Phoenix Squadron, HMS Ark Royal

I have lived through many interesting times which have gone down in history, and it is only now, having time and the knowledge and ability of PhotoReading, (to absorb 20,000 – 30,000 WPM), that I can research and read so much more, to give me more insight into what has happened from the many books which continually get published to appear on book shelves.

A book is only as good as the author, and contains only what he or she wishes to write. So, I always try to stand back, to try and understand what is the author trying to tell me, what have they included in the book and what have they left out.

My fascination for aircraft, fast jets, fighter aircraft, airliners is ever strong, from the Hawker Hurricane of WWII, the Airbus A380  to Concorde, the one aircraft I wanted to fly but never made.

One book recently caught my eye, something I advise participants on my PhotoReading courses never to allow to happen. The picture on the dust cover of the hardback book Phoenix Squadron by Rowland White, showed two iconic fighter jets, the Blackburn Buccaneer, with HMS Arc Royal in the background.

In the bookshop, I quickly Previewed the book, and had the feeling that this book could help me understand more about the crisis between Britain and the South American country Guatemala, over one of the British Empire’s last territories British Honduras, soon to become the independent country Belize. (see map of Belize – click).

The book tells how the Guatemala President, Colonel Arana Osorio, and his powerful military leaders, saw British Honduras as part of their country, and how neighbouring countries also saw either the little territory as useful to them as a means of expansion, or as an opportunity to assert influence as I seem to understand the USA was trying to do.

It was understood that the military wanted to invade British Honduras as the British were moving away from “owning” countries, by giving independence to nations, to their own people, and it was the wishes of the British Hondurans that they had their independence, and not become part of Guatemala.

The British had a very small military presence in British Honduras, no aircraft, no ships, just a few solders, but news of an impending invasion, a build-up of military strength by Guatemala, summoned to last aircraft carrier in the British Navel Fleet, Ark Royal with it’s onboard aircraft the F-4 Phantoms and the Blackburn Buccaneers, to race over 2,000 miles across the Atlantic, to show the strength of the British military, and head off any plans Guatemala had.

The book itself gave a good account of the crisis from the British point of view, perhaps one day I can find a book written on the subject by an author from Guatemala to understand how they view their history of that time. It is well researched by other written material, newspaper and TV accounts, naval and government reports, and interviews with members of Arc Royal and the Royal Fleet Air Arm.

The book was at times difficult to read as it was full of acronyms or initialisms, for example, SPLOT, RAS, MADDL, CBALS, (hover pointer over to see meaning), which meant flow of reading was interrupted as I tried to workout and understand the meaning.

The first half of the book had little to do with the crisis and the part played by the Arc Royal and the Phoenix Squadron, but gave the background to the carrier and aircraft and their history. The author, Rowland White, built-up suspense, with stories of problems of the iconic and world beating Buccaneers taking off from the deck of Ark Royal, and I felt myself being let down when an accident did not happen, I was waiting for something to happen.

Personally I did not find it as “gripping as any Tom Clancy thriller“, as said on the cover by the BBC Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, but yes “riveting” because of my interest in that field of knowledge.

But now, should I research more to view things from others points of view, or move on to other learning?

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