Book Review: Spitfire Pilot by David Crook

 

This very short, fascinating book is the war diary of a Spitfire pilot who fought through the Battle of Britain in Squadron 609, one of the most celebrated units in Fighter Command.

There was a steep learning curve in air combat in World War II and casualty rates were enormous, especially among inexperienced pilots.  Crooks’ squadron lost about half its pilots over Dunkirk, and it many more days of fighting before they were winning more than they were losing.

Despite the danger and the continual loss of friends and squadron mates, it is clear that the pilots loved flying and aerial combat.  It was the happiest time of his life was frequently said at a pilot’s funeral.

By all accounts, the Spitfire was an exhilarating machine to fly, and the life or death struggle was a matchless thrill.  The author gives a good account of the tactics and strategy of the struggle.

Typically, German bombers flew at relatively low altitudes while the ME 109 German fighters flew far above.  Since the bombers were the main targets, British fighters needed to attack them which made them vulnerable to the “Hun in the Sun”; Germans diving out of the Sun with lots of energy and hard to see.

Crook survived the Battle of Britain but not the war.

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