Read The Battle of Britain by James Holland Online


The Nazi Blitzkrieg was unlike any invasion the world had ever seen. It hit Europe with a force and aggression that no-one could counter. Within weeks the German armies were at the French coast and looking across at Britain, a country still reeling from the opening salvoes of the war. It seemed impossible that she would be able to resist invasion.But between the Nazis andThe Nazi Blitzkrieg was unlike any invasion the world had ever seen. It hit Europe with a force and aggression that no-one could counter. Within weeks the German armies were at the French coast and looking across at Britain, a country still reeling from the opening salvoes of the war. It seemed impossible that she would be able to resist invasion.But between the Nazis and glory stood more than just the pilots of Fighter Command. There was Bomber and Coastal Command, the Royal Navy and the incredible Auxiliary Patrol Service. In this darkest hour, Britain's defence was truly a national effort, and one that had been considerably better prepared for than the German attack.For the first time, The Battle of Britain tells this most epic of stories from a 360° perspective, drawing on extensive new research from around the world that challenges some of the long-held myths about the battle. Holland paints a complete picture of that extraordinary summer - a time in which the fate of the world truly hung by a thread....

Title : The Battle of Britain
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780552156103
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 924 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Battle of Britain Reviews

  • James
    2019-01-23 13:02

    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,

  • 'Aussie Rick'
    2019-02-13 15:06

    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.

  • Bou
    2019-01-31 12:00

    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.

  • Chris
    2019-01-21 15:51

    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.

  • Aṣwin Mannepalli
    2019-02-10 14:51

    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.

  • Barbara Mader
    2019-02-05 08:46

    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.

  • Cathy
    2019-02-08 14:56

    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.

  • Charlotte
    2019-01-28 13:50

    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.

  • Brad
    2019-02-06 16:41

    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.

  • Bobby Fiasco
    2019-01-31 16:50

    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.

  • Bob Mobley
    2019-01-21 13:38

    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."

  • David Brown
    2019-02-03 17:07

    This is an exceptional book. The author starts out the outbreak of war and continues until after the Battle of Britain. He provides a balanced account of the battles and the politics from both sides. He includes a high level of detail but is never boring. He is very honest in his assessments and exposes the flaws in strategy of both sides. At the end he provides hundreds of photos which were a pleasure to browse.

  • Vincenzo Rascionato
    2019-02-05 15:53

    Great book on the early part of WWII. Great understanding of how Britain went from getting crushed at Dunkirk to keeping the Germans at bay in 1940. Interesting points too of Germany's strategy, decision to bomb cities, and Russia invasion that I had never heard before.

  • Ken Hamner
    2019-02-15 15:04

    Excellent book. Pivotal time in history.

  • Nishant Pappireddi
    2019-02-08 09:58

    An excellent Holland book on the Battles of France and Britain.

  • susan insley
    2019-02-16 08:51

    The Story So Well ToldMuch has been written about The Battle of Britain, but none better than this well researched and compelling story. I was riveted.

  • M Moses
    2019-02-04 10:06

    A MUST read for anyone interested in WWII and how Britain fought and won over an overpowering air force prior to the U.S. entering the war.

