The real battle for Australia
By Anthony Cooper
Published by New South | RRP $34.99 in paperback
This book, first published in 2011, emerged from the author’s boyhood obsession with the Spitfire and his realisation that little had been written about the defence of northern Australia by the RAAF’s No 1 Fighter Wing, which consisted of a small band of inexperienced Australian and British fighter pilots up against a formidably skilled opponent.
He also wanted to tell the real story rather than succumb to the temptation to perpetuate the ‘optimistic gloss provided by Australia’s wartime propagandists’ which claimed seventy Japanese aircraft had been downed versus the true figure of twenty-eight. (Twenty-eight Spitfires were also lost.)
What follows is a thorough, analytical study of the 1943 campaign, which was blighted by equipment failure, the poor state of the aircraft and poor tactics.
Despite these difficulties, the skilled pilots did their best in the difficult circumstances. Interestingly, only three pilots were decorated as a result of the campaign, suggesting that the higher command was underwhelmed by their achievements.
VERDICT: This is an excellent book for readers interested in understanding the complexities of the air war and the pilots who helped defend Australia.