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Shores, Christopher. Dust Clouds in the Middle East: The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940-42. London: Grub Street, 1996.
Introduction and Acknowledgements; maps; photos; orders of battle; index.
Sections: East Africa (with Corrado Ricci); Iraq; Syria (with Christian J. Ehrengardt); Iran; Madagascar (with Christian J. Ehrengardt).
Over the past 30 years Chris Shores has done more than anyone to chronicle the day-by-day record of the aircraft and airmen of the British air forces -- and their opponents -- in the Second World War. His books on air operations cover theaters including France in 1939-1940, Norway, the Western Desert, Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete, Malta, Tunisia, Malaya and Singapore, the Netherlands East Indies, and Burma. His latest book covers the obscure air operations which were part of the almost equally obscure campaigns in East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Madagascar.
Each campaign is presented with information on its background and land/sea aspects, but the bulk of the text is concerned with action in the sky. With the assistance of able collaborators Ricci and Ehrengardt, Shores continues his tradition of detailing every day's individual sorties through a careful comparison of the official records as well as the personal accounts offered by flyers on both sides. This is a typical example:
"...but as they [Venter and Theron in Hurricanes] approached they saw Lt Dudley taking off and being attacked by two CR 42s, his Hurricane crashing and bursting into flames. He had been shot down by Capt Palmera of the 110th Squadriglia who with his wingman, Serg Magg Tominello of the 413th Squadriglia, now went on to try to shoot up six Hartbeestes on the airfield. At the approach of the other two Hurricanes, both Fiats tried to climb away, but Theron pulled up behind one which had entered a loop, and shot down Tominello's CR 42, which crashed straight down into the ground in flames from 1000 feet. Venter then shot down Palmera's aircraft, also in flames, the pilot baling out. He was picked up by troops of the 11th African Division and handed over to the pilots of the two squadrons at Dogabur, who entertained him in their mess for the rest of the day before he was evacuated to Mogadishu."
In addition to the background and chronological text, the book is filled with detailed air OBs, lists of pilot claims, charts of aircraft losses (all of which information seems to be unavailable anywhere else), and dozens of rare photographs.
Besides Shores' usual thoroughness, one of the real charms of this volume is the oddball aircraft, flamboyant personalities, and colonial backwater environment where every sortie is made on a shoestring and each and every man and machine can make a crucial difference in the outcome.
For fans of Chris Shores, for air enthusiasts, and for those of us who dote on little-known adventures, this is a must-have.
In print and available from bookstores and mail-order booksellers in the US for $49.95. Also available directly from the publisher in the UK.
Thanks to Seven Hills Book Distributors, Grub Street's US distribution agent, for providing this copy.
Reviewed 2 July 1996
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