Alamein to the Alps by Mark Lax

Discussion in 'Books and Films' started by Antipodean Andy, Apr 17, 2008.

  1. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Subtitled 454 Sqn 1941-1945, this is a book that provides a thorough history of a relatively unknown RAAF squadron in the Mediterranean theatre. Relatively unknown but certainly not due to lack of participation. After a bit of a false start in Australia, the squadron was finally formed and operates as a training squadron with Blenheim Mk IVs and Bisleys in Iraq.

    The author's drawing together of material becomes evident early on with copious referencing, particularly in relation to air and ground crew. I found this aspect at the bottom of each page almost as fascinating as the text above. As with all squadron histories, the squadron members' memories/stories are most valuable and these are included in spades often with several air/ground crew comments regarding the same event - weaving together a vivid picture of operations.

    Emerging from the relatively frustrating Blenheim period, 454 is equipped with Baltimores and begins work as a maritime patrol squadron (and occasional bombing work - losing five of eight aircraft when attacking Crete on the squadron's Black Friday - July 23, 1943). Long hours of patrols are clearly incredibly boring but the squadron maintains an impressive servicability record (throughout the war) and level of efficiency. As the war shifts to the northern reaches of the Med, 454 begins work as a long range recce squadron - almost always at low level - mostly around the Greek islands in the Aegean. Encounters with fighters, enemy shipping and harbour defences abound but it was Baltimores such as 454's that proved so effective at shadowing enemy vessels for the incoming anti-shipping strikes (as well as attacking shipping themselves). An eventual move to Italy saw the squadron begin expert close support for the 8th Army as it crept up the peninsula. Despite the lack of fighters, accurate flak continues to claim casualties but the end is in sight. A minor change to night intruder work provides a fascinating account of a trip that fills an entire chapter. With the end of the war shortly after, the squadron, a proud member of the Desert Air Force, is disbanded and, other than the 454-459 Sqn Assoc, appears to have been all but forgotten.

    Mark Lax's writing is like talking to a very knowledgable mate over a beer and hanging on his every word. Referring to official records can result in dry but necessary reading but the author skilfully avoids this and I was hooked very early on. It is safe to say that barely a page goes by without a squadron member's comments being included and this really underlines the "big family" aspect of any squadron.

    These were brave men who earned a reputation for efficiency and determination. Mark Lax has done a great job at pulling the many threads together to bring this squadron back to life and present it to a larger audience. It is a comprehensive account of a squadron that should never be forgotten...and the photos throughout are superb!

    The author's details are available at the 454-459 Sqn website.
  2. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    A very nice chap has just sent me this book :) Not had to have more than a cursory look through but it looks excellent. Will let you know more once I'ce had a chance to read it
  3. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    I won't hold my breath then...:becky: :bolt:
  4. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    I wouldn't - you'll go purple
  5. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    All part of your cunning plan to acquire my books no doubt.

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