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Skua and Roc bibliography and sources

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Books devoted to the Skua and Roc:

Peter C Smith's excellent book on the Skua. Pen and Sword are the publishers.

Skua! The Royal Navy's Dive Bomber by Peter C. Smith, published by pen and sword ISBN 1-84415-455-6. Published in late 2006 this book adds greatly to our knowledge of the Skua. It not only covers the Skuas use as a dive-bomber but also does justice to it's use as a fighter as well. It throws new light on the Skuas use in Norway, the Mediterranean, off East Africa and over Dunkirk. Highly recommended.

Blackburn Skua and Rock, Author Matthew Willis, publisher Mushroom Model Publications in their "Orange" series.

Blackburn Skua and Roc by Matthew Willis, published by Mushroom Model Publications is a first-rate reference; ideal for the aeromodeller or aviation historian alike. It has plans, no less than 33 colour side-view profiles and lots of previously unpublished photos. Highly recommended.

Technical Data:

Wings of the Navy by Captain Eric Brown. ISBN 0 906393 87 6, published by Airlife Publishing Ltd. This book is made up of a series of 16 articles that appeared in Air International magazine. Each article covers a particular Fleet Air Arm aircraft flown by the author, a distinguished combat and test pilot. The 11 page article on the Skua and Roc is lavishly illustrated with photos, a cutaway drawing and cockpit diagram. Highly recommended. 

The Aeroplane Magazine of August 9th 1939 carried what was, for its day, informative 4 page article on the design of the Skua, including a magnificent cut-away drawing. This article was reprinted in the August 1989 edition of "War in the Air" magazine.

Flight Magazine of 10th August 1939 carried a 5 page article on the Skua and a double-spread cut-away drawing, albeit much less detailed than the one that appeared in "The Aeroplane" the same week.  It is available online on the "Flight Archive" - click here

Blackburn Aircraft since 1909 ISBN 370 000536 by AJ Jackson published by Putnam. Essential if you want details of production batches and serial numbers, has good photographs of the Roc seaplane conversions. The details of the Skua and Rocs operational use are sadly inaccurate.

The Turret Fighters - Defiant and Roc by Alec Brew ISBN 1 86126 497 6 published by the Crowood Press, Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire. A magnificent book with lots of details about the thinking behind the turret fighter concept and the development of the Roc. The details of the operational use of the Roc are at odds with much of the information you will find on this website (i.e. their use off Norway and over Dunkirk), however I still cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Pilots Notes - Photocopies of the pilots notes for the Blackburn Roc (Air Publication 1571A) were offered for sale by WWIAero Inc. Address on their website at http://www.ww1aeroinc.org/

Blackburn Skua Maintenance and Repair Manual (Air Publication AP1570A Vol2) is available to purchase and download in PDF format from Mach One Manuals at their website www.flight-manuals.com

Aeroplane Monthly Magazine February and March 1990 editions featured two articles in the "Probe Probare" series by Alec Lumsden and Terry Heffernan about the testing of the Skua and Roc at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment . The February edition covers the Skua and the March edition the Roc. There are some excellent photos of the prototype Skuas.


Combat History:

Dive Bomber! An illustrated history by Peter C Smith. ISBN 086190 062 6, published by Moorland publishing Co in the UK and the Naval Institute Press in the USA. Covers the Skuas use as a dive bomber. The attack on the Königsberg   is covered. Its 9th Chapter gives an interesting account of the thinking behind the specification that gave rise to the Skua.

Operation Skua by Major R.T. Partridge, FAA Museum 1983. A Biography of Major Partridge including the sinking of the Königsberg and the disaster at Trondheim. It includes details of the recovery of the Skua remains now at the FAA Museum at Yeovilton. There is a brilliant website devoted to this recovery at the following link...Operation Skua Website

Into the Assault, famous dive-bomber aces of the Second World War by Peter C Smith. (pub John Murray) ISBN 0 7195 4247 2. Each chapter tells the story of a different dive-bomber pilot from WW2. The chapter on Major Richard Partridge, tells more about the attack on the Königsberg and other missions. The cover of the English edition has a painting of a Skua, done by  Lt Guy Griffiths when in a POW camp following his capture during the Fanad Head incident

The History of Dive Bombing by Peter C Smith. (pub Pen &Sword) ISBN 184415592 - 7. Includes more on the development of the Skua and many first hand accounts from Skua pilots. Note the book was first published in 1981 under the title "Impact - The Dive Bomber Pilots Speak."

Carrier Fighters 1939-1945 by David Brown published by Purnell Book services Ltd (1975). Covers the use of the Skua as a fighter, including details of the Norwegian and Mediterranean campaigns. An outstanding overview of all the carrier based fighter operations of World War II.

Dive Bombers in Action, also by Peter C Smith ISBN 0 7137 1957 5, published by Blandford Press. This book features an interesting account of flying the Skua and Roc in combat with 801 Sqdn by Captain Tom Harrington DSC RN.

