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Beaufighter Squadrons
in Focus

By Simon W. Parry


Published by
Red Kite


S u m m a r y

Title and Author Beaufighter Squadrons in Focus By Simon W. Parry. Published by Red Kite
ISBN: 0-9538061-2-X
Media: Soft covers, portrait format, 96 pages + covers, incl. 4 pages of colour artwork.
Price: £17.95
Review Type: First Read
Advantages: Useful collation of every Beaufighter squadron and their use of the type; packed with over 250 original wartime photographs; reference tables of production batches, squadron codes and Strike Wings; includes a basic overview of the Beaufighter’s inception and development, with photographic illustrations of each Mark produced.
Disadvantages: Photographs (all black & white), add nothing to those available in other references; only a few photographs are credited and there are some technical errors in at least a couple of photo captions.
Recommendation: Recommended as a handy Beaufighter reference although less so perhaps, if you already have the long-established titles listed in its bibliography.


Reviewed by Steve Naylor

HyperScale is proudly supported by Squadron.com




As well as a ‘First Look’, this is also my first book review and my first article/submission on HyperScale (please be gentle with me!).

As a 1950’s child whose late father was a LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) in the RAF, most aircraft of WWII are inevitably of interest me. Bristol’s Beaufighter however, is my personal favourite aircraft of the conflict, so I always look forward to any new book on the subject. Publisher Red Kite is new to me, although Simon Parry has written on aviation subjects before, so I was interested to see what this combination would produce.

The subtitle of this new book is “A Photographic Album of the Units that went to War in the Beaufighter”, so this must be born in mind when considering its worth as a Beaufighter reference. Interest in the Beaufighter has increased recently, what with the release of the excellent 1/48 scale Tamiya kits, two UK projects to restore full-size machines, and the forthcoming SAM Publications ‘Modeller’s Datafile No.6’.

‘Beaufighter Squadrons in Focus’ is presented in A4 portrait format, with glossy soft card covers enclosing 96 semi-gloss pages. The front cover is a well known, black and white, ‘posed’ three-quarter view photograph of a ‘Torbeau’ (unaccredited – see later). The back cover is graced by a (also unaccredited) colour artwork, showing a 144 squadron (‘Dallachy Strike Wing’?) Beau, being pursued down a Fjord by a Fw-190 (see also later). Apart from the four pages containing twelve colour artwork profiles by Mark Rolfe, the remainder of the book is printed crisply in black & white. From a reproduction point of view, only one photograph in the whole book spoils the ‘show’, that of R2402 (YD-G) at the top of page 65. This picture has a bad case of the ‘Jaggies’, presumably a by-product of the scanning process or in the transfer from DTP to printer – a shame this was not picked up before going to press.

Despite its A4 format, Red Kite has managed to packed a lot of photos into this book. That said, the majority of these are well-known images, which already grace the pages of many of the titles detailed in the book’s bibliography. The photos are also all black & white – surely there must be some colour photos of Beaufighters worth reproducing? Now I know it costs more to print colour, but for my money, I would far rather have a few less B/W photos and include some colour ones, even if their quality is a little suspect. My main complaint about the photographs (especially from a researcher’s point of view) however, is that with the exception of a few credited to individuals, none of the photos are credited. This is true even of the cover and inner front pages, which are also not captioned. Anyway, enough ranting, lets get to the ‘meat’ of this book.

After the Contents and the Bibliography, the book kicks off with a listing of production batches (by serial number – giving the total numbers produced and the Mark in each case) and those TF Mk.X’s converted to TT10’s. Two pages are then briefly devoted to the background of the Beau’s inception and to the development of AI (Airborne Interception) radar. The first part of the book concludes with several pages of photographs dedicated to each of the Beaufighter Marks (Mk.If, Ic, IIf, VIf, VIc and TFX). Each gives a brief technical specification, whilst a ‘box-out’ supplements this with additional details. This latter section also illustrates; the RAAF Mk.21, the converted TT10 Target Tug, the ill-fated Buckmaster and finally the Brigand, which ultimately replaced the Beaufighter in RAF service.

The main part of the book, entitled ‘The Squadrons’, provides (in numerical order) a squadron by squadron photographic ‘dossier’ of the Beaufighter in service. Each squadron heading gives their motto (if applicable) and translation, the code letters (if used), the Mark(s) used (during which time periods), their role and theatre of operations, and a chronological list of bases from which the squadron operated. Supplementing the main photo captions, there are the occasional ‘box-outs’, giving further details of individual aircrew or particular operations. Some squadrons have a more detailed account of a particularly well-known or perhaps notorious operation. Perhaps the most poignant, is the ‘Dallachy Strike Wings Black Friday’, where Beaufighters from Nos. 455, 404, 144 and 489 squadrons, supported by Mustangs from 65 squadron and air sea rescue Warwicks of 279 squadron, attacked the Narvik-class destroyer Z-33 in Norway’s Førde Fjord, suffering substantial losses.

On the down side, one or two photo captions are dubious or just plain wrong! For example, at the top of page 20 is a photo allegedly showing JL899 having a new starboard wing fitted during a major service in Malta. The same photo appears in Chaz Bowyer’s ‘Beaufighter at War’, where it has apparently (and more believably) been lifted into the level position, whilst armourers harmonise the wing machine guns. Similarly, the picture at the top of page 57 claims that the ‘pig-tails’ hanging from the rear of the under-wing rockets, are in fact safety devices and will be removed by the armourers prior to take off! Both are small points I know, and I don’t want to ‘nit-pick’, but these are really unforgivable lapses (especially given that these, or similar photos, could easily have been referred to in books like Bowyer’s).

The final part of the book could be called ‘Other Users’. This provides photos of USAAF Beaufighters and operations, SAAF Beau’s, Target Tugs and RAAF production and operations (didn’t anybody take a front three-quarter view, of the Wright Cyclone-fitted Beau at Fishermans Bend?). Finally, the last page contains: listings of squadrons and their code letters; code letters and the squadron using them; the make-up of the Beaufighter Strike Wings and finally an explanation of Coastal Command’s move to (and then back from) the use of single code letters.





Given the relative paucity (in comparison to more popular types) of specific publications on the Beaufighter, any new book is to be welcomed. There are a couple of dubious photo captions which, given that the photos concerned are correctly (or more believably) captioned in the books where they have appeared before, is slightly annoying. Despite this, as a photographic album of the units that went to war in the Beaufighter, ‘Beaufighter Squadrons in Focus’ succeeds in providing a handy ‘quick-reference’, which will save a lot of time otherwise spent trawling the pages of various other books or websites. As such, it will be of use to both the newcomer and ‘expert’ alike, but those with many of the existing titles available, will not find anything new here, in terms of the images on offer.

Recommended to anyone with a fondness for The Bristol Aeroplane Company’s finest.

The book should be available from most good book retailers. Red Kite can be contacted at:
PO Box 223, Walton on Thames, Surrey, KT12 3YQ, UK.

Review Copyright © 2001 by Steve Naylor
This Page Created on 24 June, 2002
Last updated 22 July, 2003

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