The Battle of Britain, by James Holland

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The Battle of Britain: five months that changed history, May-October 1940

The-Battle-of-Britain-James-HollandThose with a special interest in the Battle of Britain or air war more generally will enjoy this book. It is a lively, detailed, not to say exhaustive narrative of the entire battle. Careful attention is given to both sides. The story is told from both the commander’s perspective and that of ordinary air-crew.

That said, I am not convinced that the book reveals ‘startling new evidence about one of the greatest turning-points in the Second World War’. It is certainly not accurate to claim that it is the first book to provide ‘an account of the Battle of Britain told equally from both sides’. Perhaps authors should edit their publisher’s puffs more critically.

Holland’s study represents good, solid story-telling, not path-breaking new analysis. Nor does it displace, for me, Stephen Bungay’s The Most Dangerous Enemy: a history of the Battle of Britain as the best single-volume account.

Bungay’s narrative is fast, the prose crisp and uncluttered, and the book packed with insight and understanding. Read this first; then read Holland if you are hooked on the subject.

Bantam, £25.00

ISBN 978-0312675004

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