The book tells the story of how the Harrier went from an airshow attraction to an iconic symbol of British combat aviation.
A short while ago, I was sent a copy of ‘Harrier 809‘ by author Rowland White in the hope that I would have the time to review the book. Last week I ended up in Dunoon for most of the week, near Faslane naval base’, in a hotel overlooking the Clyde in full view of the coming and going warships and submarines. What better setting to sit and read?
I’m glad I found the time to sit and read the book and I am thankful to Rowland for sending me a review copy.
Rowland White is the author of three critically acclaimed aviation history books, namely Vulcan 607, Phoenix Squadron (I’ve read this one and I think it’s great) and Storm Front. All three have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers. Rowland studied Modern History at Liverpool University and is well known for his research efforts and gripping style.
Anyway, on to the book! In short, Harrier 809 is about a Sea Harrier squadron at war in the Falklands and the wider effort to keep the carriers safe from air attack.
Morning. Here’s a photo of an 809 NAS Sea Harrier dropping a pair of 1000lb retarded bombs on the abandoned Argentine ship Bahia Buen Suceso. It was taken on 21/10/82, the day the squadron finally headed home from the South Atlantic aboard HMS Illustrious pic.twitter.com/zTsT3hPy9J
— Rowland White (@RowlandWhite) March 28, 2020
I should point out that I am far, far from an expert on Harriers or the Falklands War, I’m certainly familiar with both but I wouldn’t rely on my answers if questions about either came up on a pub quiz but that being said, the book was accessible to someone with my level of familiarity with the topic and I’ve come out of the other end feeling more informed.
What more could you want from a book on the topic, really?
The book tells the story of 809 Squadron under Lieutenant Commander Tim Gedge, transported south to the Falklands on the ill-fated Atlantic Conveyor. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give too much away, trust me you’d rather read it for yourself.
Reading with the pace of a thriller, the author manages to include comprehensive research in an effort to explore the full story of 809 Naval Air Squadron being reformed, trained and sent south to fight. Of note is just how quickly this was managed, done at a fraction of the time it would normally have taken, something discussed in great detail in the book.
The book doesn’t shy away from the mishaps and tragedies either, detailing for example instances in which two pilots were believed to have collided in mid-air and a pilot being taken prisoner.
‘Harrier 809’ truly seems to be an honest account of what happened. It tells the tales it sets out to tell in an authoritative, gripping and accessible way.
Today, 809 Naval Air Squadron is being reformed to operate the F-35B fifth-generation stealth aircraft that will fly from the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, you can read more on that here.