  • Mormonhermitmom
    2019-01-30 10:06

    I only took one course of Military History in college, but I enjoyed it. I don't qualify as an "armchair tactician". That being said, I don't enjoy a work of military-focused nonfiction that goes too far into terms that only military personnel would understand. I can follow only a short ways before long acronyms and other jargon start to lose me.This work by James Holland, fortunately, doesn't go too far that way. I learned a lot about 'the Blitz' from this book I hadn't known before. For instance: I never knew about Great Britain's network of first generation radar that stretched along it's southern coast. The Germans had something like it for intelligence gathering but they totally dismissed the idea that all the big towers along the English coast were for that purpose. The Germans sent wave after wave of Stukas and ME 109's in what they thought were sneak attacks, only to be met, again and again, by Hurricanes and Spitfires. The Germans had the better planes but the pilots were hindered by tactics and orders that wouldn't let them use their planes to their best advantage. The English pilots were plagued with ammunition capacity that only let them shoot for a few minutes before having to return to their bases to reload, if they managed to get away without being shot down. The English pilots were also dealing with outmoded fighter pilot training that was stuck in methods developed during the First World War. Only gradually did one of their higher-ups realize that a new way of dogfighting would work.In other books about the World War II, the unbelievable actions of Hitler never failed to amaze me. Here again, more examples of his erratic, emotional, and manipulative style of leadership lead me to wonder how he managed to do so much damage. He took risks that shouldn't have worked but did, he sat on his hands at precisely the wrong moment to ensure a permanent victory for himself and yet gave his enemies the time they needed to shore up their defenses, and instead of working to instill a unified command, actually encouraged his subordinates to try to outdo each other to gain his favor. How does one fight a war this way?Holland gives us a look at how England's government was dealing with the real threat of invasion at that time. Chamberlain lost his seat as Prime Minister to Winston Churchill - not the smoothest of politicians, but apparently exactly what England needed to prepare for the Germanic plague across the Channel. Direct, blunt, and yet surprisingly realistic in the political nuances that had to occur to keep things moving, Churchill could be compared to an old bulldog; short, unattractive, physically beat up, but watch out if you threaten his territory - you'll find his stout jaws clamped on your leg and heaven help you.Included in the book are a wealth of photos of the airmen on both sides whose reminiscences make up a good part of the narrative. Holland weaves the point of views of the rank and file with those at the top of the command structure very well. I appreciate a history that brings a personal, real-life perspective to the work. Names, dates, even photos can be musty and seemingly out of touch with today's world, but when you can include the words of those who lived in those times, you actually remember they were real people. They had families, they had dreams, they had frustrations, they had feelings. History no longer becomes something to memorize, it becomes something you want to remember as you witness the events going on around you.I find this an excellent source of information for those wanting to know more about the European theater of World War II. Teenagers could handle it, however few teenagers would care to read it. With all the technology around, the study of history becomes more and more of a dead academic pursuit for the young. Sad, but that's just how it is. Churchill would probably want to trip a few up with his cane if he were alive today.

  • Palmyrah
    2019-02-02 08:55

    A square, thick book that covers the eponymous event comprehensively and from a wide range of perspectives. Holland argues that the Battle of Britain really began with the French and British defence against the German invasion of Belgium and France, which ended in the heroic but shambolic retreat from Dunkirk. He spends nearly all of the first half of the book on this, as well as on setting the scene with regard to politics in Britain, the changing role of America, the strategic decisions and tactical preparations of the Germans, and so on. The saga of the convoys that kept Britain fed and supplied, and that of their German pursuers, is also told – certainly it is an important part of the story. The air war itself has, at a guess, somewhat more than a third of the text devoted to it.Holland makes a number of claims, some more convincing than others. His fundamental thesis – that the Battle of Britain was more than an air battle – is, of course, uncontroversial. So is his contention that the resistance against Germany was a national effort in which nearly every adult Briton had some part to play. And his argument that the air battle was largely won because of the innovative and superbly effective collection, distribution and use of data is one that finds a sympathetic hearing in the Information Age. His portrayal or Hitler’s effort to invade and conquer Britain as ill-conceived and poorly planned is, I believed, shared by many academics. However, Holland often seems to portray the German campaign, and especially the Luftwaffe’s part in it, as hopeless from the outset due to bad planning, lack of communications, widespread amateurism and a weakness for self-deception at command level. This all seems a little overdone. Surely the Germans cannot have been that clueless or incompetent? At times he seems to imply that the outcome of the battle was a foregone conclusion. It cannot possibly have been that.Finally, it must be noted that Holland is a bad and careless writer. Neglecting stylistic niceties is one thing; mutilating grammar and syntax are another entirely. At one point, he seems to say that Churchill’s ears took an important strategic decision. This is not a metaphor, just risibly malformed sentence construction. It is only one example of several shocking insults he offers the English language throughout the book. A lot of them are due to the kind of typographical and typesetting errors that result from the careless use of word-processing software. That’s a grounding offence, at least.Worst of all, his descriptions of the war in the air are flaccid and poorly collated, barely more than info-dumps. Yet he has put a lot of effort into the human-interest aspect of the story. As a result, this book may be useful as a historical reference, but as literature it is a complete failure.

  • Steven Voorhees
    2019-01-31 13:56

    The Battle of Britain saved freedom. It was one of World War II's inarguable twists (next to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union). In 1939-40, Nazi Germany conquered Europe from east to west. It bended all to its will. After it crushed France, the Third Reich set its sights across the English Channel on Britain. If England had caved, German victory in World War II might have been complete. But the Teutonic war machine stopped, literally, at the water's edge. As the Fuhrer scanned the scepter isle, the British government was deeply divided on how to react to the fascist menace. But thanks, incalculably, to Winston Churchill, England rallied to defend itself. It also managed to turn the tables of war on Germany. Mostly in the air. In exhaustive detail AND compelling prose, Holland delivers the definitive account of the Lion's showdown with the Swastika. No stone of perspective's left unturned here -- from the RAF's and the Luftwaffe's to the fears and fancies of both the English and German participants in the battle. The spitfire, among other things, preserved liberty.

