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The Battle of Britain: Five Months That Changed History, May-October 1940

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'If Hitler fails to invade or destroy Britain, he has lost the war,' Churchill said in the summer of 1940.He was right.The Battle of Britain was a crucial turning point in the history of the Second World War. Had Britain's defences collapsed, Hitler would have dominated all of Europe and been able to turn his full attention east to the Soviet Union. The German invasion of F 'If Hitler fails to invade or destroy Britain, he has lost the war,' Churchill said in the summer of 1940.He was right.The Battle of Britain was a crucial turning point in the history of the Second World War. Had Britain's defences collapsed, Hitler would have dominated all of Europe and been able to turn his full attention east to the Soviet Union. The German invasion of France and the Low Countries in May 1940 was unlike any the world had ever seen. It hit with a force and aggression that no-one could counter and in just a few short weeks, all in their way crumbled under the force of the Nazi hammer blow. With France facing defeat and with British forces pressed back to the Channel, there were few who believed Britain could possibly survive.Soon, it seemed, Hitler would have all of Europe at his feet. Yet Hitler's forces were not quite the Goliath they at first seemed, while her leadership lacked the single-minded purpose, vision and direction that had led to such success on land.Nor was Britain any David.Thanks to a sophisticated defensive system and the combined efforts of the RAF, Royal Navy as well as the mounting sense of collective defiance led by a new Prime Minister, Britain was not ready to roll over just yet. From clashes between coastal convoys and Schnellboote in the Channel to astonishing last stands in Flanders, and from the slaughter by the U-boats in the icy Atlantic to the dramatic aerial battles over England, The Battle of Britain tells this most epic of stories from all sides, drawing on extensive new research from around the world. In so doing, it paints a complete picture of that extraordinary summer - a time in which the fate of the world truly hung by a thread.


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'If Hitler fails to invade or destroy Britain, he has lost the war,' Churchill said in the summer of 1940.He was right.The Battle of Britain was a crucial turning point in the history of the Second World War. Had Britain's defences collapsed, Hitler would have dominated all of Europe and been able to turn his full attention east to the Soviet Union. The German invasion of F 'If Hitler fails to invade or destroy Britain, he has lost the war,' Churchill said in the summer of 1940.He was right.The Battle of Britain was a crucial turning point in the history of the Second World War. Had Britain's defences collapsed, Hitler would have dominated all of Europe and been able to turn his full attention east to the Soviet Union. The German invasion of France and the Low Countries in May 1940 was unlike any the world had ever seen. It hit with a force and aggression that no-one could counter and in just a few short weeks, all in their way crumbled under the force of the Nazi hammer blow. With France facing defeat and with British forces pressed back to the Channel, there were few who believed Britain could possibly survive.Soon, it seemed, Hitler would have all of Europe at his feet. Yet Hitler's forces were not quite the Goliath they at first seemed, while her leadership lacked the single-minded purpose, vision and direction that had led to such success on land.Nor was Britain any David.Thanks to a sophisticated defensive system and the combined efforts of the RAF, Royal Navy as well as the mounting sense of collective defiance led by a new Prime Minister, Britain was not ready to roll over just yet. From clashes between coastal convoys and Schnellboote in the Channel to astonishing last stands in Flanders, and from the slaughter by the U-boats in the icy Atlantic to the dramatic aerial battles over England, The Battle of Britain tells this most epic of stories from all sides, drawing on extensive new research from around the world. In so doing, it paints a complete picture of that extraordinary summer - a time in which the fate of the world truly hung by a thread.

30 review for The Battle of Britain: Five Months That Changed History, May-October 1940

  1. 4 out of 5

    happy

    James Holland is fast becoming one of my favorites of the new generation of World War II historians. What he has written is not your usual Battle of Britain narrative. Mr. Holland tells a more complete story than your standard Battle of Britain history. For one thing, he starts the story before the war even begins by looking at the relative strengths and weakness of the two opposing Air Forces. He also explores the politics of rearmament and just why Britain was unprepared for war in 1939/40. Als James Holland is fast becoming one of my favorites of the new generation of World War II historians. What he has written is not your usual Battle of Britain narrative. Mr. Holland tells a more complete story than your standard Battle of Britain history. For one thing, he starts the story before the war even begins by looking at the relative strengths and weakness of the two opposing Air Forces. He also explores the politics of rearmament and just why Britain was unprepared for war in 1939/40. Also, he starts the main narrative not with the evacuation of Dunkirk in June, but with Germany’s assault on the Low Countries and France in May. He gives a pretty good summary of the Battle of France and the retreat to Dunkirk and Churchill’s attempts to keep France in the War. He spends some time discussing just how Germany suckered France and Britain into advancing into Holland and allowing the Panzers to get behind them. He also spends some time discussing why many of the German Commanders, Von Rundstedt among them, reluctance to put faith in the Panzers and Guderian's plan. In discussing Dunkirk, the efforts of the RAF to provide air support for the embattled BEF and the reasons it was not apparent to the ground forces on the beaches is well explained. He also tells just how much stuff the BEF left in France. The focus of the narrative shifts in the period from the end of the Dunkirk evacuations to the winding down of the German bombing in October. While the air battles are Holland’s main focus, he takes pains to discuss just what was happing at sea. The author spends considerable pages discussing the U-Boat war and just how close it came to strangling Britain. With only 9-15 boats at sea at any one time in 1940, the U-Boats ran rampant sinking shipping almost at will. Included in the U-Boat discussions, is a look at the strategic decisions made by the prewar German Navy, which left the submarine forces woefully short of boats at the beginning of the war. The finals parts of the book is the actual telling of the Luftwaffe’s efforts against Britain. Mr. Holland uses many firsthand accounts from both sides to tell the story. He looks at the tactics, formations, intelligence both sides were getting, target selection for both the Luftwaffe and the embryonic efforts of the RAF’s bomber command. He is especially scathing on the German intelligence efforts. This ranges from the lack of awareness of just what those antennas on the coast were, there overestimating of Fighter Commands losses and Britain to ability to replace those losses, the morale of the RAF and the British Civilians. Holland asserts that German intelligence got almost nothing right. One example he cites is that in September, German intelligence estimated that Fighter Command had only 189 a/c available when the actual figure was over 600. Britain on the other hand, was within 10% with their estimates of Luftwaffe aircraft availability. Mr Holland also looks at just how run down German strength was by September October. He states in September some of the German fighter groups could only put up 8 or 9 aircraft, instead of the 30+ they were able to do at the beginning of the battle. He also looks at the morale of the Fighter pilots. Britain was able to rotate there squadrons in and out of the Battle keeping their pilots relatively fresh. The German pilots on the other hand, flew until they were shot down and captured or killed. By September, this was taking a toll on their morale. To summarize, this is superbly researched, very readable and an excellent telling of just not the air war over Britain in the summer of 1940. It is a complete look at everything that was going on in the war between Germany and Great Britain during that time. If GR allowed partial stars this is a 4.25 star read, so I’ve rounded down.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    If you're looking for a book which tells the complete story of the Battle of Britain, this isn't the book for you. This book starts with the German invasion of France in May 1940 and runs through October of that same year when the Germans cancelled their plans to invade England. The actual Battle of Britain itself takes up less than half the book, but Holland does a great job of setting the table for the battle and showing how it was much more than just the RAF vs the Luftwaffe. Holland weaves a If you're looking for a book which tells the complete story of the Battle of Britain, this isn't the book for you. This book starts with the German invasion of France in May 1940 and runs through October of that same year when the Germans cancelled their plans to invade England. The actual Battle of Britain itself takes up less than half the book, but Holland does a great job of setting the table for the battle and showing how it was much more than just the RAF vs the Luftwaffe. Holland weaves a myriad of bits and pieces from a wide variety of individuals into a narrative which shows how the Battle of France paved the way for the British victory to come. There are recollections from civilians, airmen, soldiers, sailors, generals and politicians on both sides, all giving interesting peeks into the highs and lows of life during wartime: aerial combat, being on the ground when bombs are falling, the stunning German advance and encirclement of the British Expeditionary Force, political decision-making, military blunders, bone-wearying days of endless flying against a formidable enemy, and some humorous bits here and there as well. I think one of the most often overlooked aspects of the Battle of Britain is touched upon nicely in this book: RAF Bomber Command's war against the Germans while Fighter Command was taking on the Luftwaffe in the skies over England. Holland shows how Bomber Command's sustained pressure on German airfields, factories and cities (including Berlin itself) helped change the direction of the battle away from destroying the RAF and gaining air superiority to destroying London and other British cities. So, if you want a comprehensive book on the Battle of Britain, this isn't the book for you. But if you want a great book on how the Battle of France merged into the Battle of Britain, and not just in the air, but on the land and the seas as well, you won't be disappointed with this one. Superb narrative, wonderful personal stories and recollections, and excellent recounting of the dark days when Britain stood alone against what many perceived to be an invincible foe.

