Desert Prelude v. 2: Operation Compass
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This is the second of two volumes providing an in-depth look at the air war over the North African desert in the early days of World War II. The equipment, organisation and operations of the Regia Aeronautica, RAF and French Air Force are described in detail. Possibly the last major combat in which both sides flew fighter bi-planes, it saw the Italian air arm take on the rather sparsely-equipped Allied forces in Egypt and Libya. This volume completes the story, up to the point in 1941 when German forces arrived to bolster the retreating Italian forces.
Many unpublished photos, maps, colour profiles
Scale Views 2/2011 2012-07-06
Aeroplane 08/2011 2012-07-06
IPMS UK Magazine 03/2011 2012-07-06
Amazon.com customer review (1) 2012-07-06
Good reference but hard to read June 26, 2012
By Writing Historian
I bought this book because I liked the first book in the series and because I appreciate detailed research into little known military history, e.g. the Italian perspective of the air war in general and during the opening phases of the Desert War in particular. However, the amount of detail in this volume seemed to exceed that of the first volume, with the result that it is a lot tougher to follow events in the narrative. I don't mind knowing who is on a particular SM-79 shot down by RAF fighters once in a while if an important personality is aboard, but when you begin talking about a higher tempo of air operations that includes the frequent loss of several multi-engine bombers with three or more persons aboard each, that amount of detail begins to dramatically bog down the narrative. In short, highly recommended as a reference source, but you might want to go with another book if you are reading tastes tend toward mixing military history with pleasure.
Aeroplane August 2011 2012-07-06
AiR Modeler 35 2012-07-06
Replic April 2011 2012-07-06
Aeronautica MAy 2011 2012-07-06
Stone & Stone books reviews 2012-07-06
In 2010 the first volume of Desert Prelude arrived to some acclaim, including a very favorable review here at Stone & Stone. Although it required a few months to journey safely into our waiting hands, the second volume of the set—released earlier this year—continues the same detailed treatment of the early months of the air war above the North African desert.
The first volume dealt with the period from June through November 1940. The second volume picks up the story in December of that year and concludes with early February 1941. This marks the period of Operation Compass, General O'Connor's Allied ground offensive that drove the Italian army out of its toehold in Egyptian territory, beyond Tobruk and Benghazi, and out of Cyrenaica. Like Italian ground forces, the Regia Aeronautica suffered a crushing blow, but the account of the air actions fought by relatively small numbers of relatively flimsy aircraft (including some biplanes) makes a fascinating and informative study, especially for readers more accustomed to swarms of powerful interceptors battling endless formations of four-engine bombers.
The second volume opens with very short Introduction, then divides into three monthly chapters, with one each for December, January, and February.
For the first chapter, the authors begin by describing the last-minute movements and preparations by the opposing air forces, including information about individual aircraft and pilots. Unfortunately, this section doesn't contain an order of battle, so readers who want to recreate the complete OB for either side will need to carefully follow all the data provided in volume one leading up to the start of O'Connor's offensive in volume two.
After setting the stage, the chapter on December proceeds in the same manner as the chapters in the original volume. The authors follow a strict day-by-day chronology commencing with the first of the month. For each daily entry, Gustavsson and Slongo usually offer an overview of the situation on the ground, notes about movement, regrouping, and reinforcement of air units, and then a detailed description of air operations. Depending on the intensity of ops for any given day, that might amount to a few short paragraphs or several solid pages of text.
16 December 1940, although a bit heftier than other dates, sets a good example. It begins with a paragraph about the situation on the ground, then offers approximately two pages about air deployments.
Roughly five pages follow with virtually hour-by-hour data for aerial operations.
By contrast, the only other comparable book on the shelf, Fighters over the Desert by Chris Shores, provides just a paragraph about air movements and ops on 16 December. (On the other hand, Shores has a new book about the same topic due within a few months, so it will be interesting to see what he adds to the mix.)
