This month’s book review is a little different as it is really looking at two books, however as they are two halves of the same subject it makes sense to look at them together. The subject of flying clothes and equipment used by the aircrew of the Second World War is a complex one and if you are looking to collect these items then good reference materials are essential as the individual pieces can fetch very high prices. Reference material on the flight clothing and equipment of the RAF is scarce on the ground, however one pair of books which do cover this topic are “Luftwaffe vs. RAF Flying Clothing of the Air War 1939-45” and “Luftwaffe vs RAF Flying Equipment of the Air War 1939-45”, both volumes by Mick J Prodjer and published by Schiffer.
Each book looks at the items used by the two antagonist airforces and compare and contrasts the items issued to each force. Each topic, heated clothing, boots, survival kit etc. is split in half and each sides equipment looked at in detail with a description of individual items, their evolution and updates issued over the course of the war. The text is well written and easy to follow and a large RAF roundel or balkenkreuz in the top corner of each page acts as a handy guide to which airforce you are looking at. Accompanying the text are a large number of photographs of the objects themselves, usually from existing items that have been saved by collectors but occasionally from period photographs. A large number of mannequin reconstructions are used throughout the book to illustrate items being worn.
The picture quality is high, as is the production values of the book which has high gloss pages, clear and readable text and feels like a well produced publication. I am still unsure how I feel about the contrasting approach taken in the book. On the one hand it is interesting to see how the airforces compare, on the other it feels like you are flitting from one book back to another constantly and I wonder if it would have been better to split the two volumes into one on the RAF and one on the Luftwaffe. I certainly got more out of the RAF half of the books due to my interest in the subject matter than I did from the German Airforce pages and the contrast between the two forces is only subtly raised in the text, with the emphasis being on each as a separate entity. I can see what the author was aiming at, however I am not sure if it was necessary or indeed executed as well as it might have been.
The books were first published in 1998 and 2002, however they remain in print and at the time of writing are available for just over £30 a volume on Amazon. Despite my concerns about the structuring of the books, they have a lot of very useful information in them and if you are interested in the flying clothing and equipment of either the RAF or the Luftwaffe then this should be on your bookshelf.