  3. 5 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    This book offers the reader a very enjoyable account of the five months between May and October 1940 when Germany invaded the Low Countries smashed France and chased the BEF back to England. The book covers the fighting in France, the retreat back to Dunkirk and then the German operations against England in preparation for 'Sealion', the invasion of Britain. The book just doesn’t cover the aerial offensive but also the German naval operations that included the U-boats and Schnellboote's and also This book offers the reader a very enjoyable account of the five months between May and October 1940 when Germany invaded the Low Countries smashed France and chased the BEF back to England. The book covers the fighting in France, the retreat back to Dunkirk and then the German operations against England in preparation for 'Sealion', the invasion of Britain. The book just doesn’t cover the aerial offensive but also the German naval operations that included the U-boats and Schnellboote's and also Britain’s response with Bomber Command’s early operations against Berlin and the Luftwaffe fighter bases in France, something not normally covered in histories covering this campaign. This is not an in-depth tactical or strategic study of this campaign but a general, popular history using many accounts from those involved, including German and British fighter and bomber pilots (with a number of well know aces). We also hear from civilians on the ground in London and Berlin, naval officers from both sides and politicians & leaders who are conducting the war. Overall this is a very easy to read and enjoyable study of the most important period at the start of the Second World War.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Boudewijn

    A very populair history novel about the Battle of Britain. James Holland mixes an overall account of the battle with personal stories from people who actually experienced it, from both sides. For someone who is generally interested in history (like me) it's a very enjoyable read. A very populair history novel about the Battle of Britain. James Holland mixes an overall account of the battle with personal stories from people who actually experienced it, from both sides. For someone who is generally interested in history (like me) it's a very enjoyable read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    James

    I really enjoyed reading this book, James Holland does a brilliant job in encompassing all aspects of the Battle of Britain not just Fighter Command. He details the role played by The Observer Corp, Bomber Command, the RN, the Home Guard, Radar and AA defence. From the German perspective he goes on to explain the roles of the U boats and S boats and the workings of the German High Command. A significant portion of the book deals with the lead up to the Battle of Britain, the Battle of France is w I really enjoyed reading this book, James Holland does a brilliant job in encompassing all aspects of the Battle of Britain not just Fighter Command. He details the role played by The Observer Corp, Bomber Command, the RN, the Home Guard, Radar and AA defence. From the German perspective he goes on to explain the roles of the U boats and S boats and the workings of the German High Command. A significant portion of the book deals with the lead up to the Battle of Britain, the Battle of France is well covered and the author is just as much at home talking about tank battles around the rolling countryside of Northern France as he is about the vicious air battles in the sky above Southern England. The only gripe I have with this book is the title which is a tad misleading. As stated above this book is as much a history about the war in Europe in its entirety in 1940 than as it is about the Battle of Britain itself and as such someone who is after a book solely about glorious Spitfires tackling 109s maybe disappointed. Form my perspective I really enjoyed the level of detail present in this book and of the many different aspects of 1940 that were bought together,