  • Jorel
    2019-01-25 11:55

    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.

  • Scott
    2019-01-29 09:38

    Most readers seem to like the author's approach of constructing an imagined narrative in which the author tells us what participants in the events were thinking, feeling, smelling, hearing, etc. But for me this was hugely distracting and annoying. Although the endnotes sometimes give clues about what sources were used to undergird the narrative, ultimately this book feels more like historical fiction than history. The approach makes it very difficult to discern what is truth, what might be truth, and what is utter fabrication. Flipping constantly back and forth to the end notes is not a satisfying way to resolve this, and ultimately does not solve the puzzle of what the cited sources actually said. It certainly feels as if the author is taking great liberties with the facts. At a minimum, the reconstructed pseudo omniscient point of view obscures the real history. I found myself scanning rapidly through the text for any verifiable facts, and ultimately this required so much effort that I found the book unreadable. Not that I did not try. I turned to six different chapters and each time I got imagined scenes that made me keep asking "how do we know", or "who's opinion was that", or "what is the source for this statement." I don't need to know that the author may imagine that a Nazi general sighed or recoiled or did whatever when Hitler rejected some idea. I really just want the best effort to reconstruct the salient facts. So if you want a painted tableau or historical fiction, you may like this book, or you may want to just go to the movies. If you want history, find another book.

  • Martyn Handley
    2019-02-19 16:43

    First of all, the title of the book is a little misleading. You would think that it would focus on the aerial battle between the RAF and the Luftwaffe in 1940...but you'd be wrong. A large proportion of the book (at least half) deals with the German invasion of France and the Allies total inability to counteract the German Blitzkrieg offensive. The author explains that this is where the actual battle FOR Britain began, and I agree with this and don't have a problem with it, but the title of the book and the front cover give the impression that it focuses solely on the aerial battle.The book itself gives a great account of this period of the war. I particularly like the fact that the book gives accounts from both sides, and does not show favouritism to either. James Holland is willing to give praise for tactics that worked and also fairly scathing in his criticism of any cock-ups (of which, both sides made many).At times, the book does get a bit bogged down in technical stuff, and although Holland's aim to use the German terms for German soldiers, squadrons, etc is commendable, it again can be confusing to try to keep up at times. However, despite all this, the book is excellent and is really gripping - I definitely was able to picture what it would be like (to some extent) to be there through his writing and began to care about the people and what happened to them (both sides).

  • Jesper Jorgensen
    2019-01-22 13:44

    What can I say other than James Holland cuts some very good an readable books?This time I was told how close Great Britain was to defeat in the summer and autumn of 1940, why she was not due to the clever set up and management of British defence assets and resources by Sir Huge Dowding. And of Churchill's 'clever hand' in choosing the right persons to the right posts in a time of utter urgency. (Like Lord Beaverbrook in charge of aircraft production)And of the poor management of German resources by the Nazi top leaders, and a lack of a clear strategy from same as well as the, for Hitler, negative impact of the 'divide and rule' leadership he practiced towards his top leaders. As an - for me -'extra' Holland relates the thoughts and experiences of the time from 'ordinary people' too. Like the young woman working at Siemens in Berlin, the British housewife from London and so on. I like when authors do that, it adds another perspective/and extra dimension to it. Finally I almost always learn something new reading good books. Like - in this case - that Chamberlain did not fade into oblivion but stayed as a important member of Churchill's government. I did not know that, now I do ;-) Fortunately Great Brittain was not defeatetd in the summer/autum 1940. If she had, the future of Europe whould have been very sinister and dark

  • Steve Rippington
    2019-02-14 14:55

    9.5/10.Holland's 'Battle of Britain' is insightful, balanced and well written. Decades after the events covered in this book, the subject is still emotive. However, this book manages to look at the lead up to the Blitz objectively, without ever being dry or dull. The German side of the story is given as much attention as the British, and the atrocities, mistakes and difficulties for the Allies and the Axis are dealt with fairly.The book starts with the declaration of war on Germany, by the British and French, before outlining the massive failures of the Allied military during the Blitzkrieg, at the same time acknowledging the incredible stamina and chutzpah of the Panzer divisions. The British retreat from Dunkirk is also outlined in some detail. Of course, the main section of the book is really the summer of 1940. The technological advances made by the British, the contrasting organisation of the RAF and Luftwaffe and the political pressures are discussed alongside accounts from pilots on both sides and civilians on the ground. It really does feel like a 360 degree account of an extraordinary time in history.My only bugbear is the tendency for repetition in the later chapters, as if they were written and accepted in a hurry. Still, I'd highly recommend this as an engaging and accessible history book.

