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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Magnificent
I bought this book expecting it to be a rather dry historical overview of the Battle of Britain, concerned with numbers, dates and what Churchill said to whom. Instead I discovered an intensive social history of the ordinary men and women who served in and were concerned with the Fall of France and the Battle of Britain. Soldiers catapulted from the lull of "Phony...
Published on 3 Sep 2001

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2 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling but jingoistic
This book's great strength and weakness is it's style - I got the feeling that the authors had read a little too much Tom Clancy, with their myriad characters and storylines. It reads like a novel, with the simple writing that I'd expect from something written for TV and serialised in the Daily Mail. That said, it's impossible not to admire the people whose stories are...
Published on 9 Nov 2001 by James Dominic Cheesman


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Magnificent, 3 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Finest Hour (Paperback)
I bought this book expecting it to be a rather dry historical overview of the Battle of Britain, concerned with numbers, dates and what Churchill said to whom. Instead I discovered an intensive social history of the ordinary men and women who served in and were concerned with the Fall of France and the Battle of Britain. Soldiers catapulted from the lull of "Phony War" to savage combat in France and Belgium as a result of the 1940 German offensive; RAF pilots who fought bravely but where overwhelmed in the skies of France; the sailors who assisted in the evacuation of Dunkirk; the secretarial staff of Winston Churchill; American war correspondents observing the first German bombing raids from the Cliffs of Dover; again the brave and determined RAF pilots flying and fighting over their native soil; WAAF radar plotters assisting the pilots seek their targets; civillians whose lives were shattered by the intensive terror bombing of London; child evacuees on their ill fated trip to Canada and Royal Navy personnel escorting the convoys to and from a beseiged Britain all have their stories told here. The writing is urgent and immediate, it makes one feel that the Battle of Britain occurred only a couple of years ago rather than sixty. I found this book so compelling I read it from cover to cover in two sittings within 24 hours. As a result of this book I have discovered a newfound respect for Winston Churchill, who led Britain and inspired the Dominions of the British Empire through what was our darkest, yet finest hour.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling History and Characters, 26 Sep 2002
This review is from: Finest Hour (Paperback)
I am not a prolific reader, the books I read have to go at a pace for me to stay the course. The huge disadvantage of this lack of staying power is that I very rarely finish a book and feel any sense of achievement.
This book, and its sequel The End of The Beginning, have both proved to be rare examples where I have felt that I have learnt something while being thoroughly entertained.
For me, this comes from the characters around which the history is recounted. Both these books cover events that have been the subject of TV and film dramatisation but these used characters created around Hollywood stars or English character actors. The people who provided so much of the material for the books were involved in the war in the ranks, at home and in command. The stories they told to the authors during the years of research bring a powerful reality to the fighting and the hardships the endured.
There is a spitfire pilot who falls in love while struggling to match the victories of his fellow heroes. There is a soldier wounded while trying to hold back the German army in a French cemet factory, a family trapped by the blitz in the East-end of London and a naval rating dealing with the aftermath of surving the sinking of his ship at Dunkirk. The book brings their fears to life as well as their remarkable resolve to carry on their fight, to survive, to win.
This book has not changed my view of WW2 but it has made me painfully aware of how much it dominated the lives of civilians and the Forces. I was greatly moved by parts of the book.
This is a great book. I doubt anyone will start this book and not finish it - and they will be glad that they did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accurate yet gripping story of real lives in wartime Britain, 20 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Finest Hour (Hardcover)
This book, like the TV series upon which it is based, draws its material from the real stories of the men and women of wartime Britain, and tells how they lived and died during 1940. The narrative swings from cabinet meeting to battlefield, from Spitfire cockpit to the Blitz of the East End, revealing the horror, the heroism and the randomness of war. It reinforces the role of Winston Churchill in turning the tide of defeatism and appeasement, and although careful to relate the courage of all three services and of civilians, pays tribute to the critical role of the RAF in holding the Luftwaffe at bay against overwhelming odds. There are scenes of almost unbearable poignancy as a survivor tells of the evacuated children whose ship was torpedoed in the North Atlantic, and of slaughter and chaos as the British Expeditionary Force is forced back through Belgium and France. Yet the reader is pulled through by the knowledge that almost all of the characters survived and are still living today. Finest Hour is by turns horrifying and thrilling and yet ultimately immensely hopeful, as it tells how a kinder and more compassionate Britain was born from the ruins of war.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book saying how ww2 affected the british people, 18 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Finest Hour (Paperback)
