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A superbly produced memorial to a luckless generation.
on 20 February 2013
I was at once struck by the superb production standards of this huge book: it is a triple column affair printed on gloss paper and its content is a work of great dedication. It begins with an account of the 'phoney war': this is some 60 pages long and that would be more than 200 pages in a 'normal' size book. There are many personal stories here since bringing the war down to a human level is indeed the main purpose of this work.
The descriptions of the air forces are rather brief, and I would have liked a more comprehensive coverage of the aircraft themselves. Next, the 46 day campaign in France is covered day by day: there is a concise summary of each days activity, followed by detail of every sortie and every aircraft and personnel loss. There are numerous photographs, though these are mainly of wrecked aeroplanes and I would have liked a few more of other things and people. The maps have mostly been copied from original documents: that makes them 'authentic', but they are not always easy to 'read'.
The role of the RAF receives more attention than that of the Armee de l'Air, though I suppose this is to be expected in a British book - certainly there are a great many photographs showing wrecked Hawker Hurricanes. Having said that, the British role in the air campaign was clearly much greater than I had previously supposed, both involving the squadrons based in France and others, especially bombers, flying over from England.
This is not a book you can simply sit down to read from cover to cover, but nor is it just a work of reference. The reader has to decide how to tackle it. You may decide to read all the daily summaries first and cover the individual details separately, or perhaps pick out individual days in the campaign as a whole. Personally I have also bought the companion book on the Battle of Britain: I do not know if I will ever 'get right through' both of these two giant volumes (the latter has more than 800 pages) but I think I owe it to the courageous men of that generation to, as they would have said, 'give it a go'. On a more mundane note, I must add that my copy cost me about £33: that may be rather expensive for a book, but it is nevertheless a bargain.