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No.501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron 1939-1945

No.501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron 1939-1945 Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2007 Title No.501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron 1939-1945
Author David Watkins & Phil Listemann Publisher Philedition
Published 2007 ISBN 978-295263813-5
Format 138 pages, softbound MSRP (Euro) 25€


Phil Listemann is a new (to me) publisher from southwestern France that specializes in interesting historical monographs. 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 501 Sqn, the British equivalent of an Air National Guard unit formed in 1929 as an reserve force to the RAF. Based out of Filton, just outside of Bristol, 501 Sqn was comprised of weekend warriors flying early Hurricane Mk.I fighters. When the war broke out, 501 Sqn was activated and moved east to protect the Island from the Luftwaffe.

As the war carried on, a variety of notable names passed through the ranks of the Squadron as experienced personnel were rotated through the squadron on their way to reinforce or lead units within the RAF and/or Commonwealth air arms in Europe, North Africa, or in the Pacific.

501 Sqn

So what is different about this title? Of the 138 pages, only 47 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 91 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 (mostly passed around bases of 10 and 11 Groups)
  • 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
  • Seven pages of sortie counts by day throughout the war
  • Six pages of confirmed and probable kills listing date, pilot, aircraft serial, and victim aircraft
  • Three pages of operational losses listing date, pilot, aircraft serial, and his fate
  • One page of aircraft lost in training accidents
  • Two pages listing the pilots who lost their lives during their assignment to 501 Sqn
  • One page listing the pilots who became POWs
  • 54 pages listing each member of 501 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 501 Sqn was assigned
  • One page summarizing the post-war fate of the squadron before being de-activated

The title is well illustrated with color profiles of representative aircraft from the squadron, photos of many of the pilots and men assigned to 501 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 501 Sqn. You'd be surprised to see some of the names and nationalities that passed through this squadron during the war, sometimes only for a month or two before moving on, such as Wing Commander Ian R. Gleed who flew with 501 Sqn during May-June 1942.

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.