This was the first to publish of a number of British Naval Aviation Centenary books to mark the FlyNavy100 celebrations. Having first published in 2008, the book underwent a complete revision for 2013 and this edition is reviewed here.
NAME: One Hundred Years of British Naval Aviation, 2nd Edition
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Ian M Johnstone-Bryden
PUBLISHER: Nighthawk Publishing
BINDING: electronic PDF
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: RN, FAA, RAF, RFC, naval aviation, WWI, WWII, Cold War, aircraft carriers, VSTOL, CTOL, STOVL, helicopters, torpedo bombers, capital ships, man-carrying kites, seaplanes, flying boats, catapult, air combat
DESCRIPTION: This was the first to publish of a number of British Naval Aviation Centenary books to mark the FlyNavy100 celebrations. Having first published in 2008, the book underwent a complete revision for 2013 and this edition is reviewed here.
The author observed that the first considerations of naval aviation were made more than two hundred years ago. Colourful frigate captain, Member of Parliament, businessman, and Admiral of the Navies of Chile, Peru, Brazil and Greece, Admiral RN, Thomas Cochrane, wrote a number of papers considering new weapons and forms of warfare, including the use of balloons and toxic gas. During the second half of the Nineteenth Century, British Royal Navy officers and men used borrowed hydrogen balloons for artillery spotting and the Admiralty formally planned a programme of manned-kite testing, which started in 1903, as the first powered flights were made by the Wright brothers.
By 1911 the Royal Navy had begun training pilots and the battle for control of aviation began. Politicians were keen to assign aviation to the Army but the Royal Navy continued training RN officers to fly and began a political fight to regain control of naval aviation from the Army.
In 1914, just weeks before the outbreak of war, the RN was allowed to form the Royal Naval Air Service and celebrated by dropping the first torpedo from an aircraft. As a result, the Army went into WWI with frail observation aircraft built at a Government factory and the RN went to war with integrated aerial weapons systems, able to bomb ground and surface sea targets, attack submerged submarines with depth bombs and destroy other aerial vehicles in the air.
After an innovative war, pioneering many tactics and strategic bombing, the RNAS was again merged with the Army’s Royal Flying Corps, but to operate as an independent force under the name of the Royal Air Force.
Between 1918 and 1937, the Royal Air Force owned all British military aviation, but the RN fought a long battle to regain its control of naval aviation. In 1937 the Government agreed that the RN could again operate its own aircraft, but the RAF retained control of land and seaplane maritime patrol. Unfortunately, the RAF was interested primarily in strategic bombing and point defence interceptors, largely neglecting naval aviation and handing over to the RN a force mounted on obsolete or obsolescent aircraft. Fortunately, the RN had continued developing aircraft carriers and therefore had the platforms from which to operate. That left the newly formed Fleet Air Arm to scramble to gain effective new aircraft.
During WWII, the FAA was massively expanded and began to acquire aircraft able to compete with modern land-based fighters and bombers. WWII was to provide the Glory Days for the FAA.
In 1945 a rapid rundown of the FAA and RN was started. The RAF again attempted to seize control of naval aviation and the RN was engaged in a long defensive battle. At the same time the FAA had to step in during the retreat from Empire, the long-running Cold War, and the first Energy Wars. British RN and FAA officers continued at the forefront of naval aviation development and most of the new technologies adopted by other navies are based on this British development.
In 2010, a cash-strapped Government again tried to destroy British Naval Aviation and made a series of highly suspect decisions. The author has covered this period and considered some of the possible alternative futures for British Naval Aviation.
The book tells the inspiring story of British Naval Aviation well and the text is supported by many images, including some never seen in public before. This is an imaginative use of electronic publishing and the book works well on a range of reader devices at a time when electronic publishing is still largely text-based.