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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Holland's Popular History Aims for the "Big Picture"
What do we mean by the "Battle of Britain"? Is it the clash between RAF Fighter Command and 3 air-fleets of the German Luftwaffe over the British Isles in the summer of 1940? Or is the wider conflict between the Britain and Germany in that summer of 1940, from the expulsion of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk and other French ports in June to the night blitz...
Published on 11 July 2010 by P. H. Cartwright

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Use this book to guide you to more in-depth efforts
This is an all right sort of a book. If you want more on the actual "Battle of Britain", ie the air battle, then try some of the other innumerable volumes on the subject. If you want something on the blitzkrieg or Dunkirk, equally look elsewhere. (Deighton and Sebag-Montefiore for example. If you want more about the British navy's role in 1940 try Derek Robinson. If you...
Published on 17 Aug 2010 by Big Jim


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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Holland's Popular History Aims for the "Big Picture", 11 July 2010
By 
P. H. Cartwright "9f" (Crawley, Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Battle of Britain (Hardcover)
What do we mean by the "Battle of Britain"? Is it the clash between RAF Fighter Command and 3 air-fleets of the German Luftwaffe over the British Isles in the summer of 1940? Or is the wider conflict between the Britain and Germany in that summer of 1940, from the expulsion of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk and other French ports in June to the night blitz of London and other British cities by German bombers that started in September, about the same time as the putative invasion of Britain was "postponed"?

If you believe that a book entitled "Battle of Britain" should concentrate on the air battles, then this book may be a disappointment to you. Probably you would be happier with Derek Wood and Derek Dempster's classic "The Narrow Margin", which gives a day-by-day account of the air battle and which was used as the basis for the 1969 classic movie "Battle of Britain". This book also proposes the view that if the RAF had been defeated in the Battle, then Britain's army and navy would have been powerless to resist the planned German invasion - Operation Sea-Lion.

James Holland gives a far more "Big Picture" account of the summer of 1940. It may be the popular and romantic notion that "The Few" saved Britain from German invasion but that is to imply that the remainder of Britain's armed forces were sitting on their hands in that acutely critical summer. Holland's book starts in May and recounts the amazing German advance to the coast of France. In little over a month Germany accomplished what she had failed to achieve in the 4 years of the Great War - cause the capitulation of France and the retreat by the BEF to Britain.

Although reeling from the shock of defeat, Britain quickly rallied and was soon engaging the Germans across the Channel. Holland details the exploits of Bomber Command and its attacks on German cities, including Berlin, and the invasion ports, where river barges were being stock-piled and made ready for a cross-Channel invasion. The efforts of the Royal Navy and the British Army also receive far more attention than normal in popular histories of 1940.

Holland has obviously worked long and hard on this book and it is well worth reading. The bibliography is very large and he has obviously researched his subject in depth. There is however one interesting omission from the bibliography - Derek Robinson's "Invasion 1940". I recommend that you read this book as well to help give a more balanced picture. "Invasion 1940" is not a great book. It is not perhaps even a good book, although this reviewer thinks it is. It cannot be denied that it is an interesting book. It is not a book by a professional historian - Robinson is a novelist, principally about the war-time RAF, but he did read History at Cambridge.

Robinson's thesis is that, even if the Germans had knocked out the RAF, their invasion could never have overcome the opposition of the Royal Navy. Operation Sea-Lion was huge. It was as large as the Normandy landings, only in the opposite direction. The troops and weapons were to be ferried over the Channel, with all its tides and storms, in river barges towed by tugs at 3 to 4 knots. To protect it against the largest and most effective navy in the world they had the remaining 8 destroyers not sunk in the Norway campaign plus a few E-boats and U-boats, the latter equipped with defective torpedoes. The Luftwaffe could have hoped to protect the slow-moving troop barges against the RN's 80 destroyers plus larger and smaller warships, but they had not prevented those same RN ships from lifting over 300,000 troops from the beaches at Dunkirk.