Meanwhile, Gustavsson and Slongo continue in the same manner through 7 February 1941, cycling through each date with—usually—an overview of the ground situation, details on movements of air units, aircraft, and pilots, and a complete description of each air mission.
As the second (and final?) book in the Desert Prelude set, the authors present a chapter, "Summary and Conclusions," of about thirteen pages devoted to aircraft, pilots, tactics, and so on, and containing many insights, some perhaps a tad controversial.
The book also includes ten pages of sources plus a couple of maps, color profiles, and an index. As with the first volume, this one is thoroughly illustrated with, but not overwhelmed by, many interesting photographs of men and machines covered in the text.
We're infatuated with what Gustavsson and Slongo have accomplished, and would love to see one or more additional volumes dealing in the same way with rather mystifying topics such as air operations by the Regia Aeronautica and its opponents during the Italian invasion of France in 1940, the Italo-Greek War, Italian participation in the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece (including Crete) in 1941, and over Iraq in 1941.
Whether or not the authors can pursue this approach with more books on other air campaigns, this volume of Desert Prelude, like the first one, deserves high praise for expanding the English-language catalog of histories devoted to such a detailed understanding of the topic. The early months of air action in the desert can seem like the aerial warfare of World War I rather than World War II, making Operation Compass as fascinating as it is informative.
Quite a good job, and definitely recommended.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from MMP's US distributor, Casemate.
Storia MIlitare 07/2011 2012-07-06
by Ray Mehlberger
This is the second volume about the air war in the African Desert. The first book “Desert Prelude, Early Clashes” was reviewed by me back in April of 2010 and can be found in the reference archives here on Cybermodeler.
This new book is in 8 ½” x 11” page format, soft cover and 208 pages in length. It completes the in-depth look at the air war over North African deserts early in WW2. It covers the main operations in the last three months before the Germans had to step in to save their defeated Italian allies. Following on from the well-received first volume, the final sorties and the desperate straits of the Italian forces are described, and the push for total victory by the Commonwealth air arms is detailed.
The book also contains a detailed summary of the equipment and tactics of the opposing air arms, and attempts to explain the end results – which were not necessarily a reflection of the qualities of the aircraft involved!
In contains 11 black and white photos of British pilots and 49 of Italian pilots during the campaign. There are 37 black and white photos of Italian aircraft and 9 of British aircraft.
There are 4 color side profiles of Italian Cr-42’s, 3 of the Caponi Ca.309 Ghibli and 9 of the SM-79 tri-motor. The book also includes 2 maps of North Africa, 2 information charts, a summary and an index. The cover has a rare wartime color photo of a crashed British Blenhiem.
The maps show the ebb and flow of the fighting. The text includes many first-hand accounts and official records. The aurthors are well know for their interest in and research on biplane fighters and the Italian Air Force respectively. They have produced an authoritive and fascinating account of this little-known conflict of WW2. Volume 1, covering the initial fighting is still available.
This book will be an invaluable reference souce for aircraft historians, modelers and air craft enthusiasts. Highly recommended.
Review by Geoff Coughlin
This second volume completes the in-depth look at the air war over North African deserts early in WW2 started in Vol. 1 and covers the major operations in the last three months before the Germans had to step in to save their defeater Italian allies. Following on from the well-received first volume, the final sorties and desperate straits of the Italian forces are described as well as the push for total victory by Commonwealth air arms detailed. The book also contains a detailed summary of the equipment and tactics of the opposing air arms, and attempts to explain the end results – which were not necessarily a reflection of the qualities of the aircraft involved!
In addition to many contemporary images, there are colour profiles of representative aircraft from both sides, and maps showing the ebb and flow of the fighting. The text includes many first-hand accounts and official reports. The authors are well known for their interest in and research on bi-plane fighters and the Italian Air Force respectively, and they have produced an authoritative and fascinating account of this little-known conflict of WW2. Volume 1, covering the initial fighting, is still available.
