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Publisher's Summary

The Battle of Britain paints a stirring picture of an extraordinary summer when the fate of the world hung by a thread. Historian James Holland has now written the definitive account of those months based on extensive new research from around the world, including thousands of new interviews with people on both sides of the battle.

If Britain's defenses collapsed, Hitler would have dominated all of Europe. With France facing defeat and British forces pressed back to the Channel, there were few who believed Britain could survive; but, thanks to a sophisticated defensive system and the combined efforts of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, and the defiance of a new prime minister, Britain refused to give in.

From clashes between coastal convoys and Schnellboote in the Channel to astonishing last stands in Flanders, slaughter by U-boats in an icy Atlantic, and dramatic aerial battles over England, The Battle of Britain tells this epic World War II story in a fresh and compelling voice.

©2010 James Holland (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This massive volume is informative, enthralling, and moving - often all three at once.... Genuinely brilliant." ( Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

The battle up to The Battle of Britain

The sub-title of 'Five Months That Changed History; May-October 1940', is inaccurate in as at least half of the book is taken up WHY, The Battle of Britain took place. The other half is HOW, The Battle of Britain took place. Please don't get me wrong, I listened raptly and was surprised to learn details that I either forgot or plain didn't know. Anytime I learn new information, I'm one happy camper. Thing is that I was really expecting 26 hours on The Battle of Britain. Happily the narration was smooth and upper crust Brit, making for an easy 26 hours.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding!

I have read several books about the Battle of Britain, this was the best. It blended the macro level issues with the individual on land, sea, and air. This is the second James Holland book I have listened to with Audible, both were great! The narrator does need to work on his pronunciation of GERMAN names and military ranks.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • B Taub
  • Ann Arbor, MI United States
  • 12-15-17

WW2 Thru the Battle of Britain

While filled with a huge number of personal accounts, this book also delves deeply into the strategies that brought about the Battle of Britain and the tactics that led to its outcome. The book starts well before the BoB, though, and spends a huge amount of time on the invasion of France and then the evacuation at Dunkirk. So, it would probably have better been titled WW2 Through the Battle of Britain but, I suppose, that's not as marketable. However, if you're ok with that, there's a lot to learn here. I, personally, ended up happy that I learned more than I originally expected.

For example, we're all brought up to think of Hitler as doing things just out of evil, which he most certainly was. But, he did also have strategic concerns about the rise of communism and Germany's geographic position in Europe. Understanding these help, at least, explain his expansion into Western Europe. The book gives you that nuance, as well as an understanding of Goering that transcends his reputation as a purely comical figure.

The book is also very sympathetic to Neville Chamberlin and the role he eventually played in Churchill's government.

After the fall of France, the book does a great job of proceeding through the BoB and how the battle evolved.

I don't want to give the impression that the book is only about politics, though. That is maybe 20% of it. The rest is dedicated to tactics, technologies, and individual stories.

I've read a ton of aviation history but I still learned a lot here. For example, the author makes a good argument that, objectively, the Me109e was better than the Spitfire Mk1 and way better than the Hurricane. He may have ignored a few details but, overall, his analysis seems sound.

My only complaint about the book is that a few basic concepts were just wrong. The one that grated on my nerves most was that the author almost always referred to g-forces as negative-g. Negative-g just didn't make sense in many of the cases where he described it - it was just g! But, overall, I think he knew what he's talking about (he's probably not a pilot, though).

In the final analysis, most people will finish this book (after some time - it is quite long) with a far more nuanced understanding of the Battle of Britain, it's importance, and why it went the way it did.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Brilliant! Compelling and personal

A thorough look into both sides. Gives you that in-the- cockpit feel of the action. Also analyzes in depth Britain's and Germany's strategy long-term, beginning in autumn 1939.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Misleading

The Battle of Britain storyline does not start until 2/3 into the book. It should be called The first year of the war.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Battle of Britain-In Excruciating Detail

What did you love best about The Battle of Britain?

The detail was both good and bad. There were things that would have better with more of a summary, in the interest of keeping then story moving along.

How could the performance have been better?

The narrator was a large distraction from the book. His unfortunate way of ending a phrase on a sing-song low high tone was really irritating. I almost quit listening several times because it was so distracting.

Any additional comments?

If you are really into the history of the Battle of Britain, this book is encyclopedic. It's probably best to have a copy of the print edition to really get the most from the book. The detail is almost too much for an audio book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Starts out slow but gathers speed and is very interesting.

The book starts out slow and a bit stilted But by chapter five it is off and running. It really becomes when the author starts talking about the air war over Britain. Excellent descriptions of the German and British strategies how they were modified and the result. A great explanation of how the two groups of fighter pilots coped with the war. A great discussion of the leaders of both countries and how they influenced the outcome of th battle

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Missing facts about the Polish pilots

What about the Polish Air Force squadrons and Polish RAF fighter pilots? Another book that
completely ignores these heroes. Missing facts about Polish pilots during Battle of Britain is like modifying history and creating fake history.

The 303 squadron was one of 16 Polish squadrons in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. It was not just the highest scoring squadron (126 kills) during the Battle of Britain, but it had the highest ratio of enemy aircraft destroyed to their own lost.

11 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wonderful History! Unusual Narration Style

What made the experience of listening to The Battle of Britain the most enjoyable?

The roles the leadership played on the Axis side and on the Allied side. Very enlightening to see how the virtues of the characters affected their ability to be effective and even their ability to see and to cope with reality, from Hitler to Goering on down on the losing side, and from Churchill and Beaverbrook et. al. on the Allied side. Also the gamble that Hitler was taking going into a war with inferior forces on his side. Fascinating account.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Battle of Britain?

To understand that Germany made wrong decisions not building the promised 100 U Boats, not developing and building a long-range bomber, not committing the civilian work force earlier to build more planes, not training enough airmen... Whereas Britain did just enough in all areas to withstand the blows of 1940.

How could the performance have been better?

Shaun Grindell was almost impossible to follow at some points, and almost made me quit. I had to listen only to the words, not to his sing-song lilts and emphases which made no sense much of the time. It was like he had not read the book first and was just bluffing his way thru some chapters. Very unusual.

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What a magnificent book!

I am completely amazed by this book. I read a lot of history but I have never read a more seamlessly integrated book. This is a historical account of the battle of Britain that feels like a work of fiction with the way it flows but everything is meticulously accounted for historically. This is a book that I would encourage non-history readers to try they won’t be disappointed