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mise en ligne: vendredi 3 avril 2009



Boulton Paul Defiant (part 1)
Allied Wings N°8

Phil Listemann & Andrew Thomas

 
   

 

 


- Lire l’article en français

This, the eighth booklet of P. Listemann’s “Allied Wings” series, is dedicated to the Boulton Paul Defiant and its service during 1940 as a day-fighter with 264 Squadron and 141 Squadron of the RAF.

The authors have thus limited themselves to the unique deployment of the Defiant as a purely turret-equipped fighter through initial successes during the Battle of France period and the later disappointing and costly missions flown during the Battle of Britain. Subsequent use of the aircraft as a night-fighter, a target-tug or an air-sea-rescue aircraft is not within the scope of this book. The first four pages describe the concept, prototype development and tardy service introduction of the fighter ; intended to supplement the eight-gun Spitfire & Hurricanes of Fighter Command. The basic airframe of the Defiant was good – but lacking fixed forward-firing armament and when fitted with the turret - it could fulfil neither the expectations of the designers nor those of the RAF when flown under the combat conditions prevailing in the summer and autumn of 1940

In the usual “Allied Wings” style units and their operational histories are described in sequence. Twenty pages cover the ops flown as daylight fighter units by 264 and 141 Squadrons.

264 Squadron formed in October 1939 to bring the Defiant into RAF service, though the first Defiants were only delivered in December of that year. Due to various technical problems with the aircraft the Squadron was only declared operational in March 1940. The book describes how prior to March tactics were developed and practised, to utilize what was considered at that time to be the advantage of the Defiant – the four gun turret. It was foreseen that enemy (bomber) aircraft could be overhauled on a parallel course – met on a beam attack – or shot at whilst diving in front of their formation. Defence against enemy fighter aircraft was envisaged as adopting the popular 1930’s concept of flying a defensive circle. Operations commenced on 10 May 1940. During that month whilst flying missions with Spitfires over the Dutch coast the Squadron gained its first victories (bombers) and suffered the first losses ; five of six aircraft being shot down by Bf109s on 13th May. Flying from Manston at the end of May the squadron was covering the BEF evacuation zones – flying patrols over Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne. The authors describe the iconic action of the 29th May when Bf109’s who had mistaken the Defiants for Hurricanes and thus made attacks from behind - were shot down by the turrret gunners. Further actions over Dunkirk with claims and losses – established that co-ordination and R/T communication between Defiants and their Hurricane / Spitfire escorts was not good. The activities of 264 during June & July 1940 are then described – as the Battle of Britain commenced. – but it was not until late August that the squadron’s Defiants would again be involved in major air-combats – which despite individual successes - evidenced the vulnerability of the aircraft to Bf109s when their formation was broken.

141 Squadron was also formed in October 1939 but it had to wait until April 1940 before receiving the first Defiants – so it was declared operational only in June – thus missing the combats over the Netherlands and French ports. The first op was flown oat the end of June 1940. Based at West-Malling during most of July – 141 Squadron was in the frontline of the Battle of Britain and on the 19th July was mauled badly be the Bf109s of III./JG51 losing six aircraft and was withdrawn from operations to recover. After moving to Prestwick in Scotland ops were flown during August – more and more at night – which would become the true rôle of the Defiant in the subsequent months. At the end of August 1940 the Defiant was withdrawn from use as a day-fighter – its loss rate having proved to be unacceptably high

A further page of text lists the second-line units which flew the Defiant during 1940 and is followed by the operational diary listing sortie totals of both Squadrons.