The Luftwaffe failed to knock out the RAF (though they came pretty close) and that was used as an excuse by Hitler to postpone Sea-Lion. Churchill, ever the romantic and aware of American popular opinion, credited "The Few" with repulsing the invasion threat. Some of us think that the Silent Service had a lot more to do with that victory than they have been credited.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable account, 19 Oct 2010
By 
Teemacs (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Battle of Britain (Hardcover)
Just over 70 years ago as I write, the first and last major aeronautical-only battle raged in the skies over southern England. The outcome, although dismissed by the Germans at the time as an unimportant side-show, was crucial to the outcome of the Second World War. For the first time, the Germans had received a set-back. And by failing to invade Britain or bring it to its knees, the Germans left off the coast of Europe an unsinkable aircraft carrier from which bomber fleets would one day pummel Germany day and night, and from which the operation to liberate Europe would be launched. Churchill's immortal "Few" changed the course of history. Without them, the Soviet juggernaut might have finally stopped at the Channel, instead of in central Germany.

The interesting thing that this book brings out is exactly that - the Germans failed, not that the British succeeded. As the Duke of Wellington said at Waterloo, it was a "damned close-run thing". The British survived, and that's all, but it was enough. All the cards were apparently in German hands. They had a big air force. In the Messerschmitt 109 they had the best fighter in the world, one that bested the early model of Reginald Mitchell's gorgeous Spitfire in nearly every department. And they were often flown by people such as Adolf Galland, hardened combat veterans of the Condor Legion in Spain. However, they were handicapped by being forced to use the wrong tactics, and by the facts that they had only a few minutes over the target and that every pilot shot down over England was a pilot lost, whereas an RAF flyer, if uninjured, was ready to fly again.

The British made up for their deficiencies in equipment and experience by being better organised and knowing exactly what they had to do. Sir Hugh Dowding, Head of Fighter Command, with a feeling for what lay ahead, sought to prevent his fighter squadrons being used up in France, which won him no friends. His devotion to doing the job no matter whose toes he stood on, and his total lack of interest in political machinations would eventually be instrumental in losing him his job. Dowding's 2-I-C Keith Park carefully husbanded his fighter squadrons, rotating them regularly to rest them adequately. Lord Beaverbrook's command of aviation production and his ruthless steamrollering of every bureaucratic obstacle ensured that Fighter Command ended the Battle with more fighter aircraft than it had when it started - the problem was always the loss of pilots. British aircraft repair services got damaged planes back into the fight with an efficiency that left the Germans in the shade. And radar and central control of the air war gave the RAF major advantages. In the meantime, Bomber Command raided targets regularly, even Berlin. These were relative pinpricks, but it gave the Germans the uneasy feeling that it was not all going to be plain sailing. And they were instrumental in making the Germans change tactics, to bombing cities, thus giving Fighter Command's battered airfields a respite.

In contrast, the Luftwaffe flew its aircrews to the point of exhaustion, and watched their numbers, morale and efficiency plummet as the annihilated RAF (according to propaganda) kept on coming at them with the same vigour as before. "Oh, look, here comes the last squadron of Spitfires," was the bitter joke.

The author is excellent in seeing things from both sides. He has talked to people who fought on both sides and got their views. He also includes the wider picture - you get not only the Battle of Britain, but also an examination of the preceding Battle of France, as well as a look at the submarine war, which, if prosecuted to the extent that old submariner Admiral Doenitz desired, could have brought Britain to its knees more efficiently than any air campaign. Altogether an interesting and informative account of the dramatic events of 1940.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic history of the Battle of Britain, 10 May 2010
This review is from: The Battle of Britain (Hardcover)
This is a really fascinating read. Holland has interviewed participants from both sides, and has looked at the (often ignorned) role that Bomber Command played in the proceedings. Reads like a real page turner, and much more in depth than some of the more pictoral guides that appeared last year - though it has great illustrations and photos: I especially like the squadron flying formations and Fighter Command maps.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent work, 9 Oct 2013
By 
Pedro Conejo (Fuerteventura, Spain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Battle of Britain (Kindle Edition)
Unlike so many books on the Battle of Britain, this one gives detailed descriptions and analyses of the lead up from before the battle for France, stretching back in depth to prior to the invasion of Poland in 1939 and passing into 1941. In fact, the Battle itself doesn't even start until halfway through the book. This is not a criticism; the information contained really helps set the scene properly. The writing style is very easy and the book translates well into Kindle except for the maps. Holland's discussion of the personalities and organisational structures involved is very useful and entertaining too. I liked the broad range of individuals whose personal stories are related, and I thought that the point of view was very balanced, revealing the strengths and weaknesses of all sides.