Useful for scale modellers…
The fact is, although this title is heavy on text, it may not at first glance seem to offer as much to scale modellers as others perhaps more focused on aircraft types. This would be to misjudge the content. The depth and coverage, together with the excellent colour profiles will provide plenty of scope for influencing your choice of model. The period images will certainly give you much to contemplate in terms of finish and weathering, but you should take a long look at the words. The writing gives great insight into the conflict in North Africa and you certainly get a strong sense from the insightful and emotional first-hand accounts.
The colour profiles cover several aircraft types popular with scale modellers: SM.79, Caprioni Ca 309 Ghibli and Fiat CR.42 and that introduces all sorts of possibilities for themes and a series of scale models representing the types flown in this Theatre of war.
The first volume ‘Early clashes’ had already given satisfaction in many ways from my point of view, and logically what I found good in the first volume appears again in this second volume which deals with the war in the desert from December 1940 to February 1941, that means before the Germans arrive in the region. T
his book of over 200 pages continues to narrate day after day, the detailled air operations over the Desert, also including many recollections and combat reports of all kind like in the previous volume. The good balance between photographs and text is again respected and the overall presentation is still simple but efficient. The book ends with some pages of colour profiles and maps necessary to locate a few events stated in the book.
Thus, with the first volume, it was unquestionably the best reference covering the first months of war in this part of the world, making more than 400 pages of excellent reference ... to make short a very good job.
Scott Van Aken
Our friends at Mushroom Models Publications have probably been wondering why it has taken so long to review this book. Well the truth is that I tend to read what is sent in rather than just breeze through it. Some books are full of photos and drawings while others are full of details and it is the latter in which this book falls.
I honestly did not know what to expect when starting on this. I'd not seen volume one (this is volume two) and was not really prepared for the sort of depth that the authors have provided. You see, this book covers but about 2 and a half months from December 1940 until the first part of February 1941.
Let me back up a tad. The war in the North African desert started shortly after Italy declared war on France in June of 1940. The UK and Commonwealth got into the act at that time and though not a major fighting area, there was plenty of conflict to go around. First in East Africa and then on the North African scene as the Italians pushed the British in Egypt back along the coast.
By the time this book starts in December, the British have started pushing back and this covers the period of time from when the big British push began until the Italians collapsed in early 1941. Of course, we know that the influx of the German army began about that time and stopped total defeat, turning the tables in the war, but that is another book, I'm sure.
This one is about the Italians and the Commonwealth. It is a day by day account of the ground and air war, though focused on the air war. As an example, a day will start with what happened on the ground. Then it will cover unit movements in regards to going from one field to another as the conflict waged across the desert. The rest of the day's information is made up of missions and any highlights of those missions in terms of engagements between the Italians and the Commonwealth.
It is really fascinating reading as one reads about various aerial battles and the aftermath or consequences of those actions. It is here that we read about SAAF Gauntlets and Gladiators against RA CR.42s. The effect of the Hurricane as it is sent to the theater and how the Fiat G.50 and Macchi C.200s fared. It includes bomber and recce ops by Blenheims and SM.79s. Towards the end of the book, we are introduced to German air units and operations while helping the Italians.
This is all additionally enhanced by photos of the men and machines as well as maps of the area. Typical of these books, there are several pages of superbly drawn color profile, presented in landscape format to provide nice, large images. There is also an impressive bibliography and the research that has gone into each day's events is superlative.
It is a book that has to be read slowly and in pieces to prevent getting overload, but it does give the best look yet at the early air war in North Africa. A book I truly enjoyed reading and can easily recommend to you.
IPMSUSA.org 2012-07-06Reviewed by: Michael Novosad, IPMS# 36721
This paperback publication contains 196 8.25” x 11.75” pages, and includes more than 120 black and white photos, scale plans, maps and several color profiles. This is the second volume in this series that addresses the war in North Africa from December 9, 1940 - February 7, 1941 before the Germans became involved to save their Italian allies. I personally have always been interested in the North African combat theater, especially the Afrika Korps, but this publications offer some insight into the battles before the DAK became involved.
