Sunday 24 March 2024

best new Luftwaffe books - Axis Wings Vol I, JG 2 -In the skies of France Vol 6, Airframe Album 20 - He 177, Day Fighter Aces 1943-45, JG 77 'Herz As' Aérojournal 'special' issue

...I am lucky enough (?!) to live just a short train journey away from the Aviation Bookshop in Tunbridge Wells, Kent (on the Eastbourne/Hastings line from London Victoria if you fancy the trip) Probably no exaggeration to say that on occasion it is difficult to get in through the front door for the sheer amount of  books piled high. Proprietor Simon Watson and his staff (Justin and Gary) have a veritable Aladdin's cave of books and models for the enthusiast!  Despite what some may think, Luftwaffe books still sell very well I'm told -  apparently it is a fact that for every six WWII aviation books sold, 3 will be Luftwaffe, 2 deal with USAF subjects and only one out of the six will cover RAF history and aircraft. And if you've ever wondered - for example - why there was never a 'Dewoitine D.520 Aces' title in the Osprey 'Aces' series, now you can probably guess why. In fact Aéro-Journal editor and Osprey author Chris Ehrengardt once told me his own 'Ms 406 Aces' book was 'officially' one of Osprey's worst-selling titles.  My purchases from my latest visit to Simon's emporium;

1. Axis Wings  - The Luftwaffe and co-belligerent air forces' Compendium (Launch Edition) - Chandos

Compiled/designed by the (top notch) team that work on all Chandos (and Classic) Pubs books, this is the new bi-annual 'journal' or 'compendium' covering Luftwaffe and Axis aviation subjects in English. Long overdue. A must buy, especially if you want to see more issues and kudos to Rich Carrick for taking the risk because putting together something like this cannot have been cheap. Or necessarily easy. According to the Introduction this first volume is a 'prototype' and will serve as a 'platform' for 'new' authors and 'old hands' who may have articles that are too 'specialised' for a regular magazine and too short for a book. In Volume I there are 184 large-format pages and a wide ranging collection of features also covering pre-war (Victoria Taylor on the National Socialist Flieger Korps (NSFK) - "..Intended as a preparatory school for the Luftwaffe, NSFK personnel delivered both theoretical and practical aeronautical training to young aviators. More sinisterly, however, they also intertwined their instruction with virulent Nazi ideology and propaganda.") and Spanish civil war subjects (Junkers W 34 in Spain). Elsewhere in this issue there are lengthy articles on the Nachtjagdstaffel Finland/Nachtjagdstaffel Norwegen (NJG 3 Ju 88s), Sonderstaffel Einhorn and III./KG 200 (a 'kamikaze' unit specialising in bridge attacks) and a detailed account of a KG 40 He 177 convoy attack with Hs 293 glide bombs. Production quality is of course a given. Nice to see too that some photos are reproduced LARGE by tipping them sideways. If I have one (minor) criticism - and you've got to have at least one haven't you? - I am not a 'fan' of artwork across two pages when the binding is as tight as it has to be here. Looking forward though to getting to grips with the contents. Certainly not 'run-of-the-mill' and I hope to learn much. On the very last page of 'Axis Wings' there is a listing of planned contents for Vol 2 so I am very much looking forward to that, especially the article on Gustav Francsi. The compendium is edited by the leading author on Luftwaffe subjects Mr Robert Forsyth. Perhaps we might see something on  Vichy D.520s one day? As my friend Simon put it, " Axis Wings Volume I has the look and feel of a Crecy Classic book and has some really interesting and diverse articles written by a fabulous group of old/new Luftwaffe experts. Volume 2 later this year looks like it will raise the bar again.." 

