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Blitz Then and Now: v. 1 (After the Battle) Hardcover – 1 Sep 1987
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This being said if you want to know as much as possible about the air attacks on Britain during World War II, all in one encyclopedic hit, this has to be the set for you. Taken together the whole thing is something like 1800 pages, almost every one of which is packed with black and white photos, diagrams, and masses of text, tables, and facts. One of the best things about it is that you can look up targets by name, and then check what happened there on a given date.
The whole thing is a truly monumental work, unlikely ever to be attempted in this way again. I have had my three volume set for roughly 15 years and never once regretted what was at that time a considerable outlay.This has to be highly recommended to all libraries, and anyone interested in the Blitz, air warfare, 1940, or the Second World War in general.
Volume 1 covers the period from 3rd September 1939 to 6th September 1940, the significance of the latter date being that the following day was the first major daylight bombing of central London.
The book follows a chronological format with an entry for each day. This consists of an extract from a British Government summary kept at the time, usually 2-4 paragraphs long and therefore only providing a brief overview (e.g. "Bombing took place in Dover, Folkstone and Portsmouth. Other raids were turned back. 26 enemy planes were destroyed and 10 other probables.") This is then followed by a comment from the authors usually 2-3 paragraphs long. The authors then list all the German aircraft that were shot down or landed in Britain (or in territorial waters), with an account of the fate of the crew and notes on any excavations or surviving relics.
Interspersed are a few more detailed features such as the crash-landing of a particular plane or on the types of bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. There are pictures on most pages but I would guess around 75% are of crash sites of German planes.
By now you're maybe getting the message. This is a very good volume if you want to know how many German planes were shot down during this period and where they landed.
If you want to know more about the experience of civilians in the Blitz there will be less to interest you. It's certainly true that there is some material and pictures in here but I would guess it is around 5% of this volume. I had expected more on where was bombed, with what effect and the air battle to be in the background. The authors may well object that the Blitz on London and many other British cities had hardly started during this period but my question then is whether the title of the book is really accurate? I honestly think "Investigating Luftwaffe Crash Sites in Britain in the First Year of World War 2" would have been a more accurate title.
This book is very good at what it does, but make sure that is what you want from it.
This is the second volume of the three part series, dividing the Blitz on British cities up chronologically. Volume 1 ended at 6th September 1940, the eve of the first major daylight raid on London. This book continues the history up to and including May 1941, the eve of the withdrawal of the majority of the Luftwaffe to support Hitler's invasion of Russia.
I was disappointed with the first book, not for any lack of detail, but because it was dominated by the fighting in the skies, the location of crashed German aircraft, and the fate of the aircrew. While I acknowledge this as part of the story, my interest was more in how the war affected the civilian population.
I am pleased to report this second volume is a considerable improvement, containing as it does many `feature' stories going into detail about particular incidents or attacks and using eyewitness accounts to tell the story of the many civilians who were bombed on the ground. This contained a level of detail I have found it hard to track down in other publications, and reading about the fate of many women, children and men was shocking and moving. While far from being the sort of person who wraps themselves up in the Union Jack I wonder if the time is coming where we need to put up some plaques to recall what happened at different spots and the sacrifices that were made on the behalf of future generations.
The photos are excellent and the trademark `before and after' comparisons with modern views of the same scene are amazing. (Note, however, that the book was published in 1988 so the `modern' views are themselves over 20 years old!)
While the book does not really offer an overview, what struck me most as I read through the account of raids on different cities in turn was that Britain did indeed seem to be beginning to wobble as city after city was wrecked. This isn't to say bombing could have induced Churchill to surrender but had the Luftwaffe not been diverted to Russia, I think the country would have had to adapt a way of life that focused on cities and started a more systematic evacuation of people and institutions to smaller towns. This was a surprise to me; while I did not fully buy in to the Blitz spirit ("Britain can take it") the extent of the damage done to the infrastructure of Britain was shocking.
In terms of a star rating, I still only rated this as a four because the bulk of the text continues with the first volume, reproducing the Luftwaffe documents that logged aerial activity over Britain each day, and each German plane shot down. While the diary is of some interest (especially combined with the excellent index which allows you to quickly find references to a particular town or city), I would have preferred the authors to have read the German source and then written their own account of each day's events. As for the record of each plane shot down, as I mentioned in my review of volume 1 crash-site investigation is of limited interest to me and I was sorry so much editorial effort was devoted to this.
So overall, Volume 2 was much closer to what I wanted than Volume 1, and if you share my interest in the impact of bombing on ordinary people this is the volume for you.
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