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No Place for Beginners "Battle over Malta June 1940- September 1941"


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No Place for Beginners
Battle over Malta June 1940- September 1941

 

Tony O'Toole
Dalrymple & Verdun Publishing
Available for £24.95 from http://www.dvpublishing.co.uk/ 
176 pages.
132 black and white and 9 colour photos, 30 pages of colour artworks.
2 colour maps

 

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It was the Air officer commanding (AOC) Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard who pleaded with Churchill and the air ministry that Malta was "No place for beginners!" It had become common practice for squadrons to rid themselves of their most troublesome pilots simply by posting them overseas, only for them to be shot down in flames during the intense air battles over Malta, often taking a valuable aircraft with them! Other pilots remarked that the Battle of Britain was a piece of cake by comparison!

 

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Much has been written about Malta's war, however its often been on specific subjects such as the recent MMP book on Malta based Spitfire V's camouflage or a mention about Malta being a "Thorn in Rommel's side" in a book about the Africa Campaign. This new book from Dalrymple & Verdun seeks to address that.

 

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Presented in Dalrymple & Verduns familiar A4 soft back format with 176 pages and copious colour art work aimed squarely at the modeller this is the first book by Author Tony O'Toole, if that name seems familiar that might be because Tony is a prolific modeller and a regular contributor to Scale Aircraft modelling, Model Aircraft International and more recently the Airfix magazine. He is known for his well researched articles on British subjects and their camouflage, usually coming to a new and controversial conclusion and breaking with the accepted theories; illustrated by one of his hand painted models. His first book takes a similar approach to his articles and takes a fresh look at the schemes worn by British aircraft based on Malta, using period photographs, some of which are published here for the first time, the author has also corresponded with and interviewed veterans of the conflict using their first hand accounts to help decipher colours schemes.

 

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The author has taken an almost war diary approach with the narrative and after setting the scene by describing Malta's dire defensive situation at the start of 1940 starts to describe the build up to combat operations. Beginning with the famous Gladiators, this is one of the most extensive accounts of their time on Malta, I wasn't aware of the tug of war that went on between the RAF and the "senior service" when they dared to uncrate and acquisition the naval aircraft while on the brink of war! The gladiators are one of the main focuses of the colour profiles and the author presents some new evidence for their colour schemes, which would certainly turn heads at a model show! I wonder if it's too late to do my Silver wings Gladiator in one of these schemes?

 

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The arrival of Hurricanes allowed Malta to at least fight on a level pegging with the enemy and their contribution is often over looked, not so here. Strike operations with Blenheim's and Beaufighters also gets plenty of coverage along with the Wellingtons and Swordfish of the Fleet Air Arm who made a nuisance of themselves by hitting the enemy at home. The arrival of HMS Illustrious marked a step up in the enemy's raids and the Illustrious Blitz is covered in a very compelling manner, along with the contribution made by its Fairey Fulmars despite their obsolescence.

 

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A particular highlight for me are the colour profiles by Steve Nichol whose work has previously appeared in Ospreys aces series, they tread a fine line between the classic airbrush style and modern Computer generated type that has become popular lately. Both Allied and Axis aircraft get the profile treatment (Sand and Spaghetti Fulmar anyone!) And a new take on a well know recon Hurricane is worthy of a mention, usefully photographic evidence is presented to back up any claims; a criticism often made at profile only style books.

 

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The book concludes with the appendix covering the manpower and equipment deployed in theatre at that time and a table showing the disastrous Hurricane deliveries certainly paints a sorry picture! The only criticisms I could make of this book is that the narrative would flow better if broken up by the colour profiles which are mainly at the back of the book, and I would of liked to of seen them in the relevant chapter to illustrate the aircraft being discussed. Also the book comes to a rather abrupt end and I would like to of seen it continue to a more natural cut off such as just before the arrival of the much needed Spitfires.

 

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Conclusion
Malta is always an emotive subject and it certainly gets the coverage it deserves in this book, while it mainly covers Allied operations the Axis aircraft are well represented and are the subject of several colour profiles. I feel it strikes the right balance between narrative and the use of illustrations which isn't always an easy trick to pull off, certainly providing the modeller with plenty of inspiration. I've seen some of the material the author has in store for a potential Volume 2 (should this title sell well enough) covering the arrival of Spitfires and the night war right up to striking back and the invasion of Sicily, and featuring even more unseen photographs! NO PLACE FOR BEGINNERS will be available to buy at Telford Scale Model World 2013 so make a beeline for the Dalrymple & Verdun stand and tell them LSM sent ya!.

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

Sincere thanks to Dalrymple & Verdun for the review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link.

 

Benjamin Summerfield.

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Well done Ben, a really comprehensive review! I didn't know you knew such big words!

Seriously, having 'thumbed through' this book I can only echo Bens review - it reflects hours of painstaking research by Tony O'Toole who is not only a highly skilled modeller but has shown himself to be a bit of a serious historian. Malta has been a bit of a neglected area of interest but this book certainly sets us on the path to understanding just how tough, and I must say diverse camo schemed, area of appeal, not only from a modellers perspective but historical, it can be. 

This book, together with the follow up edition, will most certainly be taking up a place in my library and I'm a 'Phantom Phreak'!

Excellent book.

 

Steve S.

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