In the darkest days of the Second World War, Hitler's long-range Condor bombers roamed far out into the Atlantic Ocean, beyond the range of the British land-based fighters. They sank Allied ships almost at will. To counter this threat to Britain's desperately needed supplies, 'expendable fighters' came into being, planes which were launched by catapult from the fore-decks of specially adapted merchant ships - to which they could not return.
The pilots - all volunteers - knew that, if they survived their encounter with the enemy, their only chance of getting back on board their convoy would be to bale out into the sea to be picked up by an escort ship. It was very rare for any pilot to be left with enough fuel to reach land.
This little known aspect of Second World War Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm operations has been thoroughly researched by Ralph Barker using log books, Royal Navy archives and personal records. His relation of the history of the Hurricats, the detail in which he describes both the characters who flew and serviced these aircraft, and many of the encounters which took place, makes for a truly gripping read.