The English Electric Lightning...


...from Pen and Sword


Title: The English Electric Lightning

Author: Martin W. Bowman

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-52670-556-3

Perhaps one of the most famous of all RAF Cold War jets, the Lightning retains a special place in the hearts of many aircraft enthusiasts, and veterans. This new book instantly brought to mind an old friend of mine who passed away at an all too early age, and he was a modeller and huge fan of the Lightning. I am quite certain Tim would have been one of the first to add this one to his personal reference library. Equally, it reminds me of one of the directors where I used to work, an ex-Lightning pilot, who had the pitot tube of his aircraft when it was taken out of service, and kept it as a standard lamp in his home.

The Introduction text gives us the basic development and service outline, as well as conjuring up certain emotions on seeing hearing the noise and power of those two Avon engines that struck a chord with me for sure. The rest of the book has a marvellous selection of archive photos, illustrating the career of this Mach 2 interceptor from the 1950s through to service retirement in the late 1980s, export models and the various fates of those retired airframes. A small number were flown in South Africa in 2010, where (for a fee!) you could get a flight in one. Others are static museum displays, many went to the scrap yard and a couple remain regular performers at the Bruntingthorpe collection, along with their QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) sheds, and the sound of those Avons on reheat can still be experienced. For those of us lucky/old enough to remember watching a Lightning with full reheat flying low over a runway and then pull up to 'Go Ballistic' as it pulled into a vertical climb and disappear up into a clear blue sky this will bring many of those memories to the fore.

The photos are all well captioned, some with extensive notes telling the associated stories that they illustrate. A couple of the accidents recorded make for some sad reading while images of Lightnings intercepting Soviet long-range Tu-95 Bears are so iconic of the Cold War era. A number of the pictures show extensive line-ups of Lightnings at various RAF stations over the years and a mix of colour schemes worn by the type over its' long service career.

An excellent addition to the Images of War series and sure to be popular with the many Lightning fans out there.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.