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Customer Review

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE critical time, 6 Mar. 2006
This review is from: Battle Of Britain [VHS] (VHS Tape)
How much could your life change in three months? To view of the events of the Summer of 1940 as the pivotal time of the 20th Century is no exaggeration. This film shows the RAF defying the pre-eminent military power in the Western World from June to mid-September. Poorly supported by the politicians and divided by tactical disputes, the RAF was essentially the weapon of one man, Air Marshal Dowding. Olivier's portrayal of this tormented leader is magnificent. Keith Park, played by Trevor Howard, is Dowding's point man in the defence of the British Isles. In their airborne clashes, the pilots are unable to see how desperately Dowding is attempting to preserve them.
Hamilton broke away from the traditional false heroics of Hollywood war films in making "Battle." In addition to conveying the problems besetting the opposing forces, he brings life to all the characters he presents us. Although renaming some of participants [Adolf Galland becomes "Falke" and Werner Moelders "Foehn"] Hamilton maintains a strong sense of realism throughout. Not all the pilots are solitary heroes, but instead are represented by family men, terrified men, driven men. They have jobs to do, and both sides strive to achieve their utmost. The solitary aircraft, wandering through the English night to inadvertently ditch its bombs on London changed the course of war forever. We never learn Major Brandt's ultimate fate. Although most of the roles in this film are but cameos, Hein Reis as Reichsmarschall Goering is outstanding. He conveys the vacillation of Luftwaffe tacticians with lively accuracy.
It's easy to criticize 'war films' on any number of grounds. Apart from false portrayals, a charge invalid in this case, there's always the technical aspect. The Bf109 fighters, for example, are clearly not the E-3 model used in 1940. Once the U.S. was driven into the war, it became a 'crusade' for moral values. During the Battle, however, the real issue was simply survival and Hamilton has conveyed that aspect beautifully. The challenge faced by the RAF was real and immediate and this film should be treasured as a reminder of what the Allies faced in that desperate summer. On the lighter side, it's a fine display of beautiful aircraft no longer seen in the sky. If your local airshow is rained out, you can always run BATTLE OF BRITAIN! [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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Initial post: 9 Jun 2011, 11:19:15 BST
One of the most deeply rooted myths of World War Two is that victory in the Battle of Britain prevented a German invasion of the United Kingdom. The reality is that the strength of the Royal Navy's Home Fleet prevented invasion in 1940. The Royal Navy was then a massive fighting force; consisting of 8 aircraft carriers, 12 battleships, 50 cruisers, 94 destroyers, 87 escort ships and 38 submarines. Germany's Kriegsmarine was puny by comparison, consisting of 5 battleships, 6 cruisers, 17 destroyers and 57 submarines at the start of the war in September 1939. By August 1940 the Kriegsmarine's strength had been further reduced by loss of the Graf Spee, plus the losses of the Norwegian campaign. In reality the Royal Navy would have smashed any attempted German invasion within hours of the ships leaving harbour, something Hitler was well aware of at the time.

The historical date on which England was genuinely spared from invasion was 24'th May 1940; the day Hitler gave Von Rundstedt the now infamous 'Halte' order; which both forbade him to employ the panzer columns against the British troops trapped on the Dunkirk beaches, and also forbid any German unit to move within 10 kilometres of the Dunkirk positions. This decision is now believed by most historians to have cost Hitler the war; and is frequently used to illustrate Hitler's military incompetence in modernday history books/dvd's etc...

Ironically; the truth is that Hitler, horrified at the already high casualty lists, and believing those same British soldiers would soon be marching alongside his own into Soviet Russia; issued this order to prevent even more 'pointless bloodshed' between what he regarded as kindred Aryan races. Had Hitler accepted the less racist but more ruthless advice of his General's; and continued the air/tank attacks on the beaten, disorganized and demoralized British troops within the Dunkirk salient; the famous 'Operation Dynamo' evacuation would have been impractical. The loss of the entire British Expeditionary Force would have been a monumental disaster which Churchill's Government could hardly have survived; while the political leverage offered by possibly 250,000 British POW's would have virtually guaranteed Sir Oswald Moseley as his sucessor. The resultant united Nazi Europe, plus the additional numbers of British troops/weapons; would in turn have made 'Operation Barbarossa' a far less hazardous undertaking.

An excellent documentary which covers both this and other Nazi mistakes is David Hoffmann's:-How Hitler Lost the War [DVD] [1989] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Location: Ottawa, Ontario Canada

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