Air Campaign: First Battlescene Sketches

In Military History, Featured

Last month on this blog we announced our newest series, Air Campaign, which we will launch next year. We are delighted to see that so many people are excited about it, and so we wanted to keep you all updated on the development and launch of the series so far.

Today, we are going to share with you the three battle scene sketches for the first book in the series, ACM 1: The Battle of Britain 1940, fresh from the pad of Osprey artist extraordinaire Graham Turner. These are uncorrected first drafts and some aspects will be tweaked for the final plates, but we thought you’d still like to see them at their rawest.

Attacking the ‘Chain Home’ Radar Sites

First, we have the Bf 109E-4/B ‘Jabo’ dive-bombing attack against the Swingate ‘Chain Home’ early-warning radar site near Dover on 12 August 1940 at 0900hrs. Using a 45-degree dive delivery angle, eight 250kg high-explosive bombs were dropped, destroying several huts inside the compound and slightly damaging the masts supporting the transmission aerials.

None of the attackers were engaged by RAF interceptors or hit by AA fire and returned to Calais-Marck to be rearmed and refuelled for their midday mission, a strike against Manston airfield. After several hours ‘off-line’, repairs were completed to ‘Chain Home’ and radar plotting resumed in the early afternoon.

Battle of Biggin Hill

The devastating Dornier Do 17Z air raid on RAF Biggin Hill on 31 August 1940 will be the subject of this plate. This raid was the fourth in a series of six over a three-day period from 30 August to 1 September, the result of which was that RAF Biggin Hill was devastated and virtually destroyed. However, through the tireless and exhausting efforts of numerous individuals it was restored to operation, although initially at a significantly reduced capability.

Meeting the ‘Big Wing’

This plate will depict the moment that the main German force attacking London on 15 September met the Duxford ‘Big Wing’.  15 September is forever enshrined as ‘Battle of Britain Day’ because the outcome of the day’s air battle caused Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain to be indefinitely postponed.

When the Do 17Zs and He 111Hs arrived over the target area, they found most of the dockyards obscured by thick, towering clouds and – almost simultaneously – were attacked head-on by the ‘Duxford Wing’, consisting of two Spitfire and three Hurricane squadrons. The result was the sudden loss of 11 of their 100 bombers and the shocking realisation that RAF Fighter Command was far from being the ‘spent force’ that Luftwaffe Intelligence had reassuredly reported. The Hurricanes in this plate are led by Squadron Leader Douglas Bader.


I hope that you enjoyed these sketches. Keep your eyes on the blog for more updates on this exciting new series! If you missed the previous posts on Air Campaign click the links below: 

Air Campaign Announcement

Big Reveal: Air Campaign

Post Comments

C-Bone posted on 15 Nov 2016 17:19:47
My thoughts exactly, Tom! You could also include the HALPRO raid in 1942.
I'm partial to Ploesti because I wrote a research paper on the subject for a course I took on air power. I even looked at the actual bomb group reports at the National Archives.
Tom @ Osprey posted on 15 Nov 2016 15:40:14
I'm afraid not Gene, we're concentrating more on the bigger picture in this series, so we're including battlescenes, BEVs, maps, and diagrams, but not aircraft profiles or figure art. There's a limit to how much you can do in one book, and MAA and ELI are really the place for uniforms.

C-Bone - I think there's definitely a good Air Campaign in Ploesti, but yes, it probably needs to cover the whole air campaign against the Romanian oil facilities.
C-Bone posted on 15 Nov 2016 13:17:57
Thanks for laying out the format of an Air Campaign, Mr. Lardas.
Just a quick question: You said the Ploesti raid would be too small. What if you also included the 1944 raids?
GI Gene posted on 14 Nov 2016 21:49:41
Those sketches look great! They look like the storyboards for the 1969 Battle of Britain movie.

Any chance we will see figure plates (i.e. opposing pilots) in this series?
Tom @ Osprey posted on 14 Nov 2016 17:11:28
Yes, although Air Campaign is the same size as Campaign, and includes battlescenes, bird's-eye views and maps like Campaign, we're taking advantage of it being a new series to rethink all these elements and tailor them to how air campaigns are fought.

