Jean-Denis Lepage, Torpedo Bombers 1900-1950 (Pen & Sword, 2020)
In my view, the bravest men in World War II flew torpedo bombers at wave height into the teeth of everything their target could throw at them, with nothing to do but pray they survive long enough to release their torpedo and make a quick getaway. Torpedo bombers did not have a long shelf-life after that war, but they had more of a history than I expected. Jean-Denis Lepage’s tidy book on the subject is therefore a welcome addition to my collection, and maybe yours too.
Lepage covers over 300 torpedo bombers, which were flown by all nations with a strategic maritime interest. They entered service just before World War I and sunk their first ship in 1915, though they reached their zenith in the Second World War. Lepage describes the tactics these warplanes deployed, which were always “very risky, difficult and dangerous”, particularly when ships were equipped with close-range weapons to deal with them. Lepage continues with chronological chapters broken down by nation and interspersed with sections on the development of torpedo bombers, aircraft carriers, weapons, and tactics. The chapters begin with an overview and each torpedo bomber merits a technical description, a potted history, and a monochromatic illustration. All the torpedo bombers you are familiar with are covered by Lepage, but he includes many more that might be new to even the most knowledgeable aviation enthusiast. Ultimately, the age of the torpedo bombers was relatively short-lived and they gave way to the jet-age and anti-ship missiles, but they still grip the imagination in a way few war machines can.
Torpedo Bombers 1900-1950 is a little bit more than just a survey of warplanes in a bygone era. Lepage handles his material well, offering valuable insight into not just the machines but how they were used as fearsome weapons in the arsenals of multiple airforces. These type of books usually have photographs, but the abundance of illustrations in Torpedo Bombers makes up for that deficiency. All in all, this is an interesting reference book and an enjoyable read.