What Were They Like to Fly?  by Squadron Leader D.H. Clarke DFC AFC, published by Ian Allan Ltd 1964, has a  chapter each on flying both the Skua and Roc - albeit very short, a little over two pages each.  They are essentially reworks of the earlier 3 articles Squadron Ldr Clarke wrote for the RAF Flying Review in 1959 -1961.   "Ghost Fighters over Dunkirk" in the April 1959 edition. "The Decision is Always the Pilots" in the October 1961 edition and "The Shunned Skua" in the December 1961 edition.

Flying Sailors at War

Flying Sailors at War: Fleet Air Arm Operations During the Second World War Volume 1. By Brian Cull with Bruce Lander and Mark Horan. published by Dalrymple & Verdun. ISBN 978-1-905414 -14 -7.  It covers September 1939-June 1940, Northern Europe, Norway, North Sea and the North and South Atlantic. A very good attempt at an over-arching yet detailed account of Fleet Air Arm operations in the early months of WWII when the Skua was in the front-line. I was a little bit disappointed with the description of the Fanad Head incident again repeating the line that the Skuas carried out dive-bombing attacks, when in fact the Skuas each attacked at  extreme low level. Otherwise the book deserves high praise.

The German Invasion of Norway April 1940

The German Invasion of Norway April 1940 by Geirr H Haarr, first published in 2009 by Seaforth Publishing (Pen & Sword) ISBN 978 1 84832 089 5 Has a whole chapter devoted to the German capture of Bergen and it covers the actual Skua attack on the Konigsburg in great detail while placing it in the context of what happened at Bergen as a whole and within the framework of the grand plan of the German Invasion of Norway and the political and economic reasons behind the Invasion.

The Battle for Norway, April - June 1940.

The Battle for Norway April - June 1940 by Geirr H Haarr published in 2010 by Seaforth Publishing (Pen & Sword) ISBN 978 1 84832 057 4 Is the follow on work that charts the battles fought on land, in the sea and in the air for Norway after the initial invasion. Highly recommended.

Strike from the Sky ISBN 0 586 21022 9 by Alexander McKee. Published by Grafton. This book on the Battle of Britain features some fascinating accounts by Squadron Leader DH Clarke of flying Skuas and Rocs during the Dunkirk and Battle of Britain periods, including plans for Skuas to "set the sea aflame" by dropping incendiaries onto oil pumped off the likely invasion beaches.

Fleet Air Arm - The Admiralty Account of Naval Air Operations - an HMSO publication of 1943 (SO Code 70-427)  it was recently republished by HMSO. Includes a one sentence mention of Rocs being used to dive-bomb Boulogne harbour.

Ark Royal - The Admiralty Account of her Achievements - another HMSO publication (1942 SO Code 70-400). Well worth seeking out in second-hand bookshops.

Haul Taut and Belay - published by Spellmount ltd 1992. ISBN 1-873376-12-1. The memoirs of Vice Admiral Sir Donald Gibson "the luckiest pilot in the Fleet Air Arm". Survivor of the attack on the Scharnhorst, and of many other brushes with death. However his time on Skuas and the raid on the Scharnhorst is covered in a scant 6 pages.

The Four Ark Royals - By Micheal Apps ISBN 0 7183 0344X has a brief overview of the Fanad Head incident along with with other details of the use of Skuas. The actual description of the incident in the book is incorrect, giving the impression all three Skuas arrived at the same time and dive-bombed the submarine. However the book does contain the transcript of a letter from Lieutenant Guy Griffiths which gives a true account of events as he observed them. The book also features some of the photos taken by Geoffrey Halnan.

One Man's War. The story of R.E. Bartlett.

One Man's War - By Stuart E. Soward ISBN 0-9697229-3-1, Published by Neptune in Canada. The recollections of Sub Lt R.E. Bartlett, wartime Skua pilot. Has an outstanding account of the attack on the Scharnhorst.

Wings Over Bermuda


Wings Over Bermuda: 100 years of Aviation in the West Atlantic- By Ewan Partridge & Tom Singfield ISBN 978-1-927750-32-2, Published in 2014 by the National Museum of Bermuda. Available in the UK from the Aviation Bookshop, Tunbridge Wells. A big "coffee table" book packed with photos. It has a couple of paragraphs dealing with the Rocs operated by 773 FRU in Bermuda and the best part of two pages devoted to "Black Thursday" and the loss of Skuas from Illustrious. This book is the most authoritative and well-researched account of the events of "Black Thursday" and debunks the more lurid accounts of that day that can be found in "great military disaster" books and on the internet. The book as a whole is a fantastic source of information on aviation in Bermuda and deserves a place on every aviation enthusiast's bookshelf.

Background Reading:

Air Power and the Royal Navy 1914-1945 -A historical survey by Geoffrey Till. ISBN 0 354 01204 3 Published by Jane's. Gives an overview of the Royal Navy's thoughts on the the use of aircraft between the wars. Casts light on why the use of multi-role aircraft like the Skua and Swordfish was favoured.

"Shopping for Naval Aircraft in the Thirties" in the "Out of the Archives" section of Air-Britain "Aeromilitaria" Volume 28 Issue 109 Spring 2002 (pages 28-30).