So the text is structured to suit the nature of air campaigns, the BEVs will be somewhat different, and we'll introduce 3D diagrams to help to explain various aspects of the campaign. (I can't say more about these quite yet as they're very much works in progress.)

In short I see things much as Mark does, but probably wouldn't have explained it quite as clearly as he did.
Paintybeard posted on 13 Nov 2016 06:13:36
Thank you for your long and detailed reply, Mr Lardas, much appreciated. And it does make what Osprey plan to do for this series a lot clearer. I very much agree with your point about trying to find "The Sweet Spot". And, to be honest, I think trying to cover the whole Battle of Britain is too big a subject. (Perhaps just "Alder Tag" instead?) But I can see why Osprey want the name recognition that such a subject will bring. Still, I wish the project well and I'm sure I shall pick up a copy of at least one title to see how they pan out.

Oh, and I heartily second Daitengu's call for some Naval campaigns: Malta Convoy and Suffern in The Indian Ocean for starters!
Mark Lardas posted on 13 Nov 2016 03:08:58
As I have written three campaigns and am working on an Air Campaign on Rabaul, I think I can comment on the differences between the two books.

Both series have similar artwork. However, the structure of the two series is quite different.

The structure for a Campaign is:

Origins of the Campaign
Opposing Commanders
Opposing Armies
Orders of Battle
Opposing Plans
The Campaign
The Battlefield Today
Further Reading

The structure for an Air Campaign is:

Attacker's Capabilities
Defender's Capabilities
Campaign Objectives
The Campaign
Aftermath and Analysis
Surviving Aircraft
Further Reading

Note the focus on capabilities in Air Campaign. Also there is an analysis section, where the performance of the two sides is compared.

Air warfare is different than ground campaign. Individual air raids - even massive ones - tend to be less important than individual ground battles. In a Campaign, I use most of the maps to show major battles during the campaign. In an Air Campaign, I use them to show what is where. The strategic map is not limited to the area where the battle was fought, but shows the sea lanes and aircraft ferry routes. I did not use any maps for individual air raids (battles), but devoted two BEVs to two major raids.

There is more emphasis on technical issues and strategy in Air Campaign. Things like operational ranges of individual aircraft or radar coverage zones are important. In a Campaign, an issue like how far an infantry regiment can march in a day or the maximum range of a Spencer are less important.

Also, orders of battle are less important in an Air Campaign than in a Campaign. If I gave the OoB for the Fifth Air Force it would not tell much unless the aircraft type (and numbers) in each unit are listed. Aggregates work better than OoBs. Obviously in a Campaign focused on a ground campaign the OoB is critical.

Air Campaign is different. The differences make it fun to write. The biggest challenge I see with the series will be scaling. Battle of Britain is the right scale. Rabaul is perfect. The Ploesti Raid would probably be too small (as would Pearl Harbor). The RAF Bomber Offensive 1939-1945 would be too large. Finding the Goldilocks Zone will be interesting.

Note my answers reflect my personal opinions, and not those of Osprey. I am an independent contractor writing for Osprey and not an Osprey employee. Tom Milner (series editor) may see things differently - and he will be more right than I am.
C-Bone posted on 12 Nov 2016 22:12:55
I like what I see.
From armoured knights to knights of the air--Graham Turner, you are a versatile man!
Daitengu posted on 12 Nov 2016 22:08:41
I am happy about the whole Air Campaign series though!
Campaign has a heavy land focus. Does this mean there could be a future Naval Campaign series?
Daitengu posted on 12 Nov 2016 22:07:02
Wow, those sketches are great. The only, only, single complaint I have is that double page spreads don't work terribly well with paperback books. Inevitably in artwork the focal point is the center. Unfortunately that is always a big crease in the middle of the page.

Maybe try printing Air Campaign in a landscape format for a change?
Paintybeard posted on 12 Nov 2016 13:40:12
So, three colour plates, presumably each one a double-page spread. So far it looks as if these are going to follow the present Campaign format quite closely, in which case, why bother with calling it a new series? Will there be more pages, a markedly different set of chapter headings? We need to know more.

While I'm interested, I'm not sold on this yet. Trying to cover something as big (and well-known) as the Battle of Britain in something similar to the size and format of the present Campaign books would be disappointing. I can't see how you could expect enthusiasts to choose this over the dozens of other books on this subject that are already available.

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