Jam-packed account of the moment in 1940 when Britain stood alone against the Nazi menace.
British historian Holland (Italy’s Sorrow: A Year of War, 1944–45, 2007, etc.) provides a thorough reconsideration of the Battle of Britain that is both staggeringly technical and dramatically engaging. According to the author, the battle began well before RAF Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding’s squadrons took on Hermann Göring’s mighty Luftwaffe over southeast England in July 1940. It is hard now to imagine how isolated and vulnerable Britain had grown at the increasing demonstrations of German aggression. With its lightning thrust into Belgium, Holland and France in the spring of 1940, the Nazi war machine seemed invincible. The French, despite having greater forces than the Germans, “had fallen for Nazi spin-doctoring.” Hemmed in with the British along the Channel coast, the Allied forces were saved from annihilation by a last-minute halt by the Germans, allowing them a miraculous evacuation from Dunkirk. As the French crumbled, the British were largely expected to sue for peace as well, if the prevailing defeatist voices were to be believed. The galvanizing role of the new prime minister, Winston Churchill, has been amply documented elsewhere, and Holland underscores the power of his rhetoric in steeling the nation to its defiant task, aided by the press and media. Thanks to delays caused by bad weather and Nazi dithering, the British were gaining strength and producing new aircraft at startling speed, so that by July they were ready for the Luftwaffe’s onslaught. Holland uses numerous interviews with British and German pilots for respective takes on strategy, and he takes a frank look at the strengths and weaknesses of each side. In the end, Hitler could not launch an invasion of Britain until the RAF could be destroyed—and the British did not let that happen.
A painstakingly detailed history of the battle that exposed the myth of Nazi invincibility.