If this is a period of history that interests you, this book is a must read. There are other works that detail specific actions or elements of the BoB but for a superb overview, I've not read better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, 3 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Battle of Britain (Paperback)
Fantastic book. Covers the early portion of World War 2 including the fall of France and Dunkirk as well as the air battles we associate with the title. I'm not a massive history buff but it was accessible and showed a lot of insights that show just how close a run thing it was.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Battle of Britain, 26 Jun 2012
By 
John Mackenzie (Boksburg, Gauteng South Africa) - See all my reviews
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An outstanding book which contains many interesting facts from both British and German sides that people were just not aware of at the time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well balance review from both sides - excellent, 3 Nov 2010
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This review is from: The Battle of Britain (Hardcover)
The passage of 70 years helps he writer to portray a comprehensive review from both sides, respective policies, their shortcomings, the element of good fortune & luck, respective timing or mistiming, all relayed in an easy to read manner.
Buy this book with every confidence.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revisited, 3 July 2010
By 
John R. Orr "Socrates" (Lincoln UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Battle of Britain (Hardcover)
Am only into the first hundred pages and although much of what the author writes about is fairly common knowledge, yet his ability to bring it all together into a single volume is very useful.

His explanations for the fall of France, very critical to understanding what happened later, is, despite seemingly short, complex enough and shows enough understanding to explain much of what happened.

The bibliography and index are very useful and the titles give credence to his level of understanding of the period.

At this moment, I can thoroughly recommend it as a very well researched volume and with the benefit of not being the usual hagiography of `The Few'. Along with Len Deighton's book Fighter, this is probably the best of the volumes of history on the subject.

I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

John Orr
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Use this book to guide you to more in-depth efforts, 17 Aug 2010
By 
Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Battle of Britain (Hardcover)
This is an all right sort of a book. If you want more on the actual "Battle of Britain", ie the air battle, then try some of the other innumerable volumes on the subject. If you want something on the blitzkrieg or Dunkirk, equally look elsewhere. (Deighton and Sebag-Montefiore for example. If you want more about the British navy's role in 1940 try Derek Robinson. If you want more on the German side of things try Kershaw et al. The point I am making is that this is a reasonable amalgam of many different strands that ultimately led to the air battles of late summer 1940. In many ways the best thing about the book is the bibliography which is extensive and reading a few of those will expand your knowledge of these epic events far more than this one will - which is only to be expected I suppose. One annoying feature of this book is the large number of repetitions that occur. We are told three separate times that the masts in southern England were radar masts, three times (twice in one page) that Stukas had to release their bombs at 500metres rather than the more usual 700m when attacking ships, and how many maps of the last days of the BEF do we need? Much better editing required methinks, in fact I get the impression that this has been rushed through too much with the 70th anniversary of the Battle in mind.

So all in all, this is a bit of a mixed bag, good intentions let down by too much extraneous detail but very readable none the less. Wait for the paperback would be my advice.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Britain, Germany and Holland, 5 Jun 2010
By 
John Grimbaldeston (Preston, Lancashire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Battle of Britain (Hardcover)
This is more than a history of the Battle of Britain, it is a history of the early days of the Second World War, and as it is more, so it is less as it loses a little focus on the air war over Britain. Sometimes the prose is a little clunky and repetitive, but the military insights and observations are illuminating, and one is left with a clearer understanding of those dark days. If only Mr Holland had a more ruthless editor!
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