Spitfire Photo-Recce Units of World War 2

Being there . . . . when Britain stood alone, her victories few, and Hitler redistributing the
weights of his services in order to cross the English Channel and obliterate the only threat to his
iron grip on Western Europe. Churchill’s only response in those early, anxious days was the
Royal Air Force, and it’s two new-born babies, the sturdy, easy to handle, Hawker Hurricane
(1937), and his handsome, nay, magnificently tough, Spitfire (1938) which could reach 350 mph.
Slim, highly maneuverable, armed with eight heavy machine guns, the “Spit” was indeed one of
the free world’s heroes. With the Hawker, the duo’s fighting agility forced the Nazi invader to
think twice before launching his thousand boat landing force – – especially when Churchill’s ever
alert coastal command was prepared and waiting.
Reviewed and recommened by Don DeNevi
The Battle of Britain which followed the collapse of France was the first major campaign to
be contested between air forces without fighting on the ground below. It was also the first
sustained refutation of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s 1928 pronouncement, “Any bomber
threat from Germany, our potential enemy in the future, will undoubtedly get through to our
cities, airfields, arms industries”. Fortunately, Hugh Dowding, his unappreciated RAF
Commander in Chief, thought otherwise and quietly built a system of scientific air defense
known as Fighter Command to cope, in daylight at least, with attacking forces over England,
primarily. Those air forces would probably be far more numerous than those at his own
disposal. At the core of the “system” would be fast, modern, well-armed fighters still on the
drawing boards, the Hurricane and Spitfire. Buttressing such envisioned “master,
unconquerable aircraft” would have to be, of course, a radar and Observer Corps, anti-aircraft
guns, searchlights, and barrage balloons. Baldwin, to Churchill’s delight, had to admit the
system was a triumph. For the first time in a war that appeared on its way, Hitler’s proud
Luftwaffe would face systematic, strategically situated defensive air power and newly created
fighters, the most important being the nonpareil Spitfire.
“SPITFIRE PHOTO-RECCE UNITS OF WORLD WAR 2”, by Andrew Fletcher. Osprey Publishing Ltd,
Combat Aircraft Series 150, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc; 2023, 96 pages, 7 ¼” x 9 ¾”, softcover,
$25. Visit, www.ospreypublishing.com.
In short, the photographic reconnaissance (PR) versions of the Supermarine Spitfire saw
service against the Axis Tripartite, Germany, Italy, and Japan, throughout the Second World
War. Its superior performance even led to the USAAF adopting the type for the mighty Eighth
Air Force’s reconnaissance needs in Europe, the Mediterranean, and Pacific. PR Spitfires were
responsible for some of the most significant intelligence finds of the war, from low level oblique
photographs of new German radars in France to locating the battleship “Bismarck” off the
Norwegian before it attempted to sortie into the Atlantic. It has been estimated that as much
as 80% of Allied intelligence was gathered from aerial photographs, many of which were taken
by cameras installed in PR Spitfires.

Thus, in this less than a 100-page layout, print and photos, some close-ups in color of the
plane itself, PR specialist Andrew Fletcher details the important part played by the small
number of “photo – recce” Spitfires in the war’s most critical theatres. His detailed text, which
includes numerous first-hand accounts, chronicles operations from the first months of the
conflict through to VJ Day. Yup, buff, no questions about it, the book must be on one of the
shelves of your expanding personal library.

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