Book Review
Prelude to War the RAF
Prelude to War the RAF 1936 - 1939
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]


The following introduction is as provided by Pen and Sword:
Through the use of contemporary photographs and informative captions, Prelude To War: The RAF 1936-1939 chronicles many of the RAF’s aircraft that continued to serve in the years immediately preceding the start of hostilities in 1939, a period of rapid technological change and mechanical innovation at a time when many European nations held their collective breath as, yet again, they witnessed the steady rise of German militarism and, ultimately, conquest.

Forced to take note of this emerging threat the British government authorised a policy of modernising and re-equipping Britain’s armed forces. This process, frequently confusing and fitful, was by 1936 taking shape with the RAF at the forefront of modernisation, although as Winston Churchill solemnly noted in 1937, ‘It was no longer in our power to forestall Hitler or to regain air parity. Nothing could now prevent the German Army and the German Air Force from becoming the strongest in Europe…we could only improve our position. We could not cure it’.

To this day, isolated perceptions still linger to the effect that by September 1939 the RAF had become an all-monoplane force with Fighter Command fielding countless squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires ready to overwhelm any enemy insolent enough to enter British skies. Similarly, the same perceptions suggest that a confident Bomber Command stood ready to darken German skies with armadas of modern bombers. These notions were wide of the mark – such was the power of propaganda!

Certainly, numbers of monoplanes did exist, but until the aircraft industry could expand to cope with the demands of a modern war, fleets of obsolescent biplanes had to be employed in secondary roles, with others remaining in the frontline until monoplanes could replace them: there was no other choice.

It is hoped that this modest work will shed light on some of the RAF’s better known aircraft of the period, but more particularly upon those that remain virtually unknown today and which might be described as having ‘also ran’.


This offering from Pen and Sword is part of the ‘Images at War’ series. This series of books are soft backed offerings having a good card cover with a very good spine to the book that keeps the contents in good order. This book covering ‘Prelude to War the RAF 1936 - 1939’ has been authored by Martin Derry. This title from Martin Derry is his first release in this series from Pen and Sword but Martin has authored a number of titles in the flight craft series. The contents of this title are provided over 164 pages of good quality semi gloss paper. The contents of this title are presented as follows:


Chapter 1 - The Fighters
Chapter 2 - The Bombers
Chapter 3 - The Searchers - Maritime Patrol
Chapter 4 - General Purpose, Army Co-Operation and Miscellaneous Duties
Chapter 5 - Waiting in the Wings - New Orders

This offering from Pen and Sword covers the RAF and its aircraft during the build up years prior to the outbreak of World War 2. The Hurricane was a reliable and stirling aircraft in its role followed by the elegant lines of the Spitfire, but at the start of the war there were no enough of them. The aircraft seen in this title cover the well known offerings such as the Gladiator, Wellington and Blenheim, but also looks at less well known aircraft such as the Gauntlet and Demon.

The author has tried to cover a lot with a little and has done a fair job of it. The dedicated text is minimal as you expect with titles in this series, but the captions that are supplied with every image are a treasure trove of information for the modeller. The author deserves a high degree of praise for managing to find and supply the level of information offered here; information that will likely help modellers with images not in the book due to referring to aircraft that crashed on certain dates and time beyond when the supplied photograph was taken.

The period photographs provided in this title are fantastic reference for the modeller, particularly those modellers who look to cover the unusual in RAF service. Despite the age of the images the quality is very high and allows some great details to be seen. The number of aircraft covered does mean that the numbers of images of each aircraft type are limited, but not limited in that the reference offered results in being patchy.


This offering from Pen and Sword as part of the Images of War series is a great release and a must for any modeller interested in the RAF during the interwar and early years of World War 2. This title covers aircraft I have not heard of before let alone seen and as such make it a gold mine for the modeller. The captions are very well written and the images have been well sourced.
Darren Baker takes a look at a Pen and Sword release as part of their Images of War series in the form of 'Prelude to War the RAF 1936 - 1939'.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 9781526754820
  Suggested Retail: £14.99
  PUBLISHED: Nov 07, 2020
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

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About Darren Baker (CMOT)

I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...

Copyright ©2021 text by Darren Baker [ CMOT ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Any chance seeing some examples of the images in the book Darren T
NOV 07, 2020 - 12:04 PM