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South African Air Force Fighter Colors, Volume 1

South African Air Force Fighter Colors, Volume 1 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review May 2019 Title South African Air Force Fighter Colors, Volume 1
Author Piet van Schalkwyk, William Marshall Publisher Model Centrum Progres
Published 2018 ISBN 9788360672303
Format 80 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $48.95


South African airmen fought side-by-side with Allied comrades against Germany and Italy in WWII.

Now Piet van Schalkwyk and William Marshall survey the Union’s initial combat operations in South African Air Force Fighter Colors, Volume 1 – available in North America from Casemate.

With over 110 photos and 26 color profiles with insets, the lavishly illustrated book broadly divides into two parts.

The first covers, unit-by-unit, all South African fighter types in the “East African Campaign 1940-1942”. And the second surveys South African “aircraft finishes” in one chunky chapter and ten more pages of superb color plates – most to 1:48-scale.

Early in the conflict, authors begin, “three South African Air Force (SAAF) fighter squadrons were deployed to East Africa to counter” Fascist Italy’s threat to Kenya and southern Sudan.

Mostly “old and antiquated bi-planes [sic: biplanes]” – SAAF Hawker Furies, Gloster Gauntlets, and Gloster Gladiators, leavened by a handful of Hawker Hurricane Mk. Is – spearheaded the Commonwealth force. And with these largely obsolescent assets, South Africa commenced combat with Italian East Africa.

Chapter narratives chart unit movements, personnel, equipment, actions, serials, victories, and losses. Additional notes detail color & markings. And dozens of rare, period shots season sections.

With a wealth of additional operational and markings material, the book’s extended, explanatory photo captions really serve as succinct sidebars – further salting main text with engaging, illuminating detail. Just look at the minutiae accompanying color plates.

Absorbing anecdotes and action accounts also abound. When Fury 213’s “front and rear spars on the lower wing broke outboard of the interplane struts”, for instance, resourceful South Africans employed “pieces of pipe, tin and boxes” to bring the fighter to flying condition.

Expect surprises, too. 3 Squadron personnel affixed a variable-pitch Savoia-Marchetti S.79 propeller of slightly reduced diameter to a Gladiator. With blades set to intermediate position, the modified fighter, despite longer take-off runs, proved “much faster once airborne”.

Detail enthusiasts will especially love the colors & markings commentary: paints, dimensions, positions, and practices. Authors authoritatively interpret B&W photos based on extensive research, official specifications, and known SAAF applications.

I loved this terrific little tome. Publisher Model Centrum Progres plans two more SAAF Fighter Colors volumes – one covering the North Africa and Malta campaign; the other recapping Sicily, Italy and Balkans fighting. Line-up behind me for those.


My sincere thanks to Casemate Publishing for this review sample!