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173 of 176 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Battle of Britain book ever
There are so many books available on the Battle of Britain, but this is the best I've read. A healthy and fascinating mix of anecdote, opinion, and solid research give this book so many dimensions missing in others that cover this important historical event.
Other authors have emphasised how close-run this event was - how Britain avoided defeat at the hands of the...
Published on 3 Aug. 2004 by VicHoon

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book - but with a few flaws IMHO
I heard the author at a Duxford airshow a few years ago. His talk then was very interesting, as it outlined how operational planning had helped the RAF be better prepared than the Luftwaffe for the Battle of Britain.

I am slightly disappointed in the book, because it touches much less on this, than on almost blow-by-blow accounts of which groups engaged in...
Published 5 months ago by Peter


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173 of 176 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Battle of Britain book ever, 3 Aug. 2004
By 
VicHoon "Victor Houghton" (Rayleigh, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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There are so many books available on the Battle of Britain, but this is the best I've read. A healthy and fascinating mix of anecdote, opinion, and solid research give this book so many dimensions missing in others that cover this important historical event.
Other authors have emphasised how close-run this event was - how Britain avoided defeat at the hands of the Luftwaffe by a hair's-breadth. I've never been entirely convinced by this. I could never put my finger on why, which is why I probably read so many books on this subject. But thankfully Bungay hits the nail on the head with a view that is contrary to the consensus: the British war machine was far more efficient than the Germans'; that the Germans didn't have the industrial capacity to replace the aircraft lost over England. And, crucially, the genius of Park and Dowding's organisation of the defence was such that the Luftwaffe was far from achieving a certain victory.
Everything is brilliantly explained: the tactics, the aircraft, the pilots, the politics, and much that has been neglected in the past such as the role of Bomber Command, and a decent explanation of why the famous "Big Wing" was such a bad idea.
Stick with the book to the end and you will be amused by Bungay's ironic quips, and moved when he delves deeper into the lives of some of the pilots. He rightly laments the sorry status this battle has in WWII history, pointing out that it's the world, not just Britain, that owes a debt of gratitude to the pilots.
What is profoundly sad is the knowledge that this breed is dying out - an example is the story of the retired Spitfire pilot who didn't mention his role in the battle, quietly working in his garage, content to be anonymous. One day, his secret is out, and the reaction is very moving.
Buy this - it's the best history of the most important air battle, ever.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding - Thorough and Beautifully Written, 17 Feb. 2004
I am a Rolls-Royce nut - the firm not the car; and knowing that 75% RAF aircraft flew with Merlin engines shows just how much depended on PV-12 and Royce and Hives; for a company which had to be ordered by the Government to enter the aero-engine business in 1915 !
I enjoyed this book, it straightened out a few myths and built a few more. I recall seeing a family grave with the name of a son, an RAF pilot KIA in September 1939, shot down over the Channel in "friendly fire" - reading Bungay's book shows how close contact killing did not avoid mistakes, the rapidity of decision-making with that gunsight and burst of firing meant you killed your own occasionally.
I ike the way he gives details of the aircraft, both sides, and lets you see where these JG and KG planes were coming from.....and when you think of a man with 8-Brownings and limited ammunition, it is a remarkable achievement to survive such close encounters.
I wish there had been more on #.303 Krakowski Polish Squadron - the highest scoring; and a bit more about #.310 Czechs, and the amazing Josef Frantisek who fled Czechoslovakia in 1938 to fly with the Poles; then with the Poles in France; and then in PAF in England.
I really liked this book...it reads well, and is beautifully written with good turns of phrase and a light touch. I shall haul out my old Battle of Britain video now to watch Terevor Howard in his role as Keith Park and Lawrence Olivier as Dowding.........
.........and I shall feel a sense of shame......at how miserably these men were treated after the War.....how Park especially failed to be honoured sufficiently in this country; and I shall think also of the shameful way Harris was treated after the War; and how the sacrifices of Bomber Command which lost 75% crews killed in action, were largely ignored by governments which had no further use for their sacrifice and did little to honour it.
So, I read the book with relish, and enjoyed every word, but I feel shame that those nearest to events failed to show full gratitude at a time when full sacrifice left raw wounds and empty homes; ie. immediately after the War.........it took a very long time for Dowding to get a statue, or Harris.....and Park is still waiting.....
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and enjoyable, 15 Nov. 2001
By A Customer
Stephen Bungay used to be a management consultant, and it shows. The amount of research and background reading involved in The Most Dangerous Enemy is prodigous. But unlike a consultant he also injects a generous dose of enthusiasm and a real sense of drama into his account.
Essentially a re-interpretation of available evidence, with the benefit of 60 years worth of hindsight, The Most Dangerous Enemy scotches many of the popular myths surrounding the Battle of Britain - the invincibility of the Luftwaffe and the lack of readiness of the RAF to name but two - and puts the battle and its consequences into a proper historical context. It also paints compelling portraits of the key figures on both sides, most notably Dowding, Park, Kesslring and Goering.
Entertaining and thought provoking, it will appeal to fans of popular history and more serious chroniclers alike. The only drawback is the huge number of footnotes, but they are (mostly) worth reading if you can be bothered.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping account - very well balanced., 2 Dec. 2001
By A Customer
The Most Dangerous Enemy is a very appealing book, telling the stories of the front-line airmen on both sides, and the figures in command, fitting genuine human interest into the over-all picture of the battle. This makes the book a very exciting read, and brings the history to life. Stephen Bungay has evidently done very thorough research for this book, and there is a great deal of information woven through the individual stories.
