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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 18 August 2013
When the RNAS and RFC had been amalgamated into the RAF in 1918 it did not help the RN in the long-term as the RAF had sought to establish an independent identity and reason for its continued existence - strategic bombing. Naval Aviation was neglected and the result was that in 1939 the majority of the aircraft in the Fleet Air Arm were obsolete in comparison to what the USN and IJN operated. The lack of suitable British built naval aircraft is very well illustrated by the fact that in 1944/45 most of the aircraft operating from the British Pacific Fleet's carriers were American.

But what if things had been different? What if the Admiralty had been able to persuade the government to give it control of the FAA several years earlier? This intriguing possibility is the basis for David Row's book.
Much of Volume 1 is taken up with charting the development of aircraft (mainly fictional, but based on real concepts) and new aircraft carriers. Without giving too much away when September 1939 rolls around the RN has a much different carrier arm to what it had historically.

I first came across this story on the Internet and had looked forward to reading it in book form. I've not been disappointed and read it in the space of an evening. If you are looking for a story with character development this is not the book for you, however the lack of characters does not detract from a good story. Instead it reads very much like a history book.

Now if I enjoyed it so much why have I given it four rather than five stars? Well firstly there are quite a few annoying typos. I don't know if Mr Row used an editor, but I think that the book would have benefited from someone to read over it for such errors. Secondly the barbs against the RAF, Bomber Command especially, get wearing after the fourth, or fifth time one reads them.
However those are the only criticism I have of the book and I would still recommend the book highly.
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on 11 November 2013
As a retired Fleet Air Arm officer, I found this book to be a concise and well thought out alternative to actual historic fact. Indeed, if the carrier force had been the size detailed, the new aircraft and their crews, both in the air and on the ground/ship, had been trained and available, the outcome of war at sea throughout the world would indeed have been totally different.
The situation of national/operational control between the FAA and the RAF has never really disappeared, even today.
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on 20 May 2016
The Whale has Wings series (there are also volumes 2 &3) start from an interesting premise - that the Royal Navy regains control of naval aviation from the RAF in the early '30s and by the start of WW2 has a significant carrier force equipped with modern aircraft. The series follows the course of the Second World War through to mid-1942 prior to an alternative Battle of Midway. Unfortunately, although a Volume 4 was promised it has never arrived and the author does not seem to be active any more.

First what it is not: it is not a novel in any conventional sense. There is, I think, just one piece of dialogue in the whole thing and that is on the first page! There are no characters other than military and political leaders. It is written as a series of accounts of the events of the day so you end up with a sort of dry narrative of events with some gloss of the author's views. And the author's views are pretty clear: the Royal Navy (apart from a few old fogies) can do no wrong and the senior ranks of the RAF, and to a lesser extent the Army, are fools at best, evil at worst. Oh, and he does not have much time for the Americans either...In plotting the alternative history there seems to be a fair dollop of wishful thinking. Occasionally things are allowed to go wrong for the Navy but all the big things go right. I like the removal of Dudley Pound from the post of First Sea Lord in 1939/40 by the simple expedient of having him slip on ice leading to his admission to hospital and hence the early detection of his brain tumour!

Having said all that I have to say it kept me reading - I wanted to know how it turned out. Hence the four stars. Finally, as lots of other reviewers have pointed out, they are desperately in need of an editor. The tenses are all over the place and the use of the possessive apostrophe is clearly a mystery to the author but despite being a bit jarring you do get used to these faults and just plough through them.
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on 2 December 2014
An interesting and well considered premise, what if the Royal Navy had gotten control of its own air assets back from the RAF much earlier and was able to plan a competent strategy of what to do with them and also to design aircraft types that it needed as opposed to having to make do with RAF cast-offs or the results of very different priorities?

An idea indeed that I have a lot of sympathy for since I'm rather of the opinion, and I believe that Mr Row is too, that Britain would have done rather better with a continuation of an RFC and a RNAS into 1939 as opposed to what it did actually have. Nothing about the performance of the RAF in WWII particularly disabuses me of that notion and indeed in this novel there are a couple of thinly disguised swipes at the effectiveness of the RAF planes and pilots.

So far so good. So why only three stars? Because while I like the premise the novel isn't a novel so much as it is an alternate timeline and one where it seems British industry of the 1930's was actually capable of much better feats than IRL. Certainly the aircraft types designed for the RN are generally so competent, so much better than virtually anything the RAF have certainly, that you wonder why they simply weren't just adopted wholesale. Were none of the designs duds?

The other weakness of the alternate timeline approach is that there isn't really a human face to the war, it's all just events, albeit entertainingly enough told ones.
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on 31 March 2013
This book explores what happens when the Royal Navy takes back control of the FAA from the RAF it covers the development ogre the ships and planes and the first years of the war well written and researched the war changes are well thought out.

If you are a fan of alt history and if you enjoyed The foresight war. You will enjoy this book.
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on 13 October 2014
Absolutely brillant concept. Really well written with masses of detail. The story as it enfolds is very plausible. Only negative is I read the first three books back to back and i have to wait for book four.
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on 30 April 2013
Almost gave 4 stars but it must be judged as a history book, albeit alternative history, which it more closely resembles. It is almost a pure diary of events relating the advantages given to a Britain which has developed the basis for a carrier navy by the eve of WW2. It is refreshing to read an alt-hist of ww2 which does not feature advantages given the Axis, whether in the form of wonder weapons or the avoidance of strategic errors. However it sorely needs maps and pictures, or at least visual clues to what we are reading about. I am not familiar with naval architecture so it is difficult to translate the dry statistics of an invented carrier (tonnage, size etc) into what it actually looks like. The author could help by giving clues by directing the reader to a picture of a real life carrier (whether post war or non British or otherwise). Also and more importantly, the aircraft need to be given real life equivalents so the reader has a clue what they look like. The author mentions an (invented) FAA aircraft the Goshawk and says it is something between a Spitfire and a Hurrican in performance. That may be so but what does it look like? Again, reference to any real world aircraft either from WW2 or postwar would be great. Even if not in the book itself the author could add this information in a website (which Colin Gee has done with his alt-hist 1945 alt hist WW3 novels Red Gambit. That said, this does not put me off purchasing the follow up novels, but I hope the author can help his readers in future.
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on 10 August 2013
Well written, logically followed through premise. However although the RAF top brass were idiots about the importance of naval aviation during the twenties and thirties they didn't have to be so completely pilloried. Also I have my doubts about the aircraft development as described (It would also have been nice to have seen diagrams and performance data about these even if only in the style of the "Observer book of Airplanes" as actually published during the war.)
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on 7 April 2013
Well written and interesting premise. This is written as a history book not as a work of fiction, it is just the history that is fictional. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the rest of the series. My only negative was the lack of maps, a curse that seems to afflict all the current writers of alternative history
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on 3 April 2014
reads lilke real history, you have to watch carefully for where it subtly deviates from historical fact. Most of the assumptions it then makes are "sensible" and plausible. I love alternative histories but many of them are just stupid with their grossly unrealistic assumptions.

Interested in WW2 naval, particularly from a British Commonwealth point of view (rather than American) then this could be for you. The author is not terribly kind to either the US armed forces or the British Air Force, I think he has somewhat of a royal navy bias :)
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