The Battle of Britain

Five Months That Changed History; May-October 1940
Narrated by: Shaun Grindell
Length: 26 hrs and 40 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (492 ratings)

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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 listeners say about The Battle of Britain

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  • Overall
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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.

21 people found this helpful

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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.

17 people found this 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.

15 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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Dodgy Narration

The narrator has a pleasant speaking voice and cadence, but his word pronunciation of anything other than English words is terrible. The book is written to use the French and German language terms for places, ranks, names, units, equipment, and weapons systems; that requires a narrator who knows how to use the language. This wasn’t him.

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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 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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Excellent telling of a hugely important struggle

I have studied the Battle since childhood. It has so many fascinating aspects, human as well as organizational and technological. Yet this massively important moment in the history of Western Civilization is virtually unknown to the general public in the US—which is a disgraceful failing of US education. (But of course Western Civilization and all the staggering good it has delivered humankind is now not only out of fashion, but actually denigrated by pseudo-sophisticates.) Mr. Holland has done a superb job writing this book and it is very well narrated! Bravo!

1 person found this helpful

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The story from both sides!

This was a fantastic book! I have read a lot of books on WWII and very rarely do they give equal amounts of attention to both sides of the conflict. It shares the accounts of both the British pilots that flew in the battle and then goes into accounts from their German counterparts to give a full view of the conflict. It is a comprehensive look at the conflict not only in the broad terms of that was happening at the time and why, but also keeps things intimate with the personal accounts of the people who live it.

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facinating...and personal

Enjoyed it immensely. ..excellent narrative on a most important episode of ww2...much from the perspective of those who lived it.

1 person found this helpful