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    This is a difficult book to evaluate and review. My GR friends that have read and reviewed this book give it 4 or 5 stars. I can understand and respect their opinion and, in fact, I can't say I disagree but I do have my reservations about the book so I give it my worth the purchase price rating of 3 stars. So what are my reservations? The title of the book is The Battle of Britain Five Month That Changed History May-October 1940. The book is 613 pages and only covers 5 months time. During that 5 This is a difficult book to evaluate and review. My GR friends that have read and reviewed this book give it 4 or 5 stars. I can understand and respect their opinion and, in fact, I can't say I disagree but I do have my reservations about the book so I give it my worth the purchase price rating of 3 stars. So what are my reservations? The title of the book is The Battle of Britain Five Month That Changed History May-October 1940. The book is 613 pages and only covers 5 months time. During that 5 months only three events of historical significance occurred, France was invaded and fell in less than a month, Britain experienced a miracle in being able to rescue its army at Dunkirk, and Britain was seriously threatened with invasion by Germany. If these events had been written about in a conventional history the resulting book would probably have been 200-300 pages but this author has given us 613 pages. Could one suspect that maybe Mr. Holland got a bit carried away? Well I would have to say he did but in a way that I also have to say I enjoyed. I think Holland has given us three books in one volume which I think was good but also bad. Holland's book is a richly researched and spectacularly detailed history of three perspectives of this 5 month history. The conventional history is here dealing with the political events and their ramifications. France's utter failure and Britain's attempt to prop them up; the fall of Chamberlain and the rise of Churchill; Britain's overnight mobilization for war and possible invasion; Germany's failure to anticipate its success and then capitalize on it, and the providential selection of the leadership on both sides. The author then gives us a type of history I always find fascinating, he gives stories about the real people that lived through these events. He does speak about the big names in this history but that is not what I am talking about. The author tells us about the experiences of the people in the front lines on both sides as well as the civilians living through the air raids and the bombings. I love the man in the foxhole stories as well as those about the people at home and the people dodging bullets under their beds. These are the stories that make war real for a reader and this book is full of such stories but it is here that Holland may have gone too far. Holland's civilian stories are fine but the pilot stories is where I think some editing was needed. It is very hard to describe aerial combat in a way that reader can understand it. Nevertheless, the author has done about as good a job of this as might be possible. However, a little of these aerial combat stories goes a long way, a very long way. I certainly understand the author's purpose in trying to convey how the German's abused and exhausted the extremely valuable asset of their experienced pilots but okay I got the message long before the end of the book. I also appreciate the value and worth of the British flyers and can understand a British author wanting the world to know about them but this can be carried to excess and become counterproductive. There was entirely too much detail about insignificant dogfights and it became rather repetitive and exhausting. This abundance of aerial detail leads to what might be considered the author's third level of history, aviation. The author goes into a very detailed discussion of what aviation enthusiasts will no doubt love. The various planes used by both sides are listed and then their comparative characteristics and uses. The alterations to the designs are detailed as these designs evolved due to combat demands. The author then compares the planes to the planes of their opponents and how they stacked up and how these comparisons forced design alterations and design evolutions. Having exhausted the discussion of the aerial hardware the author details the organizational structure of the two air forces and their leadership, support apparatus, and the infrastructure of the two air forces. Don't get me wrong because I found all of this interesting but did it all have to go in one book? From a purely financial angle I think Mr. Holland missed an opportunity to make a bit more money by dividing this history into some more readable and interesting components. Interesting or not after awhile this book became a chore to finish reading. I suppose it would have helped if I were more of a WWII fan but I am not. If I discover a promising book about that war I will read it but it's not an area of history for which I have a great deal of enthusiasm. I decided to read this book based on the review of another GR friend. I do not regret the read as the book was good but I just think it could have been better.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike Sumner

    "Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war" Sir Winston Churchill, speech to the House of Commons, 18th June 1940 Many historians have written about The Battle of Britain. James Holland is one of a new generation of historians who were born long after the war. He takes a fresh approach to the heroics of the men and women of Fighter, Bomber and Coastal Commands and the Royal Navy, who would not be cowed by the might of the Luftwaffe, at a time when the fate of the w "Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war" Sir Winston Churchill, speech to the House of Commons, 18th June 1940 Many historians have written about The Battle of Britain. James Holland is one of a new generation of historians who were born long after the war. He takes a fresh approach to the heroics of the men and women of Fighter, Bomber and Coastal Commands and the Royal Navy, who would not be cowed by the might of the Luftwaffe, at a time when the fate of the world truly hung by a thread. Holland's 924 page tome is a significant achievement written with a proper spirit of enquiry, full of personal accounts from both sides, both British and German pilots and not forgetting the Polish and Czech squadrons that made a significant contribution. Indeed, it was one of these fighter pilots, Geoff Wellum, who prompted Holland to begin a career as a historian. These personal accounts add a new level of immediacy to aerial confrontation and the pace of the book never flags. The Battle of Britain is an ambitious and comprehensive telling of this epic story when Britain stood alone against the might of the Wehrmacht. Highly recommended reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    The funny thing about e-readers is you can't tell how long the book is, or how much of it you have left, aside from the percentage listed on the bottom, which just isn't the same as the way the balance of a book changes based on how much you've read versus how much you still have left to read. So this book turned out to be longer than I had anticipated, but that was for the most part a good thing. The author took the long view of what the Battle of Britain was, rather than just the aerial war ov The funny thing about e-readers is you can't tell how long the book is, or how much of it you have left, aside from the percentage listed on the bottom, which just isn't the same as the way the balance of a book changes based on how much you've read versus how much you still have left to read. So this book turned out to be longer than I had anticipated, but that was for the most part a good thing. The author took the long view of what the Battle of Britain was, rather than just the aerial war over Britain in the summer of 1940, he essentially started with the German invasion of France in May. He looked at the war on land in mainland Europe, then in the air and on the sea after that. So it took a while to get to the part I was anticipating, the air war. It was fascinating stuff, though. It's amazing, given how much has been written about the Battle of Britain, and how it's become so legendary in British history, how small the number of those guys there actually was. When Churchill said, "Never was so much owed by so many to so few," it was a great line not just because of the idea of the debt owed by the comparative many, but also because there literally were not many of them. It was a small enough group that they all seemed to know each other, they all had nicknames by which they were known to each other and to the public at large. They tended to be wealthy and well-educated, because at the time, those were tended to be the only people who had the time and the disposable income required to learn to fly. But all of the drama that has been attached to that summer is pretty real, and it is amazing that an era of such historical significance was packed into a single summer, really just a couple of months. The fact that it has been studied and discussed and written about for seventy-five years and counting makes it seem kind of eternal, but the reality is it was all over before anyone really knew what was going on. The psychology of that is pretty fascinating to me. For the most part, Holland writes well, and he is meticulous about his detail. My one pet-peeve was that he, without fail, would put the word "some" in front of any number he wrote about. "The RAF shot down some 22 planes" or "a distance of some 123 miles," or "costing some 5,000 pounds." Without fail, and it started driving me nuts. For British readers, it might seem perfectly normal, but for me, it seemed a little ridiculous. Overall, though, it was an excellent book, and highly recommended for someone who really wants to dive into the depths of the Battle of Britain.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aṣwin Mannepalli