I felt that this book got exactly the right balance between factual detail of the battle, and a gripping read about the people who actually fought it. A considerable achievement, equally of interest to the general public and historians.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proud to be British - tally ho!, 2 Aug. 2005
By A Customer
A great book and must read! Congratulations to the author on a thoroughly informative and entertaining read. The background political scene was very useful and the alterantive ending hypothesis very telling. Thank God for Churchill!
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, 11 Jan. 2003
By 
P. Carter "Paul Carter" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This is the best book I have read on the BoB. It not only looks at the grand strategy but also deals with the people who took part. The final chapter is the most moving chapter of history I have ever read, it brings you close to the people who took part. Stalin said that Russia provided the blood, America the money and the British the time, and this book shows that they also provided the vision- or should I say Churchill's vision. The most ironic thing is that the hero of the book is from New Zealand- Park. I have never recommended a book before but I have no hesitation in recommendimg this one
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intuitively helpful, 28 Sept. 2003
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I was conducting research into the Battle of Briatin, and this title seemed to have excellent reviews, so I purchased it. What a good decision! Ever since I have started reading it, I struggle to put it down. Whether you are researching the Battle of Britain for a school or university assignment, or for your own pleasure, this is the book for you. It is a comprehensive insight into the air battle with everything you could possibly need to know.
It begins with an background section, where you learn the histories of all the key figures involved such as Dowding and Sperrle, as well as why the air battle was to be crucial. Instantly many of the popular myths are dispelled and a bizarre truth unveiled.
The rest of the book gives a detailed account of the Battle itself with in depth analysis. There are also photographs and illustrations to further enhance your understanding, as well as quotes from diaries of many of the key figures and interviews with survivors. The author has obviously done ample study, including a flight in a Spitfire so he can accurately descripe the feeling!
This is by far the best non-fiction book I have ever read, and would recommend it to anyone. In particular, students studying the B o B for their A-level history course or at university because it includes a full bibliography and source list!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tally ho!, 5 Jun. 2001
By A Customer
An excellent read and a penetrating analysis, with many acute and genuinely new insights. The author shows how Dowding's "analogue intranet" enabled local station commanders could see all they needed to see, while also enabling Fighter Command to pick which raids to oppose and do so in concentrated force. As a result, radar was not just an early warning system but a "force multiplier" which ensured the RAF were always deployed in forbidding strength in front of the key raids.
A particularly interesting part is the way the author relates this advantage to the overall Dowding-Park strategy. He argues that the defenders had a choice of two broad strategies. The RAF could either try to inflict unacceptable losses on the enemy, or dishearten them by remaining apparently substantially intact whatever the Luftwaffe did. The myth is that the RAF did the former, and was in fact what the "Big Wing" faction were pushing for. Not knowing what level of loss the Luftwaffe might consider unacceptable, Dowding opted instead to keep his forces intact and ensure that there was always an apparently undiminished force of RAF fighters ready to engage, making Luftwaffe strategy appear increasingly pointless and ineffective.
As a result, Goering's exhortations to his pilots that the RAF was on its last legs simply demoralised them when their daily experience proved the complete opposite. The famously bitter (if apocryphal?) remark by a Heinkel pilot ("Here they are again - the last fifty Spitfires") neatly encapsulates Dowding's success. He left Fighter Command in shape such that it could have fought the battle all over again.
It's ironic and with hindsight scandalous that Dowding was ousted in his hour of victory and that his successors, who completely failed to understand what he had done, went on to repeat all the Luftwaffe's mistakes over France in 1941.
Very highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book - but with a few flaws IMHO, 11 Oct. 2014
By 
Peter (Cambridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain (Kindle Edition)
I heard the author at a Duxford airshow a few years ago. His talk then was very interesting, as it outlined how operational planning had helped the RAF be better prepared than the Luftwaffe for the Battle of Britain.

I am slightly disappointed in the book, because it touches much less on this, than on almost blow-by-blow accounts of which groups engaged in which combats on what days and what the relative losses in numbers were. After a while, the latter becomes quite boring to read.

That said, the book does try to paint a more detailed picture that dispels the myth that this was a miracle with the plucky Few winning against almost unrealistic odds. The book shows that the combination of the RAF pilot's immense courage and commitment, combined with better planning, and better command and control, and ironically (given Germany's reputation for manufacturing) better aircraft manufacturing had evened the odds considerably to the Luftwaffe.

The book does also criticise the RAF for some of its failings like not training pilots better in air combat, and being much less flexible than the Luftwaffe in adapting its tactical strategy in the air.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hero uncovered, 31 Jan. 2007
By 
M. C. Handforth "chris handforth" (derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This is a masterful book and a gripping and moving story told with a particularly engaging and occasionally ironical style. The author has had the advantage of access to documents from both German and English sources and there is great attention to detail. It is nonetheless very readable. All the key components of the battle and the central characters are carefully analysed. One, Park, towers over everyone as the true hero. Less creditable performances emerge from others. For me it was a book I simply could not put down.
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