This book draws largely on the experiences of many civilians, sailors, soldiers and pilots from the british armed forces before and during the battle of britain. Its a great book because it allows the people who were there to tell the story of what happened to them, making it very personal while at the same time giving a big picture of what was happening by drawing on the experiences of so many people at the time. Any british person should read this to learn a bit about this countries heritage and any historian or anyone with just a mild interest in ww2 should read this. Be warned its not an action book buts it goes far deeper than that with many moving pieces which can make this a very emotional book, i know of one veteran who after reading this broke down in tears as it brought is own memories back.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping insight to the thought and deeds of normal people, 3 Aug 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Finest Hour (Paperback)
As a pilot in the modern RAF I have long been interested in the stories and history of the Battle of Britain. This book follows the action in chronological order using the memories of those involved. From soldiers on the ground at Dunkirk to the Sptfire and Hurricane pilots in France and England. There is much fasinating insight into the thoughts of Churchill and his counterparts in France, Canada and the USA.
It is stricking how normal people react in extaordinary situations. My favourite story being that of the fighter pilot Doe. Trained as a bomber pilot and finding himself strapped into a Spitfire with on 20 rounds to fire at the north sea as gunnery practice before being let loose in the battle.
The book is brilliant.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Story!, 19 Oct 2000
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This review is from: Finest Hour (Hardcover)
Having read many other accounts of the Battle of Britain I was unsure if this book would be able to offer anything new to the current literature. Well I was wrong, this story, presented by many of the participants, civilians, sailors, soldiers and airmen, was excellent. The authors let the people who experienced this terrible and also great time in their history tell the story.
The book starts in France at the commencement of the German invasion and follows a number of the characters through the fall of France, the start of the aerial fighting over England to the end of the Battle of Britain. The story is told from the English side with no accounts from any of the German participants but the title does say 'Finest Hour', which should give you an idea, what the book is about anyhow.
I found two of the stories quite sad, one involving the German bombing of a school in London that resulted in numerous civilian casualties and how the authorities solved the dilemma of identify and processing the bodies. Another story detailed the sinking of the British liner 'City of Benares' which was carrying over 90 children being sent to Canada so as to be safe from the nighttime Blitz against London.
I also found the story of the machinations between Churchill and Roosevelt over American aid to Britain during this period very interesting as was the account of the destruction of the French Fleet and their small victory later on against the British Fleet at Dakar.
Overall this is an interesting account of this pivotal period in England's history during World War Two. I am sure that many readers will find the human stories interesting and I doubt that any student of World War Two will not find something new and interesting in this account.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding - unsentimental, yet moving first hand history., 10 Aug 2000
By 
K. Sheach - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Finest Hour (Paperback)
Probably the best 'personal history' books on the second world war I have read (and I have read many). This book stands up to comparison with the best, including Martin Gilbert's "The Second World War" and Richard Rhodes' "The Making of the Atomic Bomb", a considerable achievement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does the subject justice, 26 July 2011
By 
J. Goddard "Jim Goddard" (Shipley) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Finest Hour (Hardcover)
Of its kind, this book is a model. It doesn't pretend to be anything other than a popular account of a crucial period in British history. However, it does its job wonderfully well. Warm, detailed and engaging, it lives up to the trust placed in the authors by the interviewees. The skillful intermeshing of individual stories is expertly done but the greatest credit should be for the way in which the authors step back and simply focus on presenting those stories in the best possible way. People from a vast range of backgrounds and experiences find a place in this book, giving a kaliedoscopic but curiously integrated presentation of the period. It may well be true that the authors skip over some of the less savoury aspects of the time, but what they do focus on has the ring of truth that reflects their methods and hard work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 10 Feb 2010
By 
Mr. Pj Williams (cardiff uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Finest Hour (Paperback)
this book is a chronological grouping of various peoples experiences during the battle for France and the battle of Britain. the way that is written has been crafted to appeal to more the masses than the person interested in more of the detail of these engagements, it is more an oral history book. nevertheless I found it engaging from the outset and tripped along like a decent novel where you are always interested in what is going to happen on the next page. I found myself more engaged in the peoples story and not so much the technical detail in the end.

loved it but would appeal more to the light reader than the technical reader. I do both so suited me fine. I have their other book the end of the beginning so will be looking forward to that on the strength of this book
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvellous collection of memories from 1940., 12 Feb 2001
By 
This review is from: Finest Hour (Paperback)
This wonderful collection of stories from 1940 gives a dramatic insight into the tragedy, horror and bravery of Britain's resistance against the might of Germany. A well written, easy to read book which describes a world almost unimaginable to the generations who followed those who lived through it.
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