    As someone who spent preschool mostly playing "jet" with arms outstretched and running around in circles chasing imaginary MiGs, I can't imagine a cooler gig than being a fighter pilot. The fact is that after one of those end-of-the-world college breakups, I actually called a recruiter and tried to sign up for the Air Force. When I found out that there was no way in hell Uncle Sam would trust my eyesight with an expensive aircraft I turned to a life of pushing numbers around on a spreadsheet. (M As someone who spent preschool mostly playing "jet" with arms outstretched and running around in circles chasing imaginary MiGs, I can't imagine a cooler gig than being a fighter pilot. The fact is that after one of those end-of-the-world college breakups, I actually called a recruiter and tried to sign up for the Air Force. When I found out that there was no way in hell Uncle Sam would trust my eyesight with an expensive aircraft I turned to a life of pushing numbers around on a spreadsheet. (Maybe the smart thing was doing ROTC?) Sigh. For us more at home in the air rather than on terra firma, the Battle of Britain has passed into the realm of heroics and myth. The crippling of a numerically superior Teutonic foe makes this a victory on par with Trafalgar. No doubt that this was a moment when the few stood against the designs of an obese Reichsmarschall and his taskmaster. What the author does so constantly well is to let the light of fact and reason nudge us out of unedifying reverence. Actually, things were not so desperate with respect to home island defense. Sir Hugh Dowding’s strategy of conservative aggression was highly effective against a bloated and overconfident Luftwaffe. The use of networked radar and spotters was truly revolutionary in that it 1) gave sector commanders a rich knowledge of the battlefield 2) conserved precious fuel since radar had made air patrols largely unnecessary and 3) allowed Hurricane and Spitfire pilots to pounce on unaware Messerschmitts. That this was done in opposition to Churchill makes Dowding’s contribution all the more important. One still awaits a proper, modern biography of the man. But the lesson here is not so much the wonder of Homeric action as it is the power of technology and organization to burn off the fog of war. For this we must thank Holland’s efforts at bringing the battle back into the realm of the real. The day was won due to attrition. Had Hitler pressed his attacks before diverting to his long held desire to attack the Soviet Union under the strangely prescient name of ‘Operation Barbarossa’, the islands would have surely fallen. Thankfully, I suppose, der Führer plunged headlong into his blunder. And as the author is right to point out, the German air forces that confronted Stalin were notably weaker. And that, perhaps more so than any other outcome, sets off the chain of events that lead to final victory.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jorel

    This is the best WW2 book ive read. Not only Holland takes a look into the major aspect of the operations, beginning with the fall of france, then dunkirk and later on the battle of britain itself, but he also goes deep into the personal level, having interviewed tons of german and british soldiers, pilots, civilians and etc. The end was quite heartbreaking, with him reporting what happened to all the people he had focused on the ground during these 5 months of struggle. The book is quite large, This is the best WW2 book ive read. Not only Holland takes a look into the major aspect of the operations, beginning with the fall of france, then dunkirk and later on the battle of britain itself, but he also goes deep into the personal level, having interviewed tons of german and british soldiers, pilots, civilians and etc. The end was quite heartbreaking, with him reporting what happened to all the people he had focused on the ground during these 5 months of struggle. The book is quite large, but it pays off, and is a real page turner. When i got it i thought it would start with the battle of britain itself, but i was glad to see that the battle of france, and BEF's withdraw to the coast are also detailed quite well. The maps in these chapters are also quite good, showing how really close the BEF was to being completely cut off. If it wasnt for the british attack in Arras and the halt order, the french defence of Lille and Gort's order to fight by day and retreat by night, it would have been quite different. All in all, this book details these five months thoroughly, and shows exactly why the luftwaffe, having a better fighter plane at the moment, and more of them, managed to lose. The reasons were many as show in the book but the british resiliance was one of them. In the end, indeed the battle of britain is shown as having been one of the most decisive battles in the war, one that not only defeated the luftwaffe, that had in may 3500 planes, and by october had lost 3700 planes. (with having a production of just 250 or so), but the battle that transformed the german war not in a continental war, but in a world war, which inevitably put the US going to the allies, and made the german attack on the soviet union happen way earlier than Hitler intended, with one of the main reasons for such was to, after the supposed defeat of the Soviet Union, Britain would have no choice then but to finally give up. In the end, the battle of britain, and the british succesful resistance during the 1 year that it stood alone against all of occupied europe, made sure that eventually germany and italy would indeed be defeated, it was just a matter of time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Mader

    This is a decent, accessible, popular history of the Battle of Britain. It brings in the personal experiences and reflections of a handful of pilots, gunners, and seamen from both the British and German military. Because I haven't read many books yet about the personal experiences of people serving in the German air force or navy, and none at all during the time of the Battle of Britain, those bits were of particular interest to me. There were also some character sketches of various American, Br This is a decent, accessible, popular history of the Battle of Britain. It brings in the personal experiences and reflections of a handful of pilots, gunners, and seamen from both the British and German military. Because I haven't read many books yet about the personal experiences of people serving in the German air force or navy, and none at all during the time of the Battle of Britain, those bits were of particular interest to me. There were also some character sketches of various American, British, and German military and political personalities. (Joe Kennedy is not portrayed kindly, which surprised me not at all.) Some things I thought very important were touched on only lightly or not at all--the horrible treatment of Dowding, for example, or the fact that Chamberlain, despite his "appeasement" approach, had laid the crucial groundwork years earlier for the RAF's ability to respond in the summer of 1940. Still, happy to have read it, though anyone wanting more in-depth information would want to read, say, THE MOST DANGEROUS ENEMY by Stephen Bungay.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    This book showed me how little I really knew about the Great War as my Grandad called it. It is amazing how much the outcome of that war depended on mistakes made by the German forces and some very good luck on the side of the allies. It is not an easy read, but it is interesting - I found it wasn't dry like many history books, I suggest reading it in chunks rather than trying to read the whole thing in one go. It was definitely worth persevering with, especially as it brought to life real people This book showed me how little I really knew about the Great War as my Grandad called it. It is amazing how much the outcome of that war depended on mistakes made by the German forces and some very good luck on the side of the allies. It is not an easy read, but it is interesting - I found it wasn't dry like many history books, I suggest reading it in chunks rather than trying to read the whole thing in one go. It was definitely worth persevering with, especially as it brought to life real people, real men who lost their lives to preserve the freedom of many.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Enjoyed reading both sides of the story. I found myself re-reading chapters and looking up people for whom I had never heard of. It was also good to read how there were Germans who did not slavishly follow Hitler and the Nazis. There was descent, but it also gave food for thought again, how easily people are swayed to an extreme hatred and aggression. A lesson we should all heed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sage

