Like its predecessors in the Osprey Duel Series, this book focuses on 2 different aircraft types which were pitted against one another in aerial combat. In this case, the spotlight is on the British Gloster Gladiator fighter and the FIAT CR.42 “Falco” of Italy’s Regia Aeronautica. Both were throwbacks to the First World War by virtue of being biplanes. Indeed, the Gladiator and the CR.42 were the only 2 biplane fighters to fight each other in the Second World War.
For its compactness, the book is fairly comprehensive, providing the reader with the history of the development of both aircraft, the flight training schemes used by Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Regia Aeronautica for pilots who would go on to fly the Gladiator and CR.42 in combat, a description of the tactics used by both sides, and lots of photos and illustrations. Among the illustrations are detailed cockpit views of both fighters, which I, as an aviation fan, loved, because they gave me a vicarious feeling of flight.
Furthermore, the book offers accounts of the campaigns in North Africa, East Africa, and over Albania and Greece, where both fighters fought each other savagely. (Gladiators and CR.42s sparred with each over Malta [1940 and 1941] and Iraq as well --- where a pro-Axis government had seized control of the government [April 1941] and sought German and Italian aid to consolidate their power and drive the British out of Iraq. Despite the Axis Powers’ best efforts, the British rallied their forces in Iraq and by June 1941, were once again in control of the country.)
With both the British/Commonwealth forces and Regia Aeronautica employing more advanced monoplane fighters by the latter part of 1941, both the Gladiator and CR.42 left center stage. The value of this book for anyone who loves aviation or is just curious about the Second World War is that it shows how 2 unique warplanes and their pilots acquitted themselves under trying conditions.