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Forward Air Bases in Europe from D-Day to the Baltic

...from Air World, an imprint of Pen & Sword

Title: Forward Air Bases in Europe from D-Day to the Baltic
Author: Trevor Stone
Publisher: Air World
ISBN: 978-1-39901-081-8

'Supporting the Allied Advance', a new title from Air World, an imprint of Pen & Sword. A 226-page hard -cover book.
There are 8 chapters, split between 2 main sections in the book. The first 3 chapters are in Part 1, the Path to Normandy, and these set out the formation of 2nd Tactical Air Force (2 TAF) and the planning for how this force would operate once the invasion of NW Europe took place. It revolves around them operating fighters, fighter bombers, medium bombers and some transport aircraft on the continent, in support of Allied ground forces. Once the allies had landed, it would be important to be able to provide landing grounds on the continent, removing the time and fuel involved from operating from bases in the UK. This would also allow for more time over the battlefield, where they were most needed. Part 2 provides the story of what happened once they moved their operations to the continent, The Journey. From the building of the first landing grounds within days of the landings, and how they were slotted into the jigsaw of everything that was being crammed into the beachhead areas before it could be expanded after the breakout. From the slow start it was followed by a swift advance across France, then Belgium and Holland. This involved more opportunities to make use of existing airfields as they were captured, but as it explains, this meant there was still a lot of work repairing damage from earlier bombing raids, and from mines and booby traps that had been left behind when the German left. While the advance allowed for rear area maintenance facilities to be set up, the extra demands of moving supplies from Normandy and French ports as they were reopened, until a port such as Antwerp could be utilised, so the sheer logistics problems became a major issue which required some urgent efforts that just about managed. Some of the numbers quoted on the requirements for fuel, ammunition and spares are eye watering, but they managed. Without the success of this key logistics challenge, the success of the 2 TAF in supporting the allied advance would have been under threat. Even more detail is added thanks to the inclusion of 5 appendices. There are also plenty of archive images included throughout the book.
Another element that features in the book is not just the airfields themselves, but the other elements of their success, the RAF Regiment which provided not only reconnaissance but light AA defences, guards, and the mobile radar and signals units which provided the control of the air space over the continent which facilitated the air superiority that the allies enjoyed over their opponents. The work involved in enabling the 2 TAF to operate in the mobile campaign it needed to is an amazing story. Maybe not the glamour of the aircrew themselves, but they could not have done what they did without all this vital support network behind them. For the historian, or if you are interested in the field of logistics and planning, plus how to cope with an ever changing environment, I think you will find a lot to learn in this very interesting read.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for the review copy.


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