    "It has been fashionable in recent years to play down the importance of the Battle of Britain, but to do so is wrong. It was a key - if not the key - turning point in the war because it meant that instead of the conflict being a European war which one day would escalate into a clash between Germany and Russia, it became a global conflict in which the Third Reich was unlikely to ever realistically emerge victorious. Britain's defiance did save the world from Nazism." 5 stars. "A notable "It has been fashionable in recent years to play down the importance of the Battle of Britain, but to do so is wrong. It was a key - if not the key - turning point in the war because it meant that instead of the conflict being a European war which one day would escalate into a clash between Germany and Russia, it became a global conflict in which the Third Reich was unlikely to ever realistically emerge victorious. Britain's defiance did save the world from Nazism." 5 stars. "A notable account of an epic human experience" Max Hastings declares on the cover of this book, and to be honest, he's completely right. The Battle of Britain: Five Months That Changed History, May-October 1940 is a brilliant, thorough piece of research that tells the story of those dramatic five months from a complete 360° perspective, instead of simply from the point of the RAF or the Luftwaffe. We learn about events leading up to the battle, from the start of the western campaign to the evactuation of Dunkirk, and how they helped to shape the events to follow; we learn about the part played by the navy, the army, the Ministry of Information, and all those on the ground who made a difference; we also learn about the huge German effort and, in the end, how wholly unprepared for long-term war they really were. As someone who has always had an interest in the history of the Battle of Britain but has never really delved into it before (I'm usually more of a Medieval history buff), this book was a perfect place to start. Historical facts interspersed with personal stories from both sides really brought the story vividly to life, showing not only what happened, but how the men on the front lines reacted to it. It's easy for an author to write 'this happened, then this, then this' and then opine about what contemporary people's reaction might have been, but the beauty of writing anything in modern times is you can really know. Not only is there ample written sources, but you can go and speak and hear their experiences first-hand, too. This book masterfully balances both the use of the historic record and personal stories so one never overshadows the other, truly bringing to life the rollarcoaster of emotions people on both sides must have been feeling from May to October (and until the end of the war, too). His chapters on the political goings-on were some of the most interesting to me. From Churchill's rise to Prime Minister to the outright lies told to Hitler and Göring, you really start to see just how easily the battle may have gone completely the other way. If Göring had been told accurate figures, if Hitler hadn't hesitated, and if they had managed to get more U-boats in the Atlantic to disrupt shipping to the United Kingdom, then the Battle of Britain may well have been well and truly lost. To be honest, I'm glad these things are given ample time in this book. The popular image of the Battle of Britain is of brave RAF fighters stopping the stem of Nazism - It's why the Spitfire is still such a beloved plane to this day - but James Holland really stresses the importance of the army, the navy, Bomber Command, the Home Guard, and all the others who were just as important in fighting off the seemingly invincible German forces in the summer of 1940. But it also shows the key difference in British and German leadership at the time, which was perhaps one of the biggest reasons the battle went the way it did. I've certainly developed an immense respect for Hugh Dowding and Keith Park because of this book. Overall, this is a brilliantly, well-researched account of one of the most immortalised moments in the Second World War, and what I loved about it is that it never forgets about the human aspect of it all. I'll definitely be reading more about the Battle of Britain in the future, as well as picking up more of Holland's work. His understanding of the subject really is top-class, and this book is brilliant in its simplicity and accessibility.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    This book covers The Battle of Britain in great detail, spending time on key players, the beginning of war, life under the Nazi government, background on Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels, and background on Churchill. There are dozens of characters, mostly pilots in the RAF and Luftwaffe. I think I could have done a better job keeping track of them if reading the book instead of listening to it. In the audio version, the characters all ran together into "Generic RAF Pilot" and "Generic Luftwaffe Pilo This book covers The Battle of Britain in great detail, spending time on key players, the beginning of war, life under the Nazi government, background on Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels, and background on Churchill. There are dozens of characters, mostly pilots in the RAF and Luftwaffe. I think I could have done a better job keeping track of them if reading the book instead of listening to it. In the audio version, the characters all ran together into "Generic RAF Pilot" and "Generic Luftwaffe Pilot". The author spends time on Britain's difficult choice of sending planes to France or holding them back for defense of Britain. In the end, Britain sent many places to France despite knowing that it was for a losing cause. Churchill in particular found it hard to abandon his ally. The book spends on a lot of time on the evacuation of Dunkirk. The author points out that Goering thought the Luftwaffe could finish off the British troops at Dunkirk so Hitler intentionally stopped the forward progress of the German army. One thing that often doesn't get covered in Dunkirk material is the many (mostly French) men that had to get captured so that the others could escape to Britain. The U-boat war is also covered, including the evolution of wolf-pack tactics. The authors' opinion is that the U-boats may have been able to win the war against Britain if only Germany would have had sufficient numbers of them. This is a common theme in the book -- Germany being unprepared for war, in terms of number of aircraft as well as number of U-boats. The author points out that Goering handicapping his fighter pilots by making them fly defensively to protect bombers instead of letting them fly offensively to attack fighters, leading to the Luftwaffe's defeat during the battle. I liked the phrase the author used to describe the German air force - "a house can have cracks so long as there is no storm". I enjoyed the sections on the technology breakthroughs of the war. The invention of radar, radar directional navigation, Britain's elaborate air defense system including spotters and plotting tables, and their countermeasures against German directional finding system, the cat-and-mouse game between the scientists in Britain and Germany. The author provides detailed descriptions of Spitfires, Messerschmitt 109s, and Hurricanes, the three principal fighter planes of the battle. Fun fact of the book: Spitfires only had 15 seconds of machine gun ammunition. The author's conclusion on the battle is that Germany had to defeat both Britain and France to be successful. They only defeated France, guaranteeing that they would fight a two-front war, the one thing that Hitler hoped to avoid. I enjoyed reading a WW2 history that had very little of the USA in it. It was a nice perspective.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris Wray

