Page 307, 15 November 1941, missing are: 5 damaged Blenheims of No 113 Sqn., one Ju.88 force landed in the desert and later recovered, all Ju.88s admitted damaged by fighters (Palermo, 57).

Page 315, 20 November 1941, the some 18 Italian and German Stukas were escorted by 19 (forgotten) G.50s of 155 Gr. (T.Col. Bianchi) as close cover; ten. Galfetti even claimed hits on a fighter at which he fired 150 rounds (Palermo, 75,79).

Page 319, 21 November 1941, 3 Mc.200s of 373 Sq. met some Wellingtons, and cap. Radini claimed one probable (Palermo, 85).

Page 376, 9 December 1941, the attack by 4 MC.202s of 17 Gruppo against 6 Marylands of No 12 SAAF Sqn. is missing. The Italians fired 800 rounds and two Marylands were admittedly slightly damaged (Palermo, 229).

Chapter 12 is another part of the book full of gaps. Not only many British night raids on Italian-held Libyan cities are not listed (see, just as one example, the first week of December 1941), but no description of the results is given. On the contrary, it would have sufficed to look at the War Diary of Italian Supreme HQ (a monumental, 18-tome edition published since 1986 by the Historical Branch of Italian Army) to easily find recorded every air attack, with (if any) AA claims, description of ships, aircraft and buildings destroyed or damaged, and the number of victims and casualties (civilians and military, Italians and Libyans).

Page 506, 23 December 1941, "Blenheim... claimed... shot down into the sea 30 miles off [Tripoli]. No aircraft of this type was reported lost in this area by the RAF". Really? According to a certain Shores (Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Hardcover series (7101), p. 354) it was Maryland BS766 of No 69 Sqn, which crash-landed without survivors: "The observer's log book was recovered from the wreck and this indicated that the Maryland had been intercepted and damaged by fighters".

I hope the narrative concerning the Luftwaffe and Commonwealth air forces have no such errors and omissions.

All in all, this book is very useful (and I recommend the buy), but for general reference only. If you are looking for a trustworthy text that describes the campaigns in detail and leaves no stone unturned (hard task in a rocky desert!), you risk to be as disappointed as I was.

Nevertheless, I will buy for sure the second volume: A History of the Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945 Volume 2: North African Desert, February 1942 - March 1943.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Chris Shores classic, 13 April 2013
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This review is from: Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: North Africa, June 1940 - January 1942 v. 1 (Hardcover)
Really, I'm just at the stage of buying everything Chris has published! Outstanding day by day account of the air war in the desert, up to his usual standards
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