There are numerous photographs of aircraft, mostly Italian, and the pilots, again mostly Italian. There are several color profiles of Italian aircraft and two maps of the area at the back of the publication.
The book follows the battles from day-to-day, and each day is broken down to “Movements” and “Operations”. Often every pilot’s name and rank along with aircraft numbers are noted for several operations. I found this information to be a bit distracting and usually skipped over those paragraphs. A few engagements are offered in some detail that gives the reader some idea of what the combatants were up against, but generally each day’s activities are offered from what appear to be daily combat reports. In all honesty I did not read every one of the days’ activities.
Readers interested in detailed historical narratives may find this publication interesting and of some value. Had more photos been included of the aircraft and vehicles (both Allied and Italian) this book may have greater appeal to modelers.
The summary and conclusion offered from pages 170 through 182 I found to be the most interesting part of the book. While personalities of the various leaders are not addressed in any detail, tactics, weapons and support were analyzed in some detail.
This I found interesting.
MA 05/2011 2012-07-06
JP4 Italian Aviation Magazine 2012-07-06
By Chris Banyai-Riepl
While the war in Europe is thoroughly documented in aviation literature, the conflict to the south, in North Africa, is less well covered. Mushroom Model Publications has taken on this discrepancy with a series on the early stages of the North African conflict. This is the second volume, in that series, and it covers Operation Compass, from December 1940 to February 1941. Operation Compass was the offensive push by the British forces in North Africa against the Italians, who were distracted with their Grecian invasion. By the end of Operation Compass in February 1941, the British, although battered, and effectively defeated the Italians in North Africa.
The book is laid out chronologically in a daily diary type of format. Following a brief introduction to the air forces involved, the operational record is laid out day by day. This can be a rather dry way to read history, but there are enough interesting events to keep the reader moving through the text. Balancing the written text are plenty of photos showing participants from both sides. Rounding out the book is a color profile section that contains several illustrations of Italian aircraft. I am guessing the color illustrations of the British participants are found in the first volume, although I have not seen that particular book to verify that.
This is a very good book documenting the operations in North Africa, and will undoubtedly help increase awareness and interest in the conflict between British and Italian forces in North Africa.
MiniReplika Nr 70 2011-09-06
To ciąg dalszy omawiania pierwszego okresu walk w Afryce. Podobnie jak tom pierwszy „Desert Prelude”, tak i tom drugi skonstruowano wokół chronologii zmagań. Każdy miesiąc omówiony jest osobno, z podziałem na krótkie omówienie działań lądowych oraz zmagania powietrzne. Te z kolei za każdym razem szczegółowo omawiają stan sił oraz uzupełnienia na początku miesiąca z osobna dla każdej z sił powietrznych. Następnie opisywane są wszystkie działania dzień po dniu, najczęściej zweryfikowane na podstawie źródeł z obu stron konfliktu. Ponownie lektura jest wciągająca, a w połączeniu z pierwszym tomem daje obraz trudów początkowego okresu walk.
Tom drugi omawia okres operacji „Compass”, czyli pierwszej wielkiej alianckiej ofensywy. Zwycięskiej, ale nie wykorzystanej do końca.
Powtórzę z poprzednich recenzji: wysoka jakość papieru i druku to znak firmowy MMP. Wydaje mi się także, że w porównaniu do tomu pierwszego poprawiono drobny mankament i okładka jest bardziej sztywna. Plany, zdjęcia i profile
Planów brak. Zdjęcia opublikowane w książce w większości są mało znane i unikalne. Wiele z nich przedstawia sceny z życia codziennego walczących stron, szereg innych może być świetną inspiracją do dioram.
Plansze barwne są duże i przedstawiają myśliwce Fiat CR.42 oraz bombowce Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli i Savoia SM.79.
Książka jest absolutnie obowiązkową lekturą dla osób zainteresowanych zmaganiami nad Afryką. Osoby zainteresowane działaniami powietrznymi podczas II wojny światowej też nie powinny być nią zawiedzione.
Skrzydlata Polska 4/2011 2011-09-06
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