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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
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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.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • 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.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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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.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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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.

8 of 9 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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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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 19 people found this review helpful

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Excellent, compelling book

Overall, one of the best books I’ve read about the Battle of Britain. While the history seems accurate, a few, minor technical errors detract. This is especially true when discussing radio detection and radar. The continual confusion of the relationship between frequency and wave length make the explanations offered very hard to follow.

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An epic battle with stories from the participants.

The author brought the Battle to life with stories of the flyers from both sides of the conflict. This was masterfully done.

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  • David
  • la quinta, CA, United States
  • 10-04-18

Good History

I had read one of the reviews and almost turned me off from getting the book.
But I have always found the author's others books informing and beside the Battle for Britain fascinating. So I went forward.

I found the book unbelievably through.
I really enjoyed learning the build up to the battle and all of the steps leaning to the famous period of time.
I still cant understand how that negative review was written. OBVIOUSLY, that person just wasnt interested in history.
I felt this book is a must to read as much as, The Guns of August.
Spacestationark