  • Alex
    2019-02-18 12:46

    A massive and possibly definitive account of the Battle of Britain from the prelude including the rearming of Germany and creation of the Luftwaffe and the Fall of France. Holland is very comprehensive and debunks a lot of popular myths about the players and forces involved, but this book needed serious editing on the readability side. Holland tends to make unclear transitions and to give fascinating facts without sufficient explanation. I understand that Holland is a historian, not a novelist, so the sometimes sloppy prose didn't lower my estimation of The Battle of Britain. But I think the book could have been structured much more clearly. Sometimes it was hard to know when exactly events were occurring either by date or in relation to other related events. The lost star is due to stylistic problems that make the massive amount of information harder to process and contextualize.This is definitely not an introduction to WWII or the Battle of Britain book. A reader needs at least a basic grounding in events and also in military and aviation terminology (or the means and patience to do some side research). But if you know something about the Fall of France and Battle of Britain and want to learn a lot more this is an excellent source.

  • Lee
    2019-02-09 13:01

    Since the first nearly three hundred-plus pages deal with the German blitzkreig and the evacuation of the BEF from France, the title is a bit misleading but probably represents how Holland views the critical importance of not sending precious fighter squadrons to France where they would have certainly been largely destroyed.His balanced, largely non-judgemental and occasionally humourous approach makes sense given that he is recounting events largely through the eyes of ordinary soldiers, pilots and a handful of civilians on both sides.When he includes the actions and deliberations of the great and mighty he also makes them appear very human. Churchill, Beaverbrook and Dowding come off best, while Goering and the Luftwaffe high command (except for Milch) as pompous sycophants who seemed to ignore or were uninterested in what was actually happening on the ground and in the air.The strengths of the book are Holland's clear and lively prose, his tieing of personal anecdotes to the main time-line, his detailed grasp of both sides planes and fighter tactics and the inclusion of a number of very informative maps. Given the lengthy bibliography and Holland's mastery of his sources, an annotated bibliography would have been very useful.

  • Robert Morrow
    2019-01-31 11:45

    The first part of the book, describing the fall of France and Dunkirk is both compelling and moving. The author intersperses the narrative with personal stories of the soldiers involved, and while sometimes this can be distracting, the stories become reflections on the absurdity of the war raging around them. Unfortunately, the rest of the book falls flat; the narrative build-up is lost so much that when you finally get to the Battle of Britain, it's anti-climactic and lacks a coherent story line. One example: right in the middle of the story of the battle, the author inserts a chapter on airplane specifications which would have been better left in an appendix. I hated it when Melville inserted his whale physiology chapter into Moby Dick and I didn't appreciate this one much more. While the author attempts to maintain a balanced view by shifting the story back and forth between the German and British perspective, this also serves to disconnect the narrative from any "lessons of history."

  • Gary
    2019-02-19 13:49

    It's not often that a book makes one cry, much less three times and a work of non-fiction at that.This is a remarkably unbiased and objective account of those fateful months in 1940 when a scant few brave men from Britain and her Empire and a select few others (Czech, Polish and American volunteers) fought off the Nazi hordes, turning the tide of World War II and beginning the defense of global freedom.The book is notable for its presentation of the conflict from both sides and for doing so from different "levels" of perspective, i.e. strategic, political and firsthand accounts from the combatants. It also takes the time to present the non-aerial elements of the battle, discussing the merchant marine, navy and land battles.Although a tough read, because of the sheer level of detail and personalities involved, I highly recommended this book for anybody interested in understanding this pivotal moment in British and world history.

  • Bryan
    2019-01-25 13:52

    At over 600 pages covering just 5 months, I thought I would be overcome with detail by this book. However, with the exception of a few of the air battle descriptions blending together, the book more than held my attention, adding some real depth to my understanding of this critical juncture in history. I especially liked it when the author would galvanize a moment by adding Churchill's oratory to his assessment- 'And so bear ourselves, that if the British empire and its commonwealths last a thousand years, men will still say, 'this was their finest hour.' The book is a thrilling, if a tad overlong, description of a close run thing.