    James Holland has hit the mark yet again in this excellent overview of the Battle of Britain. Yet, if you are expecting to jump straight into air battles over south-east England you are in for a surprise. From the outset, he is clear that the battle began long before then: "it was with the launch of the western campaign that Britain began to face the worst crisis in her history, while for Germany 10 May 1940 marked, inextricably, her crossing of the Rubicon. The point of no return." Holland is su James Holland has hit the mark yet again in this excellent overview of the Battle of Britain. Yet, if you are expecting to jump straight into air battles over south-east England you are in for a surprise. From the outset, he is clear that the battle began long before then: "it was with the launch of the western campaign that Britain began to face the worst crisis in her history, while for Germany 10 May 1940 marked, inextricably, her crossing of the Rubicon. The point of no return." Holland is surely right when he states that, "In the summer of 1940, Germany faced Britain and France, and had to defeat both. That was the gamble Hitler took. He beat France, but he did not beat Britain, and at the end of the summer Germany was significantly worse off than she had been in May, and facing a long, attritional war on two fronts, which was precisely what the Führer had so desperately wished to avoid. It has been fashionable in recent years to play down the importance of the Battle of Britain, but to do so is wrong. It was a key - if not the key - turning point in the war because it meant that instead of the conflict being a European war which one day would escalate into a clash between Germany and Russia, it became a global conflict in which the Third Reich was unlikely to ever realistically emerge victorious…Germany lost the battle against Britain because she really was not ready for war. Her economy could just about cope with a few short, sharp conflicts such as Poland, and Norway, and as the western campaign had proved to be, but nothing more…Massed U-boat attacks combined with a more sensibly handled air battle could have been devastating. The truth was that the crushing victory in France hid many of Germany’s deficiencies. Hitler was lucky to have had such inspired commanders in men like Guderian who understood the potential of modern mobile warfare and the principles of concentration of force. The western campaign had come off in lightning-quick fashion because of the genius and vision of a few men and the high training of a key proportion of the army." Another major contributing factor to the German victory in France was the poor performance of the French, "Operationally, tactically and strategically, the French had been woeful. Their leadership was too old, too dated…Germany should never have won." After Dunkirk, the summer of 1940 represented a sequence of missed opportunities for Germany, "From Dunkirk onwards, when the Luftwaffe’s shortcomings were first exposed, the Germans made a catalogue of mistakes. Hitler prevaricated too long, they had no clear strategy, and they constantly, persistently, depended on incredibly faulty intelligence…They also singularly failed to exploit the strengths of what resources they did have. The handling of the fighter arm, for example, was grossly incompetent. Nor did they look after their most precious asset of all: the men…they suffered from what in modern military parlance is known as mission creep. Their primary stated aim was to destroy the RAF, yet the constant switching of tactics, the differing uses of aircraft, and the move from targeting airfields to London were all indicative of a high command that had no real strategic idea of how it was to achieve its goals." He is generous in his assessment of Bomber Command, which at this point in the war "has traditionally been viewed as being so ineffective to have been almost risible, yet it played a crucial part in the battle, taking the fight into Germany, showing the world that German invincibility was a sham, and contributing to the battle to grind down the Luftwaffe. The relentless attacks on German airfields wore down Luftwaffe crews far more than has ever been appreciated." Finally, "It is important, seventy years on, that the battle should be seen from both sides and in its wider context…everyone played their part: the navy, the army, the auxiliary services , the Home Guard, the groundcrews, the Observer Corps, the civilian repair units – Britain’s defiance in the summer of 1940 was a collective effort. The pilots of Fighter Command may have been the first line, but there were many thousands more who contributed to Britain’s victory." See my full review here

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richard Olney

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I came to this book via Mr Holland's podcast (with Al Murray) called "We Have Ways Of Making You Talk", all about the Second World War. That podcast has relit my interest in that conflict, dormant since my mid-teens when i thought i'd grown up and that such things as Commando comics and war films were somehow beneath me. It's a detailed study of the Battle of Britain, running broadly through all of 1940 in Northwestern Europe, from the fall of France to the moment in early Autumn 1940 when Hitle I came to this book via Mr Holland's podcast (with Al Murray) called "We Have Ways Of Making You Talk", all about the Second World War. That podcast has relit my interest in that conflict, dormant since my mid-teens when i thought i'd grown up and that such things as Commando comics and war films were somehow beneath me. It's a detailed study of the Battle of Britain, running broadly through all of 1940 in Northwestern Europe, from the fall of France to the moment in early Autumn 1940 when Hitler decides to postpone the invasion of Britain, until after he had dealt with the Soviet Union, so as it turns out a permanent postponement. The testimonies from witnesses, both combatants and civilians and in the UK and Germany are fascinating. They read as testimonies of real people with real fears about invasion, food shortages, the war not going as expected and the sheer doggedness of the aircrew, on both sides. It also takes time to discuss the high level strategy in the UK, Germany, France and the USA. Winston Churchill emerges, perhaps for the first time in his life as the right person in the right place at the right time and the Nazi High Command show signs of almost humanity though not for too long, usually one of Hitler, Goring or especially Goebbels does something to reassure the reader that the Nazis really were the deranged maniacs that history tells us. While i knew the basics of the period, having a father born during the War and growing up in the new world it created that was inevitable, this book has increased my knowledge, moved me almost to tears (the "we shall fight them on the beaches" speech gets me every time) and reinforced my complete admiration and horror for what that generation, my grandparents' generation, went through. Never indeed was so much owed by so many to so few.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Not just an account of the late summer of 1940 and the air war over Kent, but covers from the invasion of France and the Low Countries through to the autumn of 1940. Holland sets the myth of Blitzkrieg and the Battle of Britain in its true historical context. The Wehrmacht was not the invincible force that is often portrayed, but secured their victory through a combination of luck and bluff. Hitler's generals on the Western Front were successful not because of his vision, but in spite of him. The Not just an account of the late summer of 1940 and the air war over Kent, but covers from the invasion of France and the Low Countries through to the autumn of 1940. Holland sets the myth of Blitzkrieg and the Battle of Britain in its true historical context. The Wehrmacht was not the invincible force that is often portrayed, but secured their victory through a combination of luck and bluff. Hitler's generals on the Western Front were successful not because of his vision, but in spite of him. The central thesis set out is that whilst the fighter pilots of the RAF were undoubtedly brave, they were supported by a superior system in depth that allowed them to win the battle, this included the use of RDF, rotation of squadrons and pilots away from 11 Group, tactics, and the observer corps. The Luftwaffe on the other hand were stretched beyond their resources, given competing mission objectives that were not suitable to the forces available, and given little, if any, rest away from the heat of battle. Poor and confused strategy from Goering compounded to ensure that the Luftwaffe could not be successful, despite the apparent advantages they had, in securing air superiority over Britain in 1940. Not just a defensive victory, the Battle of Britain forces Germany into a two front war, that eventually seals their fate. James Holland has written an excellent book covering one of the most important parts of British history, written in his usual accessible style but covering the period in detail, this book is strongly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is a tough one for me to review and I apologize if it seems too harsh. That isn't my intent and I have to emphasize that I enjoyed reading it. James Holland is a popular historian and I've read other books on the Battle of Britain that followed the same style - focusing on the individual pilots. I enjoyed the read and have no complaints about the book, BUT, there is very little new added by his history. His thesis, although he almost feels uncomfortable with it, is that more than the British This is a tough one for me to review and I apologize if it seems too harsh. That isn't my intent and I have to emphasize that I enjoyed reading it. James Holland is a popular historian and I've read other books on the Battle of Britain that followed the same style - focusing on the individual pilots. I enjoyed the read and have no complaints about the book, BUT, there is very little new added by his history. His thesis, although he almost feels uncomfortable with it, is that more than the British winning the Battle of Britain, the Germans lost the Battle. I don't necessarily disagree with that... but neither am I convinced of it either. My primary criticism (if criticism it even is) is that the book isn't only about the Battle of Britain but rather about the early period of the War culminating in the Battle of Britain. I can understand the reason behind this - the Battle wasn't fought in a vacuum - but in a 600 page book, it is almost half way through it that the discussion of the Battle and the events therein even starts. It was an entertaining read and I enjoyed it, but with those, the strengths of a popular history (ease and entertainment), the weaknesses of the genre are displayed (some lack of insight).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Habiger

