A History of the Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: Vol. 2: North African Desert, February 1942-March 1943

By Werrell, Kenneth P. | Air Power History, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

A History of the Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: Vol. 2: North African Desert, February 1942-March 1943


Werrell, Kenneth P., Air Power History


A History of the Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: vol. 2: North African Desert, February 1942-March 1943. By Christopher Shores et al. London: Grubb Street, 2014. Photographs. Maps. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 736. $50.00 ISBN: 978-1-90916612-7

This is the second of a planned multivolume account of the air war over the Mediterranean during World War II. It covers the North African campaign from February 1942, when the Axis began their victorious advance eastward across Libya, through el Alamein (Oct 1942), to the Axis defeat in Tunisia in May 1943. The focus is on the air war fought over Tunisia and Egypt in conjunction with the British Eighth Army. This battle was waged primarily by Australian, British, South African, and a few American and French units against German and Italian units.

The book was written by an impressive group of British, Italian, Australian, American, and German authors who describe themselves as lifetime enthusiasts. They have produced a work that demonstrates considerable research and exhaustive detail. It is essentially a day-by-day account--a war diary--of the air action that gives a brief overview of the air activities and unit movements and includes many pilot names and many aircraft code letters. Allied and Axis claims (with type of aircraft, location, and time) are listed along with admitted Allied and Axis casualties. Interspersed are a number of pilot accounts of air engagements. The extensive detail and evenhandedness of the book are among its strengths.

Readers can draw a number of observations about the aerial war over North Africa. It was highly mobile with rough living conditions due to the terrain, weather, and supply problems. The overstating and misstating of claims by all air forces is clearly seen, as is the inferiority of the Hurricane and P-40 to the Bf 109. Although sustaining heavy and disproportionate losses (the book unfortunately does not give a sortie count), the Allies appear to have conducted more bombing missions on the Axis forces than the other way around. …

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