2. Day fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe - Knight's Cross holders 1943-45 by Jeremy Dixon

This is the second of a two-volume series published by Pen and Sword and very neat it is too! The author has compiled a series of biographies of (single-engine) day fighter pilots based on 'kill' tallies (and the award of the RK) illustrated in the main with portrait photos. The text is detailed and while the font is indeed a little small, it is not too difficult to read at all. One criticism I do have is that the German unit designations are 'translated' into English throughout, which in some cases might make it a little difficult to know what the 'original' unit title might have been. Fortunately ranks are not translated. Quite why you would want to write " the Staffelfuhrer of the 10th squadron of the third Group " (and not 10./JG 3) is anybody's guess. Anyone following the subject will know that some aces' victory totals has been revised downwards over recent years and all credit to the author for pointing this out where necessary; ie Walther Dahl's 'usual' total of 128 includes at least 25 that no-one can account for! Dixon doesn't credit him with one hundred either which rather reflects the view of the historian of JG 300. The extensive bibliography is an indicator that the author has done his 'research' here. Although talking of JG 300, Bretschneider's 'parachute suspended over a ravine' story is repeated (from Rusack's fanciful 'Der Landser' account). Other than that, the publisher has chosen a title that is more or less the same as a two volume set published by Casemate three years ago, although Dixon's two books only feature Ritterkreuz holders. Think of these as " Obermaier updated" and in English and you get the picture. Overall, one of the better 'Aces' titles and a  very readable hardback - which always tend to sell better than softback or card-cover titles according to a book seller I know - featuring a fantastic jacket design/illustration courtesy Jon Wilkinson. Only one problem there - the Emil (and portrait) on the cover is Wick's and he was KIA in November 1940 of course. Recommended..

3. 'Dans le ciel de France' - histoire de la JG 2 Richthofen - Volume 6 1944-45 by Erik Mombeeck

Erik Mombeeck concludes his multi-volume history of JG 2. This might be of interest to you if you can read French. Alternatively wait for some-one to do a new single-volume history of JG 2 in English.  Mombeeck has had no success whatsoever in promoting his own work. I expect that will be the case for this last volume in this series. Although those enthusiasts who buy everything with Dora-9 pictures may rush out and buy it. Especially as Volume III of the JaPo Dora series may or may not be coming some time in the near future. This volume 6 follows on from the battle for Normandy as an eviscerated JG 2 fell back to Germany for rest and refit, before being thrown into the defence (proper) of the Reich, converting onto the Dora-9, participating in the Bodenplatte operation and being eviscerated all over again. 1945 is covered in four chapters, " Bodenplatte", " The sinking ship", "Remagen" and "The debacle" that run from pages 63 -175, while the last 35 pages are filled with various appendices, including an index of names covering all six volumes. So a relatively slim and very expensive volume. While there appears to be a number of 'new' images,  some of them are very grey, with detail lost in the 'fog' of poor reproduction. But then of course there were more pressing matters to attend to than decent photography in the last months of the war. This last book in the series features a bibliography and an extensive 'Thank you' list. This blogger is also thanked, possibly for his English translation of Volume I (which apparently didn't sell - where have I heard that before? - but is available at exorbitant prices on ebay) and Volume II (not published). 

4. The Heinkel He 177 Greif - Airframe album 20 by Richard Franks (Valiant Wings)

This 194-page A-4 softback subtitled " a detailed guide to the Luftwaffe's troubled strategic bomber "- is just published and it looks pretty amazing. A real 'nuts & bolts' book, comprising page after page of mind-blowing detail, (handbook) images and drawings (pages 32-157). There are some 23 pages of 'camouflage and markings' profile artworks (none of which run across two pages), a Libor Jekl model build and some good pictures of the (French) He 274. The amount of 'work' in this volume is frankly mind-boggling. I've no idea how Richard Franks keeps up his schedule, he must have hundreds of helpers. At first glance and at £26 this is a 'must-buy' for anyone interested in the type. 

5. JG 77 Herz-As - Aéro-Journal hors-série by Pierre André Brouez

As close as it gets to a single volume 'history' of JG 77 by a writer/researcher with a name new to me - but still not in English. What is Tony Holmes waiting for? A 112-page A-4 format softback with masses of photos and around 30 profile artworks. Great images, most of which will be unknown to many and only 15 euros. A friend of this blog once said to me, 'why review stuff in French? Nobody reading your site is interested'. I happen to know though that my 'reviews' of French books have resulted in sales as far afield as Australia - postage prices permitting, I'm sure this one will be heading there too! Simon unfortunately doesn't have this one in stock at the moment, my copy came directly from the publisher's web site.

Otherwise the titles above are available from the Aviation Bookshop here