Reviews on the book The Battle of Britain -

 

Alan Firbank in Model Airplane Magazine, November 2015:

An Amazing Piece of Work!

"This book is an amazing piece of work and will provide hours of fascinating reading. It presents an excellent valuie for the money, shining a new light on the Battle of Britain. Pull up a chair in youir local bookshop. have a long, close look at this book and try walking out without it under your arm. I am seriously impressed."

 

WW II author Neil page at amazon.com 20 September 2015

A 'Must-Have' Authoritative New Account!

I suspect many enthusiasts must have thought that Bungay's excellent 'Most Dangerous Enemy' would be the last word on authoritative accounts of the Battle of Britain. However this new book from Swedish author Bergstrom is an excellent and largely 'new' re-telling of the story. Author of the critically acclaimed 'Black Cross/Red Star' series Christer Bergstrom enjoys a fine reputation as an historian and air war researcher. A childhood friend of German fighter leader Adolf Galland, he has enjoyed good access to German veterans and acquired much 'unofficial' material. I attended the 'launch' of this new volume at the Kent Battle of Britain museum on the 75th anniversary of the battle and found Mr Bergstrom to be a very engaging and genial character. This new 330-page A-4 hardback is an impressive work. The quality of the paper is reasonably good, the artworks are rendered by some of the best in the business and there is a good selection of interesting photos including some colour images. The text is very readable (not cluttered with details such as WNr. etc..) and the presentation is in a diary format. There are over 500 'notes' at the rear of the book.
A couple of points that struck me while dipping in and out of the contents;

- the contribution that Bomber Command made to the RAF's success in the Battle of Britain - RAF bombers operated throughout the summer over Germany and the occupied countries, kept the pressure on psychologically, directly contributing to the 'indecision' in the Luftwaffe leadership ...(London vs. the airfields).
- the 're-appraisal' of combat losses on both sides - the RAF's being much higher for the four months July to October
- the re-evaluation of the performance of the Bf 110 units, which enjoyed better 'kill' ratios than the 109 units; " the Bf 109's alleged superiority over the Bf 110 finds no support in these statistics.."
- on only two occasions during the battle (7 and 15 September) did the Luftwaffe put more than 300 bombers in the air. No chance of hoping to subdue a metropolis the size of London - over 1,000 sq kilometres in area even in 1940. A couple of HE bombs per sq km is all the Luftwaffe could hope to manage. This is all pretty minor league stuff especially in comparison with the later air battles over the Reich.
- Ultra did not provide the defenders with much 'hard' information - the British were only just learning to exploit it
- the fighter pilots of the RAF were indeed the heroes of the Battle of Britain, preventing the Luftwaffe achieving aerial superiority over south-east England - this 'revelation' goes counter to some other recent accounts by 'continental' authors who believe that a 'myth' of the The Few has been widely propagated and exaggerated.

 

 

By "Writing Historian" October 21, 2015

Brings a New Perspective!

Given Bergstrom's background as a long-time aviation historian who normally focuses on combat from the Luftwaffe's perspective, I wasn't sure if this book would present the facts in an even-handed manner or if he would trot out the argument that the Germans would have won if it wasn't for their radar system. Having just finished Stephen Bungay's THE MOST DANGEROUS ENEMY, which put me in the mood for more Battle of Britain fare, I mentioned that I would like to have Bergstrom's book to a family member who wanted to get me something for my birthday. After all, its a bit too expensive to rely solely on curiosity for the motivation to buy this book..........

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the objective tone of the overall narrative and did not find Bergstrom's efforts to put the performance of Bf-110 equipped units in a different light even a bit heavy handed. In fact, he balances that theme with a similar approach to detailing the performance of the Boulton-Paul Defiant units - who in some instances were certainly NOT sitting ducks for German fighters.

