The Dawn of Carrier Strike And the World of Lieutenant W P Lucy DSO RN, by David Hobbs

The Dawn of Carrier Strike And the World of Lieutenant W P Lucy DSO RN, by David Hobbs

I approached this book with some trepidation, having no real experience of the aviation side of the Royal Navy and being now some 23 years on the outside. The early pages were heavy with factual detail and I found them hard going until I got used to Commander David Hobbs’ style of writing, after that, this was a fascinating read.

The author served in the Royal Navy from 1964 to 1997 and is a qualified pilot in both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft with over 2,000 flying hours across both types. After leaving the Service, David Hobbs was Curator of the FAA Museum for 8 years and is now an aeronautical journalist, author and lecturer. Clearly what a lawyer would call an “authority” in a very large, complex and highly technical area.

Even though the book is concerned only with the period 1918 - 1940, this was an era of profound change, both rapid and tortoise-like in its development. David Hobbs analyses the tensions between the Royal Navy and the nascent Royal Air Force carefully and exposes the failures of policy caused by the lack of understanding on the part of the politicians of the meaning of air power. To what extent this was the result of the RAF feeling that it had to fight to maintain its status as an independent service is a question touched on, but not examined in depth, and, indeed, is an issue best explored elsewhere. Nevertheless, the author does the serious student of the evolution of naval air strategy and tactics a great service as he lays bare the errors made and their enduring consequences, lasting well into the Second World War.

The book divides itself neatly into two halves, the first being what I have already described, and the second a very detailed examination of the Naval Air activities in the Norway campaign in the Spring of 1940. Woven through both halves are glimpses of the naval life of Lieut. Bill Lucy DSO as a naval aviator before and during the early part of the war, which give considerable cohesion to the whole work. Bill Lucy and his Observer, Lieut. Michael Hanson DSC, were killed in action on 14 May 1940, after 6 weeks of intense operations against the Germans in the invasion of Norway, during which time they effectively re-wrote the book of tactics for the use of Naval Aircraft against enemy operations in coastal areas. It is clear that Bill Lucy was an effective and inspirational leader and a profound loss, not only to his family and his squadron, but the whole of the Royal Navy.

There is a lot in it for the student of internal military politics and the student of Naval Air Warfare, and though dry in places, the accounts of operations are a thrilling read. If I have to find a fault, it is that I felt that I did not get a fully rounded picture of Bill Lucy, although I acknowledge that the purpose of the book did not leave much room for that."

I rate the book 4 out of 5 anchors.

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