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The Spitfire Story, by Alfred Price, Arms & Armor, London, 2000, $18.99.

Britain’s Supermarine Spitfire occupies a special place in aircraft lore. While the Hurricane was the workhorse of the Battle of Britain, the elegant lines of the Spitfire’s wing, the arrogant length of its nose and the distinctive, throaty roar of its engine gave it a thoroughbred appearance and sound. Sixty years after the aerial battle in which it won its spurs, the Spit still has an enduring association with the English countryside.

Alfred Price has written an authoritative study, packed with information and wonderfully illustrated. This is not a history of the Spitfire in action, although Price does comment on one or two of the more memorable engagements. This is a history of the evolution of an aircraft, from concept to design and on through the constant process of refinement. Price reminds us that the Spitfire legend is based on vision, engineering skill, determination and abundant hard work.

The elliptical wings are beautiful, but their design was purely practical in concept. The Spitfire was built as a weapon, so the designers’ first consideration was to construct wings that would act as a stable gun platform.

Thousands of men and women labored to build Spitfires, repair them and keep them in the action, including R.J. Mitchell and his design teams, the Royal Air Force officers and civil servants who argued the case for producing the aircraft, test pilots who proved it in flight, and factory workers, who were exposed to air raids in the course of their work. Then there were the flight crews and ground crews that kept the planes flying. Price ensures that all those involved in the Spitfire story get the recognition they deserve.

The Spitfire remains one of the most beautiful aircraft ever to fly. Price makes it clear that it was loved by the men and women who built it and flew it. This is a fascinating book, essential reference material for any Battle of Britain enthusiast or social historian of the World War II era. It is also a book that should appeal to anyone who has ever heard or seen a Spitfire in flight.

Budge Burgess