Tables, maps & listings in the by now recognizable “Allied Wings” pastel background style present ; the UK bases flown from ; claims list of both units for May to-August 1940 ; aircraft lost on operations with crew details, aircraft lost by accident ; individual airframe service from being taken on and being struck off Squadron service during the period and the Roll of Honour of all aircrew killed up to 31st August 1940

Richly illustrated the reader will find forty interesting b/w photographs – many of which showing crashes & wreckage in the Netherlands which will probably be new to readers in other countries. Four pages of colour artwork by Malcolm Laird present three side-profiles and varieties of fuselage roundel. (The artist takes no sides in the old argument about undersurface colour being either duck-egg blue or duck-egg green – and presents both hues)

The reviewer notes that no mention is made that the gun-turret of the Defiant was a French design built under license by Boulton Paul. One small criticism concerns be the lack of giving simple dates in the operational histories. Reading “on the following day”, “the following afternoon”, “the following two days” “the next day” in succession can become demanding of the reader.

At 14.50 Euros this book is highly recommended and I wish I had been able to buy it forty years ago !

Graham Warrener


48 pages, 17 x 24,5 cm, softcover
- In English
- Allied Wings collection


Dans ce nouvel ouvrage dédié au Boulton Paul Defiant, le 8e de la collection Allied Wings, les auteurs, Andrew Thomas et Ph. Listemann ont limité la période allant du développement aux derniers combats de jour réalisés pendant la bataille d’Angleterre.
Après une introduction de quatre pages qui décrit la genèse et le développement du Defiant, en mettant en exergue les défauts et qualités de ce concept, on passe vite à l’utilisation opérationnelle, ce qui est devenu habituel avec cette collection. Une vingtaine de pages racontent les succès et déboires des deux unités qui ont utilisé le Defiant dans des opérations diurnes, les N°264 et 141 Squadrons. Le 264 est le premier à être créé à mettre en service le Defiant au cours de l’automne 1939, mais ne sera déclaré opérationnel qu’en mars 1940 suite à des problèmes de mise au point. Entre temps, les techniques de combat sont ajustées. Les Defiant sont ensuite utilisés, dès le début de l’offensive allemande, en mai 1940 au-dessus des côtes hollandaises, et les premiers succès sont enregistrés à ce moment-là… ainsi que les premières pertes ; mais ce sont les missions réalisées au-dessus de Dunkerque qui vont faire sortir le Defiant de l’ombre avec un nombre record de revendications et sera fortement médiatisé. Une fois l’évacuation du BEF terminé, le Defiant devra attendre la Bataille d’Angleterre pour remporter d’autres victoires. Cependant, le concept des chasseurs-tourelle en tant que chasseur diurne finira par atteindre ses limites et l’appareil sera retiré des missions de jour malgré quelques succès.
Le 141 formé en octobre 1939 sera lui aussi utilisé en opérations, mais tardivement : n’étant déclaré opérationnel qu’en juin 1940, il ne participera qu’à la bataille d’Angleterre, et ce de manière dramatique, ce qui contribuera au retrait prématuré du Defiant de ces combats à la fin août, car son taux de pertes était devenu inacceptable.

Comme d’habitude avec cette collection, des tableaux, cartes et listings de victoires et pertes viennent illustrer ce livre, ainsi que les noms des membres d’équipages tués jusqu’au 31 août 1940. De plus, le lecteur trouvera 40 photos dont certaines inédites d’épaves de Defiant abattus aux Pays-Bas. Quatre pages de profils couleur réalisés par Malcolm Laird viennent compléter les illustrations.
Cependant, il n’est nulle part mentionné que la tourelle était en fait un modèle français construit sous licence par Boulton Paul. Aussi, des rappels datés aideraient le lecteur à mieux s’y retrouver dans la chronologie des événements. Néanmoins, pour 14.50 €, ce livre est fortement recommandé, et j’aurais aimé l’avoir acheté il y a 40 ans !

Graham Warrener


48 pages, 17 x 24,5 cm, couverture souple
- En anglais
- Collection Allied Wings


 

Références:

Boulton Paul Defiant (part 1)
Allied Wings N°8
Phil Listemann & Andrew Thomas

Phil Listemann Publisher

ISBN 9782953254433

14,50 €







Éditeur et auteur

Coordonnées de l'éditeur :
- Philedition


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