Battle of Britain - 1980

Military History

Summary

A textbook on the battle, but one with real visual quality and a collection of new diagrams and drawings and maps prepared by Len Deighton himself to bring up to date the story of this famous battle. It is in a sense a companion volume to Fighter, using illustrations and numerous black and white photographs to reimagine the battle and provide a new perspective for the reader.

Deighton demonstrates a true historian's understanding of the real story of this battle, not just the propaganda. For instance, he looks at the different factors which contributed to victory such as the development of radar, the training of the pilots and the development of ground defences.

Why it's interesting

Here, Deighton had as much impact as a military historian as he did in the 'sixties when he changed spy fiction. This book and Fighter revolutionised thinking about the Battle of Britain in a way that has not been seriously challenged since, and caused controversy at the time with British pilots, who were angered at Deighton’s apparent equivocation.

The photographs, together with the illustrations (some of which are Deighton's) are unparalled and evoke real sympathy for the flyers who patrolled the skies in aircraft like the Hurricane and Spitfire, keeping the free world safe from tyranny. It really is a great history. What comes across is Deighton's knack for understanding how the technological details behind any army help shape its tactics and define its limitations on the battlefield

Sample text

'Yet despite his command of the greatest air force the world had yet seen, Goering had never made any attempt to understand the real nature and limitations of air power. He was not a fool, but neither was he a 'military thinker'. He took no interest in technology and he saw air combat merely in terms of shooting down as many as possible of the enemy's aircraft. He was an enthusiastic disciple of Douhet's theory of using air forces to win wars while armies and navies merely fought holding actions, yet like the British bomber enthusiasts, he had never subjected those ideas to intellectual scrutiny. Goering's concept of command, and his approach to the Battle of Britain, was crude in the extreme.'

Related facts

The book uncovers the fact that the Germans had a version of radar in operation before the British, though it's use was less effective.

BattleBritain

Battle of Britain, UK first edition, 1980

Crash landing

The painting on the front cover is by Frank Wootton and depicts the end of a Dornier DO 17 at the hands of Squadron Leader R Stanford-Tuck, DSO, DFC of 257 Squadron