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WHERE EAGLES & FALCONS CLASH

Hurricane Squadron - Robert Jackson

"Hurricane Squadron" gives the reader a tangible view and penetrating insight into the life of George Yeoman, a 20-year old Sergeant Pilot in the Royal Air Force, as well as the frontline fighter squadron (No. 505) to which he has been assigned.

 

The time is May 1940. Yeoman is arriving at the airbase of 505 Squadron in Châlons, France in a brand spanking new Hawker Hurricane fighter. He has had a leisurely flight from Britain, putting his navigational skills to the test. From the time he was a boy, his one abiding dream was to become a pilot. This was at a time when aircraft were not so common as is the case today. Aviation was largely a preserve for the privileged and well-to-do. Yeoman before the war had worked as a clerk in his native Yorkshire and used whatever money he could save to pay for flying lessons on the side. It was not easy, because he didn't earn a lot of money. But if anything, Yeoman was determined. Within a year, he had earned his private pilot's license. From there, he managed to earn a slot in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) at the time of the Munich Crisis of September 1938, where he received more intensive training, including flying some of the latest military aircraft in the RAF. So, with the outbreak of war, Yeoman's training took on more of an urgency. He earned his wings in January 1940 and spent the next 4 months in reserve in Britain.

 

The Hurricane Yeoman was flying to 505 Squadron in France was to replace one that had been lost in action. The so-called 'Phoney War' was still going on between the Allies (Britain and France) and Germany, with both sides occasionally meeting in infrequent and sporadic air battles on the frontline or just over the German border. But for Yeoman, this situation would soon change, for he had hardly touched down at Châlons and taxied in the Hurricane than 505 Squadron found itself under attack by the Luftwaffe. The German Blitzkrieg in the West had begun. The day was Friday, May 10, 1940.

 

Yeoman barely survives his first day at war. The book goes on to convey to the reader the full fury of the German offensive as experienced by Yeoman, his squadron mates, some members of the squadron administrative and ground crews, and the various civilians in the surrounding areas who figured prominently in the life of 505 Squadron.

 

There are depictions of intensive air battles across France and Belgium, Yeoman's painfully quick evolution from rookie pilot to seasoned ace over the next month of the battle, and the frenzied efforts made by refugees trying to escape the seemingly unstoppable German advance only to be strafed by German fighters and dive bombers - which, in their own vicious manner, sowed further confusion and chaos for Allied soldiers and civilians alike. The author also provides the reader with a glimpse into the other side through a young Luftwaffe fighter pilot, Joachim Richter, who, like Yeoman, is keen to prove his mettle as a combat pilot in one of the finest fighter planes in the world, the Messerschmitt Bf 109E "Emil".

 

At 130 pages, "Hurricane Squadron" succeeds brilliantly in imparting to the reader a real sense of the personal cost the Battle of France exacted upon that country and those who vainly tried to save it from an unstoppable German juggernaut.