Reviewed by Walter J. Boyne
By Christopher Shores
Grub Street, London, 2004
There are some authors whose name alone is sufficient reason to buy a book, and Christopher Shores is surely one of these. Shores is a leader in that great band of British writers who hold down day jobs while still cramming in sufficient research and writing time to delight their fans. By profession a chartered surveyor, he served in the Royal Air Force in the 1950s, so his writing bears the stamp of authenticity of one who has labored in the ill-paid but oh-so-rewarding vineyard of aviation.
Shores seems to delight in the challenge of subjects seldom covered, making his contributions all the more valuable. His two-volume Bloody Shambles deals with the Southeast Pacific during World War II and has no counterpart in the market to my knowledge. Similarly unique are his Air War for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete; Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41; and Fledgling Eagles, an account of operations during the “Phony War” and the Norwegian campaign.
His latest work, the monumental Those Other Eagles, is as its title states a companion to its well-received predecessor, the two-volume Aces High: A Tribute to the Highest Scoring Fighter Pilots of the British and Commonwealth Air Forces in World War II. The latter provides brief histories of each of the pilots who had five total aerial victories, individual or shared.
Those Other Eagles covers the British, Commonwealth and Free European fighter pilots who claimed between two and four victories in aerial combat between 1939 and 1982. This extension from beyond World War II does not add a great percentage of entries, but is all the more valuable because so little has been written about this long period, which included wars in Malaysia, Korea and the Falklands. It could be argued that Those Other Eagles is actually a more important work than Aces High, for it provides information that only years of research could produce, and which probably will not be available to future researchers simply because the events and personalities are likely to be obscured by the passage of time.
In 671 very well-written pages, Shores provides more than 1,800 entries, from Wing Commander Richard James Abrahams to Squadron Leader Jozef Zulikowski. Each entry gives the name, rank and serial number of the flier, the date of the victory, the type of aircraft shot down, the type of aircraft being flown by the victor, and often the latter’s serial number and/or letter markings. The position of the victory is recorded, as is the victor’s flying unit. And that is just the tabular presentation.
Each flier also gets a biographical entry that is surprising in its detail, taking you from the birthday of the pilot through his education, training, units to which he was assigned and his wartime record, often including decorations. If he survived — as sadly, so many did not — information on his postwar career is included as well.
Now, this is not a book you can sit down with and read straight through, but it is one you will return to time and again, not only for reference but simply to dip into the rich detail provided on these vibrant lives. Where else would you learn that a U.S citizen, Buck Feldman, would receive one-half credit for destroying a Ju-88 while flying a Typhoon, then shot down a slew of V-1s while flying a Tempest, only to round off his total by destroying an Egyptian Macchi M.C.205 while flying an Israeli Spitfire in 1949?
A tip on enjoying the book — just flip through and let the names of the victorious types leap out at you. In one single pass I found Whirlwind, Defiant, Gladiator II, Buffalo, Sea Gladiator, Firefly, Beaufighter and Seafire II. You can do the same with victims, and there they are: Me-262, Me-323, M.C.202, S-82, Ju-90, Ju-188 with glider bomb, Re-2001, Ar-96, Zeke, Zero, Dinah, Tojo — what fun!
The book is not inexpensive, but it is well worth its price. If you decide you cannot afford it, try to persuade your local library to buy it. Neither you nor the library will be sorry.