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The Battle of Britain by Simon Pearson and Ed Gorman


The pilots and planes that made history during the Battle of Britain in 1940 are cleverly outlined in this book. This interesting research brings to life fifteen men who flew for the sheer joy of it, in profiles showing courage and an outstanding willingness to take risks.


Seven Nations are represented: Germans with their Junkers 87 Stuka dive bomber, a Briton with a long range bomber, the Heinkel 59 seaplane used to rescue downed airmen from both sides of the conflict; a Kiwi with a Walrus; an arrogant aristocrat in a Bristol Blenheim; a decorated Swiss in a Messerschmitt Bf 110 Jabo; a Dornier 17; a Canadian in a Spitfire Mk I; a Pole in a Hawker Hurricane and the Italian who was laughed at by the Luftwaffe but whose aerobatic ability in the open cockpit of a bi-plane was outstanding. Their profiles are well displayed and their deep love of flying is clear. The personal history of each flier, his background and training and ultimately his fate, are outlined. These men were all passionate about becoming pilots.


The characters of the airmen somehow reflect the aircraft they flew. All the fliers chosen exude an enjoyment of the purity of being free in the air – in spite of the dangers – or maybe because of it. Their sense of invincibility does not always last. This is easy reading, outlining operations undertaken, and missions impossible tasked. There is a strong sense of discipline to overcome fear and remain alert. The authors make astute observations.


The authors have demonstrated knowledge of the triumph and failures of aeronautical enterprise. The book gives a clarification of functions expected from each aircraft as they were designed and developed from the 1930’s into World War Two experimentations out of necessity. The Germans were already testing out their weaponry over Spain. The advantages and shortcomings of the different types of aircraft are outlined in comparisons of speeds and capabilities. I was astounded by the importance of the combat experience gained during the Spanish Civil War as pilots’ own skills counterbalanced any flaws in their aircraft.


When the full weight of the Luftwaffe Airforce was being brought to bear on the British air defences the fate of Western Civilisation was being decided in the skies above Kent and Sussex. The human touches to each profile in this story links the social history with the drama at the time. The development of A I (RADAR) is key to the British operations.


Illustrations could be sharper but are adequate. I thoroughly recommend this book.


Reviewer: Sonia Edwards

Hodder & Stoughton


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