The Stringbags

Dead Reckoning: Naval Inst. May 2020. 192p. ISBN 9781682475034. pap. $29.95. history
Although considered obsolete by 1940, the Fairey Swordfish—biplane torpedo bombers nicknamed Stringbags—still played a role in the Royal Navy’s battle against the Axis powers. Crewmates Archie, Pops, and Ollie are considered lazy, incompetent cowards by their commanding officers until distinguishing themselves in an operation targeting the Italian Fleet in the Mediterranean. Their triumphant return to England after the battle is marred by the Blitz and cut short when they’re ordered to join an attack against the Bismarck, an enormous floating fortress bristling with cannons. Ennis (Sara) clearly admires these pilots, but resists romanticizing them; they bicker and banter, fly off course and get lost, and at one point accidentally attack a Royal Navy ship. By highlighting their flaws, Ennis makes their bravery seem even more incredible and offers a reminder that the war was won by normal people willing to make enormous sacrifices in the name of freedom, especially as the crew’s quarreling is supplanted by somber reflection in the final chapter, which finds them preparing to battle German ships in the English Channel.
VERDICT An epic tribute to little-known heroes, featuring frenzied depictions of midair combat by Holden (Judge Dredd: Every Empire Falls).

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