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Empire of the Clouds

by James Hamilton-Patterson

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Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator17/04/2012 18:06:50
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15748 forum posts
1460 photos

I think this is a book that will most appeal to "boys of a certain age"! It tells the story of UK aviation from just after the end of the Second World War up to the cancellation of TSR2 and the development of the Harrier.

This was an incredable period in which British aviation companies aimed high - perhaps the trouble was too high. It starts with the High Speed Flight and the Meteor, moves through the DH110 and the age of caharcters like Derry, Duke, Twiss and Cunningham. It covers all the types of the period; DH108, the Javelin, the Swift, the FD2, as well as more well known types such as; DH110, the Canberra, the Hunter, the Vulcan, the Harrier, the Lightening etc.

But this is much more than a "plane spotters" book. It analyses very well "what went wrong". Just what lead to the crash in confidence that took us from the early 1950's when the British aircraft industry seemed to be in creative overdrive - to the 1980's when we can't build a plane unless we co-operate with other nations. He goes into the failures of both managment and politicans, who between them managed to all but destroy an industry.

In some ways a tremendously nostalgic book, in others its a tradegy that's hard to read without feelings of anger and frustration. But its never boring!

A recommended read. And I notice available in hardback in some of the "Bargain Books" typre stores very cheaply!

BEB

Erfolg17/04/2012 18:45:03
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11211 forum posts
1118 photos

I had the book bought for me as a Christmas present. It is not a book I would normally purchase, as its apparently generalist feel. After reading the book, i changed my mind. It is a must read to remove some of the rose tinting of spectacles, that often comes with time.

In some ways controversial, yet when compared with some other commentators of the state of the UK aircraft industry, very much in-tune.

With respect to the creative overdrive, this book and a number of others, does suggest that most innovative ideas owed a lot to data and ideas acquired from the remnants of German Aircraft industry, including both the Vulcan and Victor.

What is not totally investigated was the high levels of National Debt, and the continuing high levels of expenditure on the arm forces, policing of an empire undergoing collapse and the part it played, in the crises that developed on a reoccurring basis.

I particularly thought the section dealing with the politics of the TSR2 enlightening, as political parties manoeuvred to blame the other party. With Harold Wilson and the labour cabinet finally showing there antipathy to the project once safely elected,

Even after reading the book, I was left with feeling, no one group or persons was to blame. More a feeling that all parties had lost touch with reality. The other feeling was that some aircraft such as the Javelin, were ill conceived, poorly developed, being pushed into service as a consequence of the company, civil servants and the Government having much to loose and all to keen to save their face.

Although for many a controversial book, felt by some as lacking in patriotism, yet should we blind to history and the lessons to be learnt?

Frank Skilbeck17/04/2012 19:47:12
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4380 forum posts
101 photos

I've just bought this, but haven't opened it yet.

Terry Walters17/04/2012 20:03:52
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1831 forum posts
1068 photos

Read it last year and recommended it on the forum - fascinating - buy it and read it and weep over how we allowed our aircraft industry to wither away after WW11

Terry

Dave Bran27/04/2012 07:08:06
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1898 forum posts
5 photos

Good Book - Sad Content.........

andy watson27/04/2012 08:25:29
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1942 forum posts
20 photos

I was bought this by an inspired friend as a present whilst researching/building the Vulcan.

I am not of an age that remembers this period- much of it taking place before I was born, but it was a very interesting read- for many reasons. Would I pay full price for it? No, but it is available from amazon/ebay for a bargain and is well worth it.

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