The narrative is framed both topically and chronologically. Chapter 1 focuses on "The RAF versus the Luftwaffe" while chapter 2 details the performance of the various fighters and bombers that participated in the campaign. Beginning with chapter 3 and continuing through chapter 9, readers can read about day-to-day events covering the period 10 July to 30 September 1940. Chapter 10, which is entitled "The Victors and Defeated," serves as the conclusion where one can find the obligatory number comparisons of frontline strength, claims, and losses. This is the one section where one has to treat phrases such as "Fighter Command's losses were recorded accurately, though not with the same care as the Luftwaffe catalogued their losses" with a little caution. That said, Bergstrom does not hesitate to point out throughout the book when BOTH air forces over-claimed significantly.

Frankly, this is one of his best books to date. Bergstrom does interested readers a distinct service with this book by sharing the personal insights of many pilots of both sides who have corresponded with him over past decades.

 

By Theodore A. Rushton on September 23, 2015

Absolutely superb!


Absolutely superb, this book is a delight to read and in all likelihood will become the all-time aerial combat reference to explain the decisive English victory in the Battle of Britain.

It's a story of numbers. Spitfires and Hurricanes shot down 1,275 German aircraft; the Me 109s and Me110s shot down 1,050 British aircraft. The British lost 997 Spitfires and Hurricanes, the Germans lost 730 Messerchmitts. Perhaps more relevant, on June 1, 1940, the British had 446 fighters, by Nov. 2, they had 746; on June 29, the Germans had 1,117 fighters, by Dec. 28, they had 755.

In other words, aircraft production is a major factor. The British had only to defend Britain; Germany had to "rescue" Italy and guard its far-flung conquests. To win, the Germans had to quickly decimate the Royal Air Force; the Wehrmacht was not equipped for sustained combat. In contrast, the British merely had to hold out until winter slowed the German offensive. For the British, the critical date was the November 1940 re-election of President Franklin Roosevelt; if Roosevelt won, the U.S. would provide much needed military supplies, raw materials and especially 100-octane aviation fuel.

As for motivation, German pilots thought the war was almost over. They had won, and weren't anxious to be "the last to die." Service in France was a vacation compared to other postings; French culture, food, wines and women were plentiful and delicious. The British were fighting a last-ditch (the Channel) defence; everything they, their families and country valued was at stake.

Bergstrom details, in day-by-day accounts, how the English succeeded. In doing so, he shoots down wartime myths without detracting from successes. The English had a single purpose; the German effort was scatter-brained, due to Churchill's brilliant skill at goading Hitler into stupid reactions.

Granted, Hitler made victory easier. Time and again, Me-109 squadrons slashed Spitfires and especially Hurricanes to pieces; but they couldn't stop the slaughter of German bombers, or the steady plane-by-plane erosion of slow-to-be-replaced German aircraft and skilled pilots.

This book is a detailed study of the battle, plus sufficient background to understand day-by-day events. It is likely Britain's most important victory since Waterloo, certainly greater than the Spanish Armada which was largely dashed by the weather. More so than Stalingrad or the Kursk salient - - it was the turning-point of World War II. Bergstrom details it with exquisite but never "more-than-you-want-to-know" skill.

Read this book, think about it, and you'll get a much better understanding of the folly, heroism and meaning of war.

 

By T. G Reamon October 7, 2015:

In most ways an indispensable book!

In most ways this is an indispensable book for the military history enthusiast, full of elaborate detail and marvelous pictures.

The author, who has done an amazing amount of primary research (for example, interviewing a large number of living participants - many no longer with us), advanced several views that are not in the mainstream of prior thought about the Battle of Britain - first, that Goering was quite a capable commander, and came very close to winning, thwarted by the fighting spirit of the British (and the foreign pilots) , the ability of British industry to deliver new planes, and finally the pressure exerted on the home front as the British bomber command continued to bomb Germany in the face of heavy losses, forcing a change of strategy that gave Fighter Command breathing room.

The second revelation is his assertion that the much-criticized Messerschmitt bf 110 was quite an effective fighter, and statistically more effective that the 109s, something I have never heard before. Rather than being withdrawn from operations, the heavily armed 110s continued until quite late in the Battle and were only withdrawn when the need for night fighters became paramount.

 

 

 

 

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