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Finest Hour: The bestselling story of the Battle of Britain by [Craig, Phil, Clayton, Tim]
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Finest Hour: The bestselling story of the Battle of Britain Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Length: 448 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Amazon Review

A defeated, retreating British Expeditionary Force, the miraculous evacuation at Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the evacuation to America and the Blitz. You couldn't make the story of 1940 dull if you tried. But even the best material has to be threaded into a manageable narrative and Tim Clayton and Phil Craig don't disappoint. Finest Hour is never less than engaging and frequently does rather better. On the jacket blurb, Clayton and Craig seem keen to establish their bona fides as heavyweight historians and claim to have uncovered a "fresh and controversial" account of the political intrigues and betrayals of the period. There's actually nothing really controversial on offer--at least nothing that hasn't been aired elsewhere. If this comes as a disappointment to the authors, it need not to the reader because we are left with something just as, if not more, valuable, namely an accessible layperson's ride through the political and military manoeuvrings. Clayton and Craig are particularly good at guiding us through the early days of Churchill's premiership. Read most populist accounts and you would imagine that the moment Churchill took office the bulldog spirit took over and the plucky Brits stood resolute. Not so. The case for appeasement was still being made within the Cabinet up until the evacuation of Dunkirk, as Lord Halifax had a great deal of support for his conciliatory views. Bizarrely, the thing that ultimately counted against him was his title as it was felt the Upper House should not hold sway over the Commons. Where this book excels, though, is in the quality of its eyewitness testimonies. Many books have previously used this technique of threading narrative with the first person but few have found such eloquent speakers. Most eyewitnesses fudge the difficult bits with remarks like, "It was hell". Clayton and Craig's witnesses don't pull their punches. We hear of one Brit who shot a German officer in cold blood and had nightmares for ages afterwards. We hear of the sailor who saw his gunner decapitated. We experience the stench of burnt flesh following the shelling of an ambulance. In short, we are spared nothing. It may not be comfortable reading but you can't ignore it. 60 years after the men and women in these pages fought and died, there's a tendency for the rest of us to take the freedom they gave us for granted. They deserve a better memorial than a slow fading into nothingness. This book ensures they get it. --John Crace


Brilliant ... This highly informative, moving series should form part of the National Curriculum. (Daily Mail)

Beautifully made ... Achingly vivid. (Guardian)

This finely wrought PBS documentary is a remarkable story of determined, against-the-odds resistance, led by the staunch, inspirational Churchill. The producers tell it all in careful fashion, melding historical documents and experts, old footage, and, most powerfully, the testimony of regular folk who lived through it. Yes you can find WWII documentaries aplenty on cable these days. But you have to search long and hard to find one with this kind of richness in the reporting and craftsmanship in the telling. (Chicago Herald Tribune)

Manages to construct the tale in such a way that it breaks free of the text-book approach to transfix the viewer completely; the archive footage, the witness testimonies ...of such superior quality and so beautifully shot that the whole is fresh and absorbing ... Compiled with a pace that could put a lot of thrillers to shame, the result is television at its very best. (Time Out)

From fighter-pilots risking their lives in the skies above England, to squaddies stranded at Dunkirk, to schoolgirls sent abroad to Canada (the book is worth buying just for Bess Walder's account of horror and redemption aboard the City of Benares), this is riveting. (Sunday Express)

But Craig digs beneath the time-worn legend of stiff-upper-lip English pluckiness to show a far more complex, more human and more moving picture of the human spirit under stress. An intriguing collection of Britons, rich and poor, give vivid, wonderfully told examples of cowardice becoming valor, of shrapnel-swapping among blitz-happy schoolboys, of a summer of exceptional natural beauty and obscenely unnatural death ... WGBH Boston and the BBC, which teamed up with Brook Lapping Productions to retell this great and important story, have had their share of television triumphs. They have rarely, however, produced any finer hours than these. (Washington Post)

A wonderful oral history of Great Britain during the Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain in the tradition of Stephan Ambrose; recommended for all collections. (US Library Journal)

Compelling ... Mesmerizing stuff. (Sunday Telegraph)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2450 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (30 Aug. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008K5TFLW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #85,275 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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