Spitfire: Portrait of a Legend by Leo McKinstry; Spitfire Women of World War II by Giles Whittell - review by Nigel Jones

Nigel Jones


Spitfire: Portrait of a Legend


John Murray 417pp £20

Spitfire Women of World War II


HarperPress 284pp £20

There have been many books recently featuring the brave little fighter plane that arguably saved Britain from Nazi subjugation – notably the memoirs of Geoffrey Wellum, one of the ever-dwindling 'Few' who actually flew the 'Spit'; a biography of Reginald Mitchell, the miraculous machine's designer, by his only son Gordon; and a history of the aircraft itself by The Guardian's design editor, Jonathan Glancey. Now Leo McKinstry, journalist turned historian, takes to the crowded skies of Spitfire studies with a massive book that deserves to be the last word on the subject.

His book is not just another Biggles-esque account of pumping leaden death into a stricken 'Hun' (though there is plenty of that too for aficionados of such action). Rather, as the subtitle suggests, it’s a complete warts-and-all picture of the Spitfire, from its troubled birth through to its crowning hour

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