Saturday, 28 July 2018


The recent recalling to mind of someone I knew long ago and the subsequent discovery of the whole story behind his ditching in the North Sea at the end of the war made me realise that I knew very little of the work of RAF Coastal Command during that time. I therefore been reading with interest 'The Strike Wings' by Roy Conyers Nesbit about the special anti-shipping squadrons, among whom was 144 Squadron, in which the then Warrant Officer Boorer served as a navigator.

It is, as one would expect, absolutely fascinating stuff, at all levels: the individual stories of brave young men; the technical details about the Beaufighter and its weaponry; the development of tactics in the light of experience; and the higher level strategic questions of why the denial of high-grade Swedish iron ore (*) and Malayan Rubber to the Nazis was so critical. The write ups of raids are made with reference to German war diaries as well as first hand accounts from members of the RAF, RCAF, RAAF and RNZAF and are very even handed. There are clear maps of some attacks, an appendix listing all the actions and an extensive bibliography; it's good stuff.

The one area I felt I would like sightly more clarity on is the internal layout of the aircraft, so I thought I would hunt down a second-hand copy of the relevant Osprey. Astonishingly I find that Osprey don't publish a volume on the Beaufighter; my faith in the world is shaken even more than it already was. I shall continue my search, and would appreciate book suggestions. In particular I am keen to understand where exactly they put the carrier pigeon.

I'm not sure about the game potential of all this; there don't seem to be too many decision points for either side and I suspect it would all just come down to the luck of the dice/cards/whatever. Tumbling Dice do make fairly cheap packs of 1/600 Beaufighters though.

I think that I mentioned in an earlier post that I had on a whim bought a limited edition print of a painting signed by Flying Officer Brett, the pilot who was shot down with Mr Boorer. The idea was that I had always intended to decorate the annexe with military themed paintings, photos etc (despite not yet actually having done anything about it) and because of the tenuous connection, and the reasonable price on eBay, this seemed a good place to start. Well, it's turned up (**) and looks very good. It also looks very large. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the dimensions, which were clearly listed. So, it isn't going in the annexe, because it's too big, and it's going to cost an arm and a leg to frame, thereby rather undermining the concept of getting a good deal. Result.

(*) It's fair to say that the Swedes don't come out of this episode with any credit.
(**) For the record, Mr Brett signs himself Philip


  1. After reading Biggles (my iPad wants me to write biggies) in Borneo I used to think the Beaufighter was about the best thing going. Don’t like air combat games, but love the stories of the men who were up there. BTW, if the painting doesn’t fit in the annexe, do you not need more liebensraum? Time to expand (into Europe), perhaps?

    1. Liebensraum could of course be freely translated as 'room to love'. I do so hope that you meant to suggest I need more space for amorous activities rather than simply misspelling lebensraum.

      This wouldn't be an air combat game because by that stage the Germans didn't have many aircraft and those they did have were kept at bay by accompanying RAF fighters. It's aircraft versus anti-aircraft fire followed by torpedoes versus ships; as I say, probably not the most exciting game to play.

    2. My apologies - I’ll just have to take that ‘liebensraum’ failure on the chin!

    3. Speaking of inadvertancies, I've only just worked out that you were reading 'Biggles in Borneo' as opposed to my original (and somewhat odd now I think about it) assumption of you having been in Borneo reading Biggles.

    4. Gosh, this has triggered an early memory in me. 'Biggles in Borneo' I read aged between about 8 and 10, from a mobile library that visited our village school; somehow a sort of caravan full of books was rather exciting. Many more 'Biggleses' followed. W.E. Johns, having flown two-seaters in the Great War, perhaps could relate to the Beaufighter concept quite well?

    5. I read it about the same age, David. Good memories! The copy I had was given to us by a family friend, along with more WE Johns and stacks of Enid Blyton.