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263 Squadron

263 Squadron Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review January 2016 Title 263 Squadron
Author Alex Crawford Publisher Mushroom Model Publications
Published 2015 ISBN 9788363678821
Format 120 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $34.95


During World War II, Gloster Gladiators of Royal Air Force No 263 Squadron comprised core air-defense assets of Allied expeditionary forces during the Norway débâcle of 1940.

Now Alex Crawford tells the total tale in MMP’s terrific 263 Squadron: Gladiators Over the Fjords – available in North America from Casemate.

Crawford, who previously penned MMP’s marvelous Gladiator monograph, begins with a brief squadron history.

In the run-up to Norwegian actions, the unit participated in air-defense operations, exercises and training over England. The RAF earmarked the unit, we duly discover, to intervene in the 1939-40 Russo-Finnish “Winter War”.

Finland’s defeat squelched that scheme. And coverage quickly courses to 263 Squadron’s two deployments to Norway.

Here, Crawford taps official archives and personal accounts – authoritatively and, day-by-day, chronologically – to trace events. He records all key personnel and every participating Gladiator. Replete with absorbing anecdotes, text recounts some remarkably riveting reports.

Did you know, for instance, that Ju 88 Cs outmaneuvered the supposedly more sprightly British biplane? And did you know that, despite the manifest obsolescence of his lightly armed mount, Flt Lt C B Hull – the RAF’s first Gladiator ace – flamed a remarkable four Luftwaffe aircraft in just one mission?

A couple days of fierce fighting initially decimated the unit – and forced its return to England. Reformed with 18 more Gladiators, the better prepared 263 Squadron re-entered Norway. Again evacuated a few weeks later, many surviving personnel and all remaining aircraft were lost when HMS Glorious sank.

Dozens of photographs illustrate the effort. Extend captions, tables, biographies and selected bibliography further augment the account. And Karolina Holda’s outstanding color profiles will certainly motivate your modeling muse.

Unfortunately, Crawford’s otherwise splendid study sports no annotations. So to correlate text with sources – or for further reference and research – expect none.

RAF 263 Squadron’s role in 1940’s Norwegian air campaign remains a fascinating World War II footnote. Find out how it all happened. Get this book.

Robustly recommended!

With thanks to Casemate for the review copy.