Book Review: Courage Alone by Chris Dunning

Here’s the verdict upfront: this is a beautiful book, full of photos, very nice coloured drawings, and also very informative.  I managed to get it new for UK£20, which is a steal, considering the label price is UK£35, and the high quality of the book. A must-have for anyone interested in the Regia Aeronautica.

Cover - Note that mine has a different picture of a Sm 79 with torpedo on top

The book covers both matters of interest to operational historians, by providing group and squadron histories of varying length, including the histories of the RA’s experimental station at Guidonia and the experimental air torpedo squadron, and for modellers, with a section on camouflage and many colour drawings.

These unit histories are accompanied by drawings and photos relevant to the text.  The book also contains orders of battle for various major actions or campaigns (e.g. Sidi Barrani 1940 or the HARPOON convoy). Unfortunately the RA’s OOB for Operation CRUSADER is missing, which I consider to be a strange oversight. Their is a set of maps showing airfields, and standard flight routes, which are of considerable interest.

I am not a modeller, so I have to leave judgement on this topic to more competent readers.

The book covers the following areas:

  • Chronology from start of the war to the armistice in 1943
  • Command structure and doctrine
  • Unit histories of groups and independent squadrons
  • Squadron allocations for 1940/41 and 42/43
  • Orders of battle
  • A chapter on the aircraft carrier Aquila
  • A chapter on anti-shipping operations
  • Aircrew training and ranks
  • Aces
  • Aircraft types
  • Aircraft equipment
  • Camouflage
  • Aircraft markings
  • An analysis on why the RA lost
  • Extracts from technical manuals of the Ca 310 and Cr 32

My two criticisms would be that first it would have been nice to read more about the performance of the Italian planes. There is a list of all types produced in Italy and flown by the RA, but it is a table with very limited information on how the planes did. Otherwise such information is scattered into the squadron histories – this shows that the author knows a lot about the topic, but has not collated it for this book. The second is that I do not see the value in having 20 pages of tables with squadron allocations. More OOBs or performance infos of key types in comparison to their opponent fighters would have been nice – e.g. how did the Cr 42 compare to the Gloster Gladiator? How did the Fiat G 50 perform in the ground attack role? What were the key shortcomings of the Br 20? But these are somewhat minor shortcoming in what otherwise is a marvellous and very informative book that is also a pleasure to read and enjoy.