Photographs:

Stuart Lloyd "Fleet Air Arm Camouflage and Markings - Atlantic and Mediterranean Theatres 1937-1941" Dalrymple and Verdun Publishing 2008, ISBN 978-1-905414-08-6.

Fleet Air Arm Camouflage and Markings - Atlantic and Mediterranean Theatres 1937-1941  by Stuart Lloyd, published by  Dalrymple and Verdun Publishing 2008, ISBN 978-1-905414-08-6. This has a fantastic collection of photos of Skuas and Rocs in service and they are reproduced in large format in excellent quality so that it possible to see details you might easily miss in other sources. Many of the photos have never been published before. The author does a fantastic job of explaining the evolution of FAA camouflage. There are also numerous colour profiles. Highly recommended.

Model Aircraft Monthly, Vol 6 Issue 10 October 2007. Has a series of articles on the Skua, including a very extensive potted history of the type by Tony O'toole. This is illustrated by a really nice selection of photos, including colour shots of L2991  and a page full of shots of L2942.

Aeroplane Monthly, February 1995 edition carried a 5 page article by Peter London which featured a selection of excellent photographs of the Skua. Well worth tracking down on ebay.

Aircraft Illustrated Extra, No 12. A small, almost A5 size magazine, a quarterly "extra" to the monthly Aircraft Illustrated magazine,   had an 8 page article on the Skua by Chaz Bowyer with some excellent clear photos.  Again worth looking out for on ebay.

Plastic Aircraft Modelling International Magazine, June/July 1978 (issue 22) edition has an 8 page article by Neil Robinson that is illustrated by numerous photos - some of "upended" Skuas I have never seen reproduced anywhere else. The article also features some good black and white diagrams of Skua colour schemes drawn by the author. Another magazine worth keeping an eye out for on ebay.

Flypast Magazine, June 2006. Has a 3 page article by Lennart Berns on the crash-landing of Skua L2942 in neutral Sweden. It has some splendid photographs of the recovery of the Skua. The same magazine has an article by Mervyn Spencer Doe describing a hair-raising flight in the back-seat of a Skua that led to a collision with electricity cables and the court-marshal of the pilot.

Flypast Magazine, March 2007 features a photo of   "Nobby" Clarks Roc, showing the "Saint" motif. It also features the story of the Rocs only combat "Kill" albeit the one description mentions a He 111 rather than a Ju 88 as being the Rocs victim that day in 1940.

The Fleet Air Arm in Camera  1912-1996 ISBN 07509 1254 5 by Roger Hayward has photos of Skuas and Rocs including one of a Roc target tug tail-up on the deck of HMS Formidable and another of Rocs painted ready for delivery to Finland.

Eagle's War by Peter C Smith. (pub Crecy) ISBN 0 94755460 2 has a photo of a Skua on the flight deck of HMS Eagle in the Eastern Med.

Pictorial History of the Fleet Air Arm by J.D.R. Rawlings, published by the Military Book  Society (1973) features some interesting pictures of Skuas and Rocs many of which I have never seen reproduced anywhere else, albeit that many of the pictures are blurred and indistinct.

Boulton Paul Aircraft ISBN 0 7524 0625 6 In the "Archive Photographs" series by the Chalford publishing Company features four photographs of Rocs (they were produced at the Boulton Paul factory near Wolverhampton).

Boulton Paul Aircraft ISBN 0 7509 1028 3 by Alec Brew in the "Britain in old photographs"  series similarly features three photos featuring Rocs.

VIDEO

Wartime aircraft recognition film of the Skua can be found at this link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUyCTEA8JXc

There are quite a few shots of Skuas in the wartime file "Ships with Wings" .

Other sources:

The most in-depth discussion of Skua colours and camouflage schemes are articles written by the late much-missed I. D. Huntley for Scale Aircraft Modelling magazine. They appeared in the November 1987, December 1993 and May 1994 edition. I am indebted to Nikos Tselepides for making me aware of these articles (via Jamie Tindall).

Skua losses over Dunkirk and the claim for a Ju88 is mentioned briefly in the Appendix to "Air Battle Dunkirk" by Norman Franks ISBN 1 902304 50 0

The use of the Roc from aircraft carriers during the Norwegian campaign is from combat reports relayed to me by Mark E. Horan. This has subsequently been confirmed in Peter C Smiths "Skua!". Can I suggest a visit to the Public Records Office in Kew for those wishing to examine the originals.

Follow up reading:

For those wishing to read an overview of the Norwegian campaign can I recommend "Denmark and Norway 1940 - Hitler's Boldest Operation" by Douglas C Dildy with illustrations (including a magnificent double-page spread of Lt Spurway's Skua releasing its bomb over the Scharnhorst) by John White. From Osprey Publishing in their Campaign series (No 183). ISBN  978 1 84603 117 5.  If you require a more in-depth history I recommend Geirr H Haarr's two-volumes (see above).

"Denmark and Norway 1940 - Hitler's Boldest Operatiob" by Douglas C Dilby with illustrations by John White.

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