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Book Review: Centenary of Service by Graham Pitchfork


Forever Vigilant – Naval 8/208 Squadron From 1916-2016 , Grub Street, hardback, 272pp, illus, £25

This book, written by a retired air commodore who is now a well-known aviation writer, this is a very well told story of a distinguished squadron. Beginning life in the Royal Naval Air Service, ‘Naval 8’ flew Triplanes and Camels over the Western Front, becoming the RAF’s 208 Squadron on April 1, 1918.

On the outbreak of World War 2 it was flying Lysanders, seeing action in Egypt and Libya and undertaking an ill-fated expedition to Greece. Re-equipped with Hurricanes and, later, Spitfires, 208 specialised in tactical reconnaissance work and flew with particular distinction during the difficult campaign in Italy.

Post-war, it was based in Palestine where it became embroiled in the fighting between Israel and Egypt, losing several aircraft and in turn shooting down several Egyptian Spitfires. It re-formed in the UK with Buccaneers in the strike/attack role and was the first RAF squadron to be invited to attend the Red Flag exercise in the US. Sadly, 208 made its final flight on April 13, 2016, shortly after this book was published.

This is a superb history of a particularly fine squadron. The full range of the unit’s activities is covered, often through the eyes of contemporary personnel, which gives it a lively feel. It is lavishly illustrated and the text is complemented by useful appendices. Thoroughly recommended.

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