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Bold Venture: The American Bombing of Japanese Occupied Hong Kong, 1942–1945  by Steven K Bailey

Bold Venture: The American Bombing of Japanese Occupied Hong Kong, 1942–1945 by Steven K Bailey

As I’ve said many times before, I actually know very little of the facts with respect to world war two. I’ll now add, I know even less of happenings in the far east. This book provided an opportunity to correct this a little.

Firstly, I’ll say what an immensely entertaining read it was. Truth be told, it reads like a novel. A damned good novel!

One thing that I liked was the extensive referencing that the author supplied: this was in stark contrast to the last ‘factual’ book I reviewed. However, I didn’t personally like the format of referencing. The author has grouped his references by chapter at the rear of the book, I far more prefer to see them as footnotes on the page where they appear. A small point and as I say, personal taste.

I also liked the pictures, though I would have preferred to see them as glossy plates rather than as newspaper type prints on normal pages.

And that sums up my gripes about this book.

I had an interesting time trying to understand some of the expressions used: ‘godowns’ being one of them. A quick google and I’m much wiser. A godown is typically a Japanese warehouse: I hope the good lady doesn’t check my browser history!

As I say my knowledge of war in the far east is almost non-existent, but if pushed on the topic I would likely refer to boots on the ground rather than any war in the air. To be truthful, an air war over Hong Kong simply wouldn't previously have figured in my thinking. This book has rectified things somewhat.

That so much was achieved with clapped out aircraft is testament to the abilities of the airmen and their support crews. The amount of ordnance dropped was surprising, as was the ability of aircrews to miss so many targets. Equally surprising was the re-supply route and the number of aircraft that came a cropper ferrying in much needed supplies.

I thought that the escape routes and methods of downed crews returning back to base were very reminiscent of those used in Europe for getting the crews back to Blighty. I guess there’s little new or different in the world of escaping a downed aircraft and of putting yourself in the hands of a few friendly natives.

I really found the book a compelling read. Then once finished I sat down to pen a review and that’s where things unravelled a little. As always, I like to see what other reviewers think, though I try to remain uninfluenced by them. However, in this case I’m going to bring in another reviewer’s thoughts simply to illustrate how difficult it is to ascertain the facts of historic events.

I liked the references (though I found the style laborious to use) and followed up a few of them, they checked out as far as I was concerned. The other reviewer claimed that some of these references have now been discredited. He accuses the author of making assumptions rather than carrying out solid research. In mitigation he begrudgingly concedes that this is a book that might be worth reading for a ‘general view’ of what happened.

Now, this may be personal differences between experts in their field but it confuses the hell out of me, the amateur historian. I’m now compelled to go and carry out further research of my own and I’ll likely find merit in many different works. As I’ve previously said, even when we have official documentation of events, it is often so frustratingly open to interpretation. Do we ever get to the truth?

To summarise though, I found this book an excellent starter/primer to the American/Chinese handling of Hong Kong during WW2.

I’ll run to 4 anchors, it was an enjoyable and (to me) very educational read.