Red Star and Roundel...

...A Shared Century, from Fonthill Media

Title: Red Star and Roundel
Author: Philip Wilkinson

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-733-4

 

This new book from author Philip Wilkinson and publisher Fonthill Media makes for some interesting reading. It examines the roles that the RAF have played in Russia since it was first formed in 1918.
The early chapters gave a lot of detail on a period and deployments which I had known nothing about beforehand, despite having had an interest in military history for many years now. In part I might describe it as a continuation of WW1 through 1919 and 1920. RAF aircraft and units were sent to support the White Russian forces against their Communist enemies. They went to Archangel and Murmansk in Northern Russia, and surrounding areas. Remember they were flying early WW1 era aircraft such as the RE8, Sopwith Camel, DH9 plus various seaplanes, so all with open cockpits and the challenge of airfields that were far from ideal. Many experienced pilots and maintainers had served on the Western Front in WW1 and deserved to go home after the armistice rather than being sent to Russia to continue fighting. Volunteers did come forward though and the units were dispatched. There they were soon in action, but also trained Russian pilots while their airframes also suffered casualties. That led to reports back home and requests for more aircraft, spares and support. Thanks to those reports in the archives, along with a number of personal diaries which also reside safely in the archives as well, the story can be told. The result is a detailed account of their time in Russia. That isn't all though, as the book also covers the other groups which went to Southern Russia, such as 47 Squadron, and also a brief period of for a third mission in the Baltic region. Then things move on to WW2, and the RAF Mission to Moscow and assistance to this time the Communist Russians, along with shipments of aircraft. These include Hurricanes, which once more went through Murmansk, and later Hampdens, some PRU Spitfires, plus Airacobras and then staging Lancasters at Russian airfields in order to attack the Tirpitz in its' Norwegian Fjord. Meanwhile there were clear tensions between the allied mission and their Russian hosts, who put regular obstructions in their way. Once the war was over then there was the problems over Berlin, the closure of land links and the huge Berlin Airlift that was the solution.
The final elements of the book cover the remaining times, during which the author, who had a career spanning 40 years in the RAF, spent time as an officer in Berlin during the Cold War, then as Air and Defence Attaché to Moscow before his retirement in 1996. He relates the stories of his time in these roles, dealing with the challenges of Soviet/Russian bureaucracy. He also details his involvement in getting the Russians to send 2 examples of the famous Tu-95 'Bear' to RIAT in 1994, an event which I still distinctly remember seeing myself. Overall a fascinating read which I learnt a lot from. The relationship between ourselves and Russia has long intrigued me and this considers plenty of the many aspects of the relationship over the last 100 years. Excellent.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.

Robin