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Operation Sealion: How Britain Crushed the German War Machine's Dreams of Invasion in 1940 [Hardcover]

Leo McKinstry
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 Aug 2014

In the summer of 1940, the Nazi war machine was at its zenith. France, Denmark, Norway and the Low Countries were all under occupation after a series of lightning military campaigns. Only Britain stood in the way of the complete triumph of Nazi tyranny. But for the first time in the war, Hitler did not prevail.

The traditional narrative of 1940 holds that Britain was only saved from German conquest by the pluck of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. The image of Dad's Army recruits training with broomsticks is a classic symbol of the nation's supposed desperation in the face of the threat from Operation Sealion, as the German plan for invasion was code-named.

Yet as Leo McKinstry details, the British were far more ruthless and proficient than is usually recognised. The brilliance of the RAF was not an exception but part of a pattern of magnificent organisation. In almost every sphere of action, such as the destruction of the French naval fleet or the capture of German spies, Britain's approach reflected an uncompromising spirit of purpose and resolution. Using a wealth of primary materials from both British and German archives, Leo McKinstry provides a ground-breaking new assessment of the six fateful months in mid-1940, beginning with Winston Churchill's accession to power in May and culminating in Germany's abandonment of Operation Sealion.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (14 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184854698X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848546981
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


In his immaculately researched and gripping work Leo McKinstry paints a vivid picture . . . [He] strikes a balance through reinforcing what the average reader is likely to be aware of and coming up with revelatory nuggets . . . stirring and passionate (Daily Express)

If we had lost the Battle of Britain, all that stood between us and a fascist future was the Home Guard, a Dad's Army of oldsters armed with broomsticks. Leo McKinstry's engrossing, forensic review of the evidence challenges that idea and exposes some myths along the way . . . McKinstry's admirable book sets the record straight (Daily Mail)

An enthralling story which confirms, should anyone still doubt it, that this really was our 'Finest Hour' (Mail on Sunday)

A pacey , readable history of Britain's resistance to the bogeyman across the Channel (The Spectator)

Book Description

One of Britain's most remarkable victories of the Second World War.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Something that Britain should be very thankful for is that Lord Halifax never became prime minister in 1940. He very nearly did. When Neville Chamberlain resigned the premiership in May of that year there were really only two contenders for the post: Foreign Secretary Halifax and Churchill. Chamberlain favoured Halifax but it was Halifax himself who turned the position down. Thank God that he did; had he become prime minister the story of this country would have been very different. After the debacle of Dunkirk Halifax was all for coming to a settlement with Hitler - i.e. surrender - egged on by his two cronies, David Lloyd-George and Rab Butler. Lloyd-George, prime minister for the latter stages of the First World War, was, in 1940, comparable in his defeatist attitude to France's Marshall Petain. Luckily for all of us Churchill became premier and the rest is, literally, history.

'Operation Sealion', the story of Britain and Germany's preparations for the expected German invasion of our country in 1940, is admirably told by Leo McKinstry. He also shatters a few well-entrenched myths. I was surprised to learn that Hitler was never keen to invade Britain in the first place. His arrogance was such that he believed the British would sue for peace as soon as his dominance of France and the Low Countries was recognised. It was only when they didn't and Churchill kept winding him up with his speeches that the Fuhrer finally agreed that an invasion - Operation Sealion - might be necessary. Even then he vacillated, relying on a big speech that he was about to make, believing that British common sense would cause them to see reason, overthrow Churchill and make peace. Humiliatingly for him British common sense saw fit to ignore him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very interesting account of the time when a German invasion was feared. Extremely well written and very readable. Obviously a description of a worrying time but with humorous incidents frequently reported.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative 14 Oct 2014
By reader
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very interesting and informative.A few typographical errors, but some remarkable facts and insight into a very worrying time for Britain. It's a pity there is no one in politics now with Churchills' resolve and determination. Very readable, Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Not finished reading it yet but there have been a few errors in the text. I don't think we were at war with Australia at any time during WW2. However the research has obviously been thorough and I hope I'm not led too far astray by the errors.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it 9 Sep 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very good and concise book with a great deal of new information about both sides. Highly recommended.
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