    If you think about the Battle of Britain most people may recall the air battle fought between the RAF and the Luftwaffe during the summer of 1940. I usually think of the classic war film from 1969, which has some wonderful shots of the air battle. What I love about James Holland's book is that he expanded my understanding of what "The Battle of Britain" means. Yes, the air battle was important and a critical part of the battle, but Holland's history focuses on many other elements - the German U- If you think about the Battle of Britain most people may recall the air battle fought between the RAF and the Luftwaffe during the summer of 1940. I usually think of the classic war film from 1969, which has some wonderful shots of the air battle. What I love about James Holland's book is that he expanded my understanding of what "The Battle of Britain" means. Yes, the air battle was important and a critical part of the battle, but Holland's history focuses on many other elements - the German U-boats and convoy war, the politics, and the impact the battle had on the civilians in both England and Germany. Holland gives a much more detailed and in depth account of the battle from both sides of the battle, starting in May with Germany's attack on France and the Low Countries, and through the decision to postpone (and ultimately cancel) Germany's planned invasion of England. The details of the battle are well presented, and following individuals involved in the battle from both sides of the conflict is engaging and brings the realities and horrors of the war into focus. Recommend for anybody interested in World War 2 history, and specifically the critical period of the summer of 1940 when Britain was the last country in Europe to stand up to Hitler's Germany.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Hepburn

    Once again a bloody outstanding piece of work by James Holland. Never before have I read such a detailed, gripping, and in my opinion revolutionary book on the Battle of Britain. I have previously read several book on the battle, as well as every documentary/film/podcast going, and they seem to always reiterate the same talking points and narrative. James Holland demolishes many of these myths by reviewing the battle from an operational standpoint, rather than the usual ‘boots on the ground’ nar Once again a bloody outstanding piece of work by James Holland. Never before have I read such a detailed, gripping, and in my opinion revolutionary book on the Battle of Britain. I have previously read several book on the battle, as well as every documentary/film/podcast going, and they seem to always reiterate the same talking points and narrative. James Holland demolishes many of these myths by reviewing the battle from an operational standpoint, rather than the usual ‘boots on the ground’ narrative that is so often covered (although in this case a ‘planes in the sky’ one). After reading this book you ask yourself whether it was really possible for us to have ever lost the Battle of Britain. I won’t go into any spoilers, because I believe that you should absolutely read the book for yourself, but it makes clear the myth of Blitzkrieg was just that, a myth. I wouldn’t recommend this book to the casual reader however, as it requires a lot of background knowledge about the Battles of France and Britain. Other shorter and simpler books are available if you just want to understand and appreciate the 1969 film a bit better, but this one is undeniably my new Bible for the Battle of Britain. Outstanding as always, and I look forward to reading more works by James Holland.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    Although tilted 'The Battle Of Britain', its a fairly inaccurate title for the book because Holland doesn't just focus on the three month's of the battle. He starts right at the beginning of the war and gives a detailed account of how Britain got to be in the position it was fighting german alone*. Of course the level of detail in both the lead up to battle and during the battle is epic. Holland puts you in mind of the RAF and luftwaffe pilots. You get snippets as life as a civilian on the groun Although tilted 'The Battle Of Britain', its a fairly inaccurate title for the book because Holland doesn't just focus on the three month's of the battle. He starts right at the beginning of the war and gives a detailed account of how Britain got to be in the position it was fighting german alone*. Of course the level of detail in both the lead up to battle and during the battle is epic. Holland puts you in mind of the RAF and luftwaffe pilots. You get snippets as life as a civilian on the ground both in Britain and germany. There's an important look at the leaders of both airforces making decisions that are either ridiculous or war winning, aswell as political and pointless arguing between men who want to win and those who just want promotion. The book looks at key battles and most important the operational level. Skillfully breaking down the numbers of fighters, bombers and pilots available on either side for the daily battles. Which completely smashes the old narrative that Britain was doomed. The book proves Britain was in a better position than what is generally suggested. This like all of Holland's books is great and definitely worth reading. *of course when i say alone i meant alone with the commonwealth, the armies of the conquered nations etc.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marek Rokam

    Anti Polish propaganda full of lies. The author always write how Britain was alone when France, Belgium and Netherlands capitulated. That the whole Europe capitulated or was against them. How downing planes over France had no sense and was wrong (my opinion: does it matter german planes are downed over France or over GB, ofc no!). There is plenty about GB-France politics and even GB-Belgium/Netherlands politics but not mentioning of Pl-UK politics. Battle for France in 1940 is shoved like only h Anti Polish propaganda full of lies. The author always write how Britain was alone when France, Belgium and Netherlands capitulated. That the whole Europe capitulated or was against them. How downing planes over France had no sense and was wrong (my opinion: does it matter german planes are downed over France or over GB, ofc no!). There is plenty about GB-France politics and even GB-Belgium/Netherlands politics but not mentioning of Pl-UK politics. Battle for France in 1940 is shoved like only heroic GB and pathetic France and as bad Benelux were fighting germans. In reality there was 50000 Polish soldiers and 500 pilots and Polish Navy fighting germans. Poland is only mentioned twice. First time that some nazi got experienced in Poland and second time there was some polish unit in Narvik. Thats all. I will not even bother with repeating the lie that GB broke Enigma code and not a word that Poles did it before ww2 and gave gb/fra the solution when WW2 started. Ive stopped reading at ~60% of the book when the author cry how in summer 1940 after surrendering of France GB is ALONE in fight against germany and that rest of the world is not involved or nazi. Stalin and Goebbels would be proud of james holland. Edit: james holland also use words Russia to describe Soviet Union and Russians for bolsheviks/soviets. He white washes stalin and presents him as a good guy. Not mentioning of UK breaking deal with Poland. Edit 2: Like i said no mention of Poland but he mentioned Polish 400 pilots who were useless until they took british training how to fight and thx to that Poles performed so good. Also He mentioned Polish defense war in 1939 as "Poles with swords" against german technology. In short: The book is not historical. It is bunch of lies and opinions of some anti Polish british tory/labor fanatic. James holland cant be called historian. If you want to lose iq or get brainwashed or puke, read this alternate history book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    MARK LAING

