...The Greatest Multi-Role Aircraft of the Cold War, from Fonthill Media
Title: Canberra Vol.1
Author: Ken Delve & John Sheehan
Publisher: Fonthill Media
Sub-titled 'The Greatest Multi-Role Aircraft of the Cold War', this new 512-page book from Fonthill Media is just the first of 2 planned volumes to tackle the huge subject of the Canberra. An aircraft which entered service in 1951 and the final variant (the PR.9) served on until as recently at 2006. This first volume focuses on the Canberra's service history in the RAF over those 55 years. This is a greatly expanded work which was originally published back in 1992, at a time the Canberra was still in service.
This first volume starts out with the early days, when the Canberra was the new bomber, a two-engined jet replacing the earlier 4-engined Lincoln and Washington bombers. The Canberra was to be both a conventional and nuclear bomber, while waiting for the arrival of the larger V-Bombers. By the early 1960s the main force bomber role was handed over to the V-Force and the Canberra story moves on to Strike & Interdiction roles, especially in Germany, the Middle East and the Far East before getting to the Reconnaissance role around the world, which makes up a significant part of the story. For the final large section, we get to Support & Facilities, including Targets, Signals and Electronic Warfare. That leaves the final chapter to give details of all the 63 RAF Squadrons which operated the Canberra. This lists the Squadron, their variants, bases, commanders, markings and losses.
Just covering the RAF operations of the Canberra, it leaves all the foreign operators for volume 2. The book is highly illustrated throughout, plenty of black and white archive images along with a large number of super colour photographs that will put temptation in the way of many modellers. A key feature throughout the book, helping tell the service history of the type, there are hundreds of personal accounts of aircrews experiences flying and operating the Canberra. It remained in service for some 57 years and did have some faults, such as leaking in the rain and some dangerous problems in low speed/level asymmetric flight (with power only on one engine). Some of the stories are enlightening, others are tragic when accidents claimed the lives of their crew, along with more amusing stories that seem to emerge so often from the stories among flight crew. Whether is was disturbing the neighbours or trying to smuggle brandy in wing tip tanks, there is plenty in here to bring a smile to your face as you are reading.
Part of the long running story of the Canberra reflects a lot of change over the years, not only in internal equipment and external appearance, but in the various climates they had to operate in around the world. Combat in Malaysia and Suez all come into it, as well as the peacetime operations and training. An absolutely fascinating read, where the enthusiasm for the type from co-author Ken Delve, who did serve on Canberras during his time in the RAF, is clear. Super book in itself but I can't wait for volume 2 to appear as well.
Thanks to Fonthill Books for our review copy.