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No.312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron 1940-1945

No.312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron 1940-1945 Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2008 Title No.312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron 1940-1945
Author Tomas Polak & Phil Listemann Publisher Philedition
Published 2008 ISBN 978-295-26-3815-9
Format 98 pages, softbound MSRP (Euro) 20€

Review

Phil Listemann is a publisher from southwestern France that specializes in interesting historical monographs examining individual RAF squadrons during World War II. These titles are extremely well done and come from a direction that is overlooked by similar publishers these days, from the aspect of the people involved.

In this title, the authors take a look at 312 Sqn, one of a number of squadrons that were formed from pilot volunteers that were refugees from European countries overrun by the Germans. 312 Squadron was an interesting example of this composition as most of these pilots were had fighter experience prior to the war, but many had just come to the UK after flying for the French Air Force before that country's fall into German hands. While the pilots were experienced, they had to be 'reprogrammed' to follow RAF flight procedures.

The squadron came online during the Battle of Britain and was initially tasked with the defense of Liverpool. It wasn't long before the squadron downed their first aircraft, a Ju 88, all while operating the Hurricane Mk.I. The squadron would upgrade to the Hurricane Mk.II the following year, soon followed by the Spitfire Mk.II, Spitfire Mk.V, and eventually the Spitfire Mk.IX. 312 Sqn would remain one of the air defense assets for England during the war with only one two-day operation out of Northern France.

312 Sqn

So what is different about this title? Of the 98 pages, only 34 are taken to describe the history and highlights of the units operations during the war. Most other titles focus on this aspect of the unit's history. The remaining pages are detailed appendices:

  • Three pages summarizing the history of the squadron, its commanders, its operational losses in aircraft and men, its major awards, and its organizational assignments
  • One page listing the known registration numbers assigned to a particular aircraft code letter
  • Two pages listing the bases assigned and durations of those assignments
  • Six pages of sortie counts by day throughout the war
  • Two pages of confirmed and probable kills listing date, pilot, aircraft serial, and victim aircraft
  • One page of operational losses listing date, pilot, aircraft serial, and his fate
  • One page of aircraft lost in training accidents
  • One page listing the pilots who lost their lives during their assignment to 312 Sqn
  • One page listing the pilots who became POWs
  • 34 pages listing each member of 312 Sqn and where known, their previous assignment, their follow-on assignment, their fate, their awards, and key aspects of their time in the squadron
  • One page detailing the senior officers that commanded the groups that 312 Sqn was assigned

The title is well illustrated with color profiles of representative aircraft from the squadron, photos of many of the pilots and men assigned to 312 Sqn, as well as period photographs of squadron aircraft.

Where most publishers will focus on the history of the unit and try to animate that history through 'war stories' from eyewitnesses, this title goes straight to the heart of any combat unit and provides a roll call and summary of each pilot who served.

The format of this title is very well done and I wish that others would likewise go back to many of the famous squadrons of the war and look at the men behind the exploits. Where some historians and modelers are inspired by flashy nose art, many more are inspired by the men themselves and here is an excellent tool to find out about virtually any pilot who flew with 312 Sqn.

This title is highly recommended and I certainly hope to see many more in this format in the future!

My sincere thanks to Phil H. Listemann for the review sample.

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