Lt Cdr RS Baker-Falkner DSO DSC RN, 1916-44

Discussion in 'The Fleet Air Arm' started by Seaweed, Oct 4, 2014.

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  1. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    I've put this here rather that in the Book Club because I think it may be of continuing and specific interest to FAA people in the future.

    'Wings over the Waves' is a biography of the subject by his nephew Graham Roy Drucker, published by Pen and Sword in 2010.

    RSB-F was a regular officer who chose to specialise in aviation and was thus part of that corpus of experience that was so swiftly, in many cases, replaced by RNVRs as our early carrier losses and other causes so savagely thinned out the originals early in the war. He survived numerous very dangerous operations in Swordfish to become, at 27, a Lt Cdr and Wing Leader of two squadrons of Barracudas operating off Norway. He had been the original test pilot for the Barracuda, and took it into squadron service as CO of 827. Shortly after leading his wing on two dive-bombing raids on Tirpitz in the summer of 1944 he failed to return to Furious from an anti-submarine patrol. It was clearly RSB-F's exceptional flying ability and natural powers of leadership that tamed the Barracuda and gave his squadrons confidence in this beast in spite of its enormous shortcomings.

    The author has collected memories from a huge raft of RSB-F's contemporaries which (this is the nub of why I am reporting this book) provide a fascinating, detailed portrait of the FAA before and during the war, ending (necessarily) just before the FAA regrouped for the BPF. These excerpts from diaries and letters and other contributions rise to a gripping crescendo as the 'Barras' dive on the Tirpitz, and close with a remarkably clear account of the drama on board Furious as RSB-F's aircraft went missing.

    It is the contemporary accounts which carry the narrative and the naval reader must accommodate the fact that the author knows nothing about the Royal Navy and perpetrates howler after howler in his linking text. This put me off at the start but by halfway through I was gripped by the warts and all actuality of the FAA's wartime experience - and humbled too. I thought the author was being a touch hagiographic until I started to take in what his equals and juniors thought of the man they called 'Daddy'.

    If I were scoring for a review I would award five anchors.

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