Spitfire in Combat – Book Review

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Spitfire in Combat

Book Review

Product summary Title Spitfire in Combat Author Alfred Price Published by Sutton Publishing ISBN 978-0750931601 Format Hardcover; 25 x 21 cm, 176 pages Price ...

Product summary

Title Spitfire in Combat
Author Alfred Price
Published by Sutton Publishing
ISBN 978-0750931601
Format Hardcover; 25 x 21 cm, 176 pages
Price Recommended Retail Price £19.99 (hardcover) or 14.99 (paperback). Available to buy from Amazon.co.uk

Acquired last week, and already browsed, read and reflected upon is Alfred Price’s newest book Spitfire in Combat. First published in 2003, it is of renewed interest as its paperback edition hit the bookstores this Summer.

My sample is an initial hardcover edition and I’m glad for this. It is beautifully printed, which of course is of special value if you consider the many photographs that add to its value. I haven’t seen the paperback edition but I suspect that the quality of photos may have suffered in that format. My book, with its large size and the evocative dark-blue-and-gold design on the dust cover is just asking to be put on my “prime” aviation bookshelf.

The book is richly illustrated, and the quality of photo reproduction is first-class

To many Spitfire enthusiasts, the name of Alfred Price will require no introduction and may indeed suffice alone as the reason for purchasing this title. Mr. Price made his name as the Spitfire historian, and indeed, is himself largely responsible for boasting the phenomenon of the “Spitfire book”. His bibliography includes such milestone works as The Spitfire Story, which years ago set the level for the rest of the world for how a development history of an aircraft should be written.

Now how about this latest work? Reading the book reveals the characteristic style of Alfred Price’s writing similar to his previous books: everything is based on rock-solid research, the text easily accessible, the conclusions always polite to the aircraft and the people who built and operated it.

The book is constructed as a collection of various episodes from the development and operational history of the aircraft. Here we have a chapter about the Spitfire prototype, the Speed Spitfire, Supermarine’s efforts to extend the range of their basic design, or the story of the Spitfire floatplanes. Some chapters are purely reference tables, such as “Spitfire deployment at its greatest extent”.

On a critical note, it could be said that the title Spitfire in Combat does not really match the contents of the book. In fact, the only pure “combat” account is the chapter describing the operations on 15 September 1940, at the apex of the Battle of Britain. There is also another chapter devoted to post-war clandestine reconnaissance flights over China, but that’s it. All in all, there is not much “combat” throughout the book, and one gets an impression that the title was selected with the primary aim of promoting the sales rather than telling the potential reader what the book is all about.


Having been a long-standing fan of Alfred Price and his work, I have also been a bit disappointed to see that almost all of the material in this book has been recycled from his previous publications. Yes, the chapters have been reworked, but the subjects are all the same: the prototype test programme; service introduction with No. 19 Squadron at Duxford; the hardest day of the Battle of Britain; the story of the Heston Flight and the development of the reconnaissance versions; Spitfire deliveries to Malta; production testing by Alex Henshaw; Spitfire vs. Vampire comparison. It is telling that the list of bibliography at the end of the book quotes mostly the author’s own titles.

So, summarizing, Spitfire in Combat is, without doubt, a very good Spitfire book. It will serve as an ideal primer for those whose interest in the Spitfire is just beginning, revealing some of the lesser publicised aspects of its development and use. To this group of readers I recommend it without hesitation.

For those who are already familiar with previous books by the same author, the value of Spitfire in Combat is not quite as obvious. I’m still happy to have it due to the many beautifully reproduced photos, but the feeling of getting re-wrapped old content leaves me wanting more.

Review book provided by the reviewer

This Article has One Comment. Add Another!

By James  |  2011-05-18 at 02:21  |  permalink

I have both this and Spitfire Story, I thought them very good. Some very interesting insights into the aerodynamics of the Spitfire. Another book which I thought had some very interesting details was Len Deightons “Fighter”. His book “Bomber” was extraordinary, as he really managed to “put you in the cockpit”, despite not being a pilot himself. I understand he flew in some aircraft to get an insight, but his writing of it is still brilliant. The sequence of the Ju88 suffering the birdstrike after take off, and the Lancaster of FLT Sweet, getting shot down and rolling inverted over the target, are particularly riveting.

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