Fighters Over the Aegean...

... from Fonthill Media

Title: Fighters Over the Aegean
Author: Brian Cull

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-632-0


This is a new paperback edition of a book originally published in hardback in 2012.  Having had a keen interest in the history of WW2 it is common to find books which cover a well known subject but perhaps take a different point of view or present things in a new way.  This is one which I found tells about an aspect of the war which I knew little or nothing about beforehand.  In the first half of the war, amidst many other defeats, we had been unsuccessful in the defence of Greece and Crete but how did we get on in the following years.  In North Africa we had defeated the Axis forces by 1943 and attention turned to the invasion of Sicily and then Italy.   Air operations over the Eastern Mediterranean were designed to distract Luftwaffe attention from the Sicily invasion.

As might be expected, some operations were more successful than others.  After a Prologue which sets the scene in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean in mid-1943.  It starts out with Operation Thetis, a plan to attack German airfields on Crete using an assortment of Hurricanes, though the losses incurred among the attackers were significant.  This is followed by details of Beaufighter operations between April and September 1943.

After the Italian surrender it left gaps in the region which both Germans and Allies competed to fill.  This is the topic for the next chapter, with Operation Microbe as the British attempted to occupy the Dodecanese islands (Rhodes, Kos, Leros and Samos).  The chapters move on to tackle the German Invasion of British surrender of Kos, followed with an account of the Beaufighters in Support of the Kos Operations.  The next two chapters give similar accounts, this time for the island of Leros, in November 1943.  After that the Beaufighters continue their success with anti-shipping operations across the Aegean.  They also took a toll of the Ju52 transports and the seaplanes that the Luftwaffe used in the region.  The Spitfire also comes back into the story at this stage, with action over Crete in 1944.

With so much going on for the German military in Italy, NW Europe and on the Eastern Front, they began to withdraw their forces from the Aegean.  This opened up more opportunities for the allied air forces, including the topic for chapter IX, with Spitfires, Hellcats and Wildcats of the Royal Navy operating from a resource that came as news to me, no less than 9 CVE Escort Carriers in the region.  The evacuations also opened up opportunities for Night Fighters.  Two more chapters cover the work in making local changes to Spitfires to enable them to try and reach high flying German reconnaissance aircraft, the Ju86 in particular.  It goes on to detail German Reconnaissance Operations in the Eastern Mediterranean before it gets to the end of the war in the region.

There are maps in the book, along with a section of archive photos, but the real heart of it has to be the huge number of personal accounts that are included in every section of the book, official records and personal memories from British & Commonwealth, German and Italian aircrew.  For me this creates an interesting and balanced approach to the whole topic.  The other element for the aircraft enthusiast is the mix of aircraft types which were used in the Eastern Mediterranean, including the Luftwaffe use of seaplanes.  An informative and interesting read.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.