KITTY-HAWK PILOT: WING COMMANDER J.F. (STOCKY) EDWARDS
J. P. A. Lavigne and J. F. Edwards.
Toronto, Macmillan, c1984.
Toronto, Macmillan, c1984.
Volume 12 Number 5
Kittyhawk Pilot concerns a part of World War II air warfare that has been overshadowed by the great air battles of Europe and the Pacific. This book is about the role of the airplane in the desert warfare of North Africa. The Kittyhawk is one of the later versions of the American P40 fighter plane. The pilot is James F. (Stocky) Edwards of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who enlisted in 1940, fought most of the war in North Africa, and flew his last operational sortie as a Wing Commander in 1945. The author cites Edwards as Canada's top living fighter pilot of the War.
Whereas the air battles of Europe were fought between aircraft essentially for supremacy in the air, at least prior to the invasion of France, desert warfare was a different operation. Here the army was paramount, and ground gained, the prize. The fluidity of desert warfare, the rapid advances, and extended retreats of the armies necessitated a corresponding mobility in the air arm—Edwards's 260 squadron used more than forty-five different locations over two years. A fighter pilot returning to Britain from combat over France looked forward to a permanent base with all the amenities this implies. In the desert, with frequent changes of location, primitive living was the order of the day, and during advance or retreat, sleeping under the stars was not unknown. Under such conditions, organization was stretched to the limit, shortages were constant, and morale was a problem.
Though the P40 was first flown in 1940 (two years after the first Spitfire was delivered to a squadron) the first Kittyhawk (an improved P40) was flown in 1941, this aircraft never did measure up as opposition to its main adversary, the German Me.109. "In my estimation," Jim Edwards wrote after the war, "The Kittyhawk Mk. 1 was not an easy aircraft to fly properly and, as a result, we lost a good number of pilots while training. Some Hurricane pilots just flatly refused to fly it, preferring to go back to the Hurricane squadrons." Casualties were high.
J.P.A. Levinge has done an outstanding job of research. Through interviews, log books, diaries and other sources, he has tracked down amazing detail, to the point of establishing who shot down whom, where, and when:
The next day, 1 November 1942, Unteroffizier Hans Jurgens of
Maps inside the front and back covers allow the reader to follow the action. There are twenty-four pages of photos and a series of appendices cover a multitude of relevant detail.
Kittyhawk Pilot covers the exciting combat career of one of Canada's Aces, Stocky Edwards DFM, DFC, Bar, MID. It also gives a good picture of a previously neglected aspect of World War II. A good read.
Alfred F. Greenwood, Victoria, BC.
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