607 Squadron, A Shade of Blue – Robert Dixon

DIXON, Robert. 607 Squadron, A Shade of Blue. 2012. 200 pp.

It is always a bit tricky to determine how to start a text, an article or, like here, a website. The reason for choosing this book is actually twofold: on the one hand it is my last reading, on the other hand it allows to make a link with my research on No.615 Squadron since I bought it In this context. No. 607 (County of Durham) Squadron, besides being a member of the Auxiliary Air Force, has a relatively strong connection with No.615 Squadron. Both units were part of No.61 (RAF) Wing in France, while Squadron Leader Joseph R. Kayll made his debut at No. 607 Squadron before taking command of No.615 Squadron in March 1940. Note that both units are subsequently send to India and Burma. My purchase has, therefore, been dictated by the hope of finding information on this subject. It is clear that if the No.615 Squadron is quoted a few times, reading does not bring anything new, except to be able to learn more about Joseph R. Kayll.

Concerning the heart of the work, that is to say the history of No.607 Squadron we can note a (very) big negative. I would like to point out that my opinion is based solely on the Kindle version (so to confirm or not for the paper edition). Indeed, the latter suffers from several problems: a poor layout (the police not justified …, what a visual horror), footnotes not clickable (obligation to scroll several pages to find the content), no interactive plan (again, scrolling to the end for bibliography), no index of names (very damaging for research work, for example, to find all references to Joseph R. Kayll). It is a pity here not to benefit from all the advantages of an electronic format. The second disturbing aspect relates to photographs. Indeed, they are numerous and probably very interersting for a relatively untreated air unit and ordinary pilots. Unfortunately, I did not find a single caption. The images are placed at different times of the text without any explanation, which makes it lose all interest (which is the pilot present ? on which airfield ? …). Again, I do not know if this is a kindle edition defect or a common problem with the paper edition.

In order to present the book, a warning should be given. It is not a chronicle of the history of No. 607 Squadron during the war since it ends at the end of 1940 after the Battle of Britain. Indeed, the author seeks to pay tribute to No.607 Squadron and pilots from the Auxiliary Air Force. He ended logically his work after their departures and the gradual arrival of new airmen, that of the RAF at war. From this transition, No. 607 Squadron leaves its period of the Auxiliary Air Force to become a Squadron like the others. This is, therefore, more of a history of these pilots than an air unit chronicle. In this respect it must be acknowledged that the author’s researches are quite impressive since he was able to meet many veterans or families in order to reconstruct the period from creation in 1930 to entry into war . I have not personally consulted the ORB of this Squadron, but it must be acknowledged that the archives content is often relatively limited. The whole scope of the research work is therefore very impressive in order to give a fairly precise description of the events. The other highlight of the book is in its description of air operations during the hard fights of May 1940. Unlike No. 615 Squadrons, whose transformation on Hurricane is very late (late April for A Flight), No.607 Squadron is able to discover its new mount from March 1940. The pilots are, therefore, heavily engaged against the German assault. The author brings here some interesting details, notably based on the memories and personal documents of some of the pilots in order to fill the absence of official archives.

We have, then, a chronicle, extremely interesting, relative to a unit rarely treated in the aeronautical literature. If the book suffers from a few defects (essentially its layout), it allows to deliver a very vivid description (by the multiplication of the testimonies) of the life of an Squadron of the Auxliary Air Force during the decade 1930, as well as during May 1940.

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France shop) or this other link (United-Kingdom shop).

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