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On Spartan Wings: The Royal Hellenic Air Force in World War Two

On Spartan Wings: The Royal Hellenic Air Force in World War Two Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review August 2013 Title On Spartan Wings: The Royal Hellenic Air Force in World War Two
Author John Carr Publisher Pen & Sword
Published 2012 ISBN 9781848847989
Format 180 pages, hardbound MSRP (BP) £15.99


In late 1940, the world watched rapt as gallant Greeks fought invading Italian forces to a standstill.

In the air, a handful of Royal Hellenic Air Force (RHAF) squadrons – outgunned and ill-equipped Mirai – bore the brunt of Fascist air power.  And while a motley mix of RHAF PZL P.24s, Gloster Gladiators and Bloch MB 151s defended Greek skies, an equally diverse array of Battle, Blenheim and Potez bombers took the fight to Italian territory.  Greece's army went on the offensive.  And Mussolini's legions retreated to Albania – only to return with victorious Nazi Germany six months later.  Just one Mira of five Anson escaped to Egypt.

That's half the story of John Carr's gripping On Spartan Wings: The Royal Hellenic Air Force in World War Two.  The other half recaps attempts to rebuild Greece's Air Force in exile – and postwar fighting against communist insurgents.

What a ripping read it is.  Liberally spiced with absorbing anecdotes, contents course from prewar purchases through fighting Fascists to exilic escapades – and beyond.  Along the way, readers meet mutiny and loyalty, verve and valor.  And whole sections read like thrillers.  Did you know that delousers can thaw aircraft engines in frigid weather?

Hiccups occasionally mar this otherwise excellent effort.  The RHAF operated, for instance, two Avia B.534s – not six.  The Cant Z506B Airone was not a "seaplane version of the Cant Z1007".  Greek MB 151s never carried 20 mm canon.  And that shot depicts a French Potez 630 – not an RHAF Potez 633.

None of this detracts from On Spartan Wings.  Carr's vital volume remains the definitive English-language study of Hellenic air power in World War II.  And I loved it.

Robustly recommended!

With thanks to Pen & Sword for the review copy!