Top critical review
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on 22 May 2013
The conflict in Afghanistan has produced some brilliant writing - Ed Macy's "Apache" is probably the standout; not only one of the best-written stories of aerial combat in the country, but probably one of the most gripping and involving books I have ever read. Going back 15 or 20 years, John Peters and John Nichol wrote two superb books ("Tornado Down" and "Team Tornado") about their experiences flying the Tornado in the Gulf and elsewhere. So I had very high hopes about a book describing the deployment of the famous "Dambusters" squadron to Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, the most exciting thing about this book is the picture on the cover... The trouble is that it slowly becomes apparent that 617 Squadron saw very little actual combat while in-country - they dropped no bombs, fired no guns - occasionally they used a £150,000 missile to kill a single enemy soldier (which seems, to say the least, somewhat wasteful) and every now and then they had to fly low over a village to scare the natives. But that's it - fundamentally, this is a book in which nothing really happens. Even the most exciting bits of flying in it are described in less detail (and are shorter) than the bits describing the squadron engineers going to breakfast. As Peters and Nichol demonstrated in "Team Tornado", descriptions of day-to-day life on a Tornado squadron, even in peace-time, can be thoroughly involving - so there's no excuse for a book like this which seems to spend most of its time discussing people having meetings.
This is not to denigrate the men and women of 617 squadron, who were clearly doing a demanding job under difficult and dangerous conditions - but this description of it does them no justice at all, I fear.
If you want to read about aerial combat in Afghanistan, read "Apache" - if you want to read about Tornados in action, read "Tornado Down" or "Team Tornado". On the other hand, if you really want to know what RAF engineers have for breakfast, this is the book for you...