    Dang, this was a good read! I hopped into this after finishing The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson and couldn't get enough Battle of Britain stuff. One reviewer on Amazon said it was light on the details ("Curiously he devotes a fair amount of text to the Messerschmitt 109 and 110 fighters. But he brushes off the Spitfire with a simple statement that it was something new. His coverage of the Hawker Hurricane is almost comical.") - I didn't find this at all. There were wonderful details, gre Dang, this was a good read! I hopped into this after finishing The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson and couldn't get enough Battle of Britain stuff. One reviewer on Amazon said it was light on the details ("Curiously he devotes a fair amount of text to the Messerschmitt 109 and 110 fighters. But he brushes off the Spitfire with a simple statement that it was something new. His coverage of the Hawker Hurricane is almost comical.") - I didn't find this at all. There were wonderful details, great background about why Hitler stopped at the water, and plenty of details about the planes. The last few BofB histories I've read HAVE had a lot of diary details mind you. It's almost as if all the authors decided to go down to Kew at the National Archives and pour over the same (Newly-released?) personal diaries and chronicles. I'm not overly keen on the author's habit of calling characters in the book by the first name, it just seems weird to hear about Hermann Göring but then it's "James", "Hans" and "Peter" when referring to the dozen of pilots and minor characters, almost too many to remember pages later - maybe in a novel? In a history book, it just felt out of place. But it's a great read, full of wonderful insights and I could barely put it down.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bobby Fiasco

    I would say 3.5 if I could. I was never bored in 700 pages because the author writes engagingly, conveying the drama of the moment, without getting bogged down in data like some military histories do. The focus on ordinary individuals was great but it's hard to keep track of who is who, because Holland introduces them once and then you are just expected to remember who they are and what they do by their name thenceforth. Reminders are rare. I could have used more reminders like "Stan, the AA gun I would say 3.5 if I could. I was never bored in 700 pages because the author writes engagingly, conveying the drama of the moment, without getting bogged down in data like some military histories do. The focus on ordinary individuals was great but it's hard to keep track of who is who, because Holland introduces them once and then you are just expected to remember who they are and what they do by their name thenceforth. Reminders are rare. I could have used more reminders like "Stan, the AA gunner." Also, more examination on the British civilian experience would have been great. Barely a word about the London bomb shelters for example. After so much unpacking of the events leading up to the air war over Britain, that part passes comparatively quickly.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Fuller

    A very good book that offers a cogent explanation of the May, 1940, ground campaign and Dunkirk thru the lens of the RAF. Although the book occasionally gets a little lost in descriptions of specific engagements, the arc of the narrative remains clear. Explodes multiple myths about respective strength of forces and offers a incisive account of Germany’s lack of preparedness for an air war. The Luftwaffe had been build primarily with an eye toward supporting ground forces and was ill-suited to ei A very good book that offers a cogent explanation of the May, 1940, ground campaign and Dunkirk thru the lens of the RAF. Although the book occasionally gets a little lost in descriptions of specific engagements, the arc of the narrative remains clear. Explodes multiple myths about respective strength of forces and offers a incisive account of Germany’s lack of preparedness for an air war. The Luftwaffe had been build primarily with an eye toward supporting ground forces and was ill-suited to either strategic bombing or interdicting sea lanes. The excellent description of the ME-109 vs the Spitfire explodes the common myth of the latter’s superiority. Perhaps a bit dense for the casual reader, but thoroughly enjoyable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    Another exhaustively researched history by James Holland. Not only covering the period of the Battle of Britain, but also the prewar period, and the war in Belgium and France which preceded it, and allowed the RAF time to prepare for the battle to come. Holland makes clear that the battle wasn’t as clear cut in advance, with the advantage probably to the RAF, in terms of location and focus of mission, if not in skill and machinery. By October 1940, the prewar Luftwaffe was almost a spent force, lo Another exhaustively researched history by James Holland. Not only covering the period of the Battle of Britain, but also the prewar period, and the war in Belgium and France which preceded it, and allowed the RAF time to prepare for the battle to come. Holland makes clear that the battle wasn’t as clear cut in advance, with the advantage probably to the RAF, in terms of location and focus of mission, if not in skill and machinery. By October 1940, the prewar Luftwaffe was almost a spent force, losing many of the skilled pilots, and over 100 percent aircraft losses, and a much more inefficient repair and recovery operation than the RAF had. The book overall is balanced and fair, not afraid to criticise pilots and politicians on both sides where necessary.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Pratley

    This is the first James Holland book I have read. It won't be my last. Military history can be dull at times. This book isn't. It is written with verve combining excellent analysis with plenty of first hand accounts by participants from both sides. Military events are after all intensely human stories. They are not just accounts of strategy & tactics. Neither are technical manuals concerning weapons, organization & logistics. They encompass all this & more. The battle sequences are handled reall This is the first James Holland book I have read. It won't be my last. Military history can be dull at times. This book isn't. It is written with verve combining excellent analysis with plenty of first hand accounts by participants from both sides. Military events are after all intensely human stories. They are not just accounts of strategy & tactics. Neither are technical manuals concerning weapons, organization & logistics. They encompass all this & more. The battle sequences are handled really giving the reader an insight into what it must of been like to up in those episodically crowded skies in 1940. So, in sum, if you want to broaden & deepen your knowledge of this epic event then look no further.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bob Mobley

    James Holland's excellent history is made more compelling by the personal stories he has collected and the very human portraits of the men who fought on both sides of this epic battle. Was it a turning point in the Second World War? Without question, the successes that Holland so admirally talks about played a critical role in stopping Hitler's attempt to invade the United Kingdom. By broadening his examination and superb study of the campaign, Holland has added gripping intensity to the intensi James Holland's excellent history is made more compelling by the personal stories he has collected and the very human portraits of the men who fought on both sides of this epic battle. Was it a turning point in the Second World War? Without question, the successes that Holland so admirally talks about played a critical role in stopping Hitler's attempt to invade the United Kingdom. By broadening his examination and superb study of the campaign, Holland has added gripping intensity to the intensity of the battle. This is a fine book, well written, interesting and thought provoking. As Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding wrote in his memoirs, "It was a very near-run thing."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A detailed and balanced history of the Second World War in Western Europe and Britain from May until October 1940. Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France, the battle of Dunkirk and the subsequent evacuation, Churchill’s becoming prime minister, and some information on U-boat and S-boat warfare are all included, so the title might be misleading depending on what you think the Battle of Britain means. For me, it was at first a mild irritation and then a welcome bonus. I don’t th A detailed and balanced history of the Second World War in Western Europe and Britain from May until October 1940. Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France, the battle of Dunkirk and the subsequent evacuation, Churchill’s becoming prime minister, and some information on U-boat and S-boat warfare are all included, so the title might be misleading depending on what you think the Battle of Britain means. For me, it was at first a mild irritation and then a welcome bonus. I don’t think you can read this quickly, but what’s the rush? The history includes multiple individual pilot accounts on both sides, many photographs, maps, and diagrams.

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