- Book reviewer
- History - general, Naval Aviation, Book reviews, Aviation
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2000 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
AUSTRALIAN FIGHTER ACES 1914-1953, by A.D. Garrison
(Published and distributed jointly by Air Power Studies Centre and Australian War Memorial 1999, 250x175mm, 117 b&w photos, 10 tables/lists, ix/188pp, card cover, dust wrapper w/coloured illustrations. WW I dog fight, bibliography.)
Air Commodore Garrison has contributed a valuable work of reference to the available written history of the Royal Australian Air Force and in more general terms to Australian aviation. He has provided an extensive and useful bibliography which attests to the solid research, over many years, behind the fascinating stories of some 137 Australians who have achieved the status of a fighter `ace’.
There are three main features of this book. Firstly the origin of the term `ace’. Then the author sets the scene with the development of the fighter aircraft and fighter tactics in World War I, including Australian involvement, and continuing developments in World War II. In this section he presents some interesting information about aces from other countries, comments on fighter action in Korea and Vietnam and narrows the focus to listing the Australian aces of each World War. This provides the basis for the main element of the book – the biographies of the aces.
Air Commodore Garrison makes it quite clear that he used the title `ace’ as a term which is generally accepted as applying to any fighter pilot who has destroyed five or more enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat, and that the title, at least in the RAAF and the RAF, is not recognised in an official sense. His selection of these men as ‘Australians’ is related to their country of birth or nationality at the time they joined the Australian Flying Corps, RAAF, Royal Flying Corps, RAF or the Royal Naval Air Service.
Sensibly the biographical portion is divided into sections dealing with each of the two world wars preceded by a useful summary table in alphabetical order. The reader’s appetite is whetted by a chapter with extensive details of the four top-scoring aces from both wars. Little, Dallas, Cobby (WW I) and Caldwell (WW II). This is a sound approach as it would be impossible to research, write and publish such extensive detail on the other 133 aces in a convenient volume.
There are many individual photographs provided which, in itself, must have demanded much research. The reader will look at these and ask ‘What sort of men are these warriors of the skies?’ They are all young, some smile, others serious. A bunch of ordinary Australian airmen one could say. But they were not ordinary, they had something that set them apart. Reading the biographical detail starts to bring together their positive characteristics; courage is there, strong nerves, a talent for the job in hand and a determination to succeed no matter what the opposition. Sadness lies often in the last words against a name – `killed in action’.
This well designed book is a pleasure to handle and read. However one small note of criticism is the lack of editorial rigor in transfer of detail from biography to tables and consistency in unit designations.
John Whitelaw (Member)
[Ed: Although this is basically a book for airmen and those interested in the history of the Royal Australian Air Force and Australian aviation, the review is included here as one’s attention is drawn to a “chapter with extensive details of the four top scoring aces from both wars, Little, Dallas, Cobby (WWI) and Caldwell (WWII).” Little and Dallas both were originally in the Royal Naval Air Service. Their stories were published in some detail in the Naval Historical Reviews of December 1995, March 1996, June 1996 and December 1996.]