James Holland is simply a master historian and storyteller. This account of the Allies landing and taking Sicily, as seen from both sides, makes gripping reading. It is almost un-put-downable… even though we already know how the story ends! It’s also a good antidote to the view of the Sicily campaign as portrayed in the movie ‘Patton’.
So, it goes like this: at the beginning of Aug 1944, Luftwaffe pilot Erich Sommers was regularly flying undetected over the beaches of Normandy at 29,500ft (900 m) in his Arado 234 jet, snapping away with his photo-reconnaissance cameras. I didn’t know this till I stumbled across this book – well, I’m sure not many people did, after all he was ‘undetected’!
This book is photo-rich and fascinating. It covers the development of the Arado 234, its operations, its pilots, its main base at Juvincourt, and the post-war efforts of the Americans to get the German jets back to the USA to study them. There are many photos taken by the pilots themselves at their airbases, and many of the reconnaissance photos they took.
I do take minor issue with the book’s sub-title: ‘The world’s first jet’. It wasn’t. The world’s first jet to fly was the Heinkel HE 178 . The world’s first operational jet was the Messerschmitt ME 262. The Arado 234 was the world’s first operational jet bomber.
George Scovell turns out to be a 19th century version of Alan Turing. By cracking and part-cracking the codes that Napoleon and his generals used to communicate during the Peninsula War, he was able to steer his boss Arthur Wellesley, the Earl (at that point in his career) of Wellington, towards victory in such crucial engagements as the Battle of Salamanca 1812.
It has made me want to re-visit parts of Portugal & Spain to ‘walk the history’.