Osprey's Battle of Britain 1940


Douglas Dildy


Osprey Publishing


$20.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 96 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-2057

It is always nice to see the first title of a new series from Osprey. One wonders how well it will end up doing and how much the series is appreciated by readers. Some that really took off were their Duel and Weapons series. Their comic book histories did not last very long, though they were fairly well done. This is the first edition in the Air Campaign series and it is perhaps appropriate that it covers one of the best known, the Battle of Britain.

It is obvious once one gets into reading this book that the author has done some real digging into the background for the book. Too often we get rehashes of wartime and post war propaganda. It shows just how much exaggerations and mis-information can become a part of 'truth'. It is only by researching original documents from both sides that one can get a clear picture of events. Fortunately both the British and German archives are well maintained and fairly complete.

The book starts by providing the capabilities of both the attackers and defenders. In this case the Luftwaffe and the RAF. The main reason for the attacks on Britain was to pave way for the invasion of the island. One cannot really undertake a successful amphibious landing without being able to maintain air superiority and to do that, the RAF had to be put out of action. Easier said than done. The plan was to attack airfields and destroy fighters on the ground. While the fields in range of the Luftwaffe were severely pummeled, there were generally few or no planes on the ground. They had been moved out of range.

Then tactics changed to try to draw fighters into the air where they could be dealt with. The Luftwaffe had overall kill superiority over the RAF, but even pulling planes into the air was not all that successful. It was this lack of success in bringing down the RAF that led to the inevitable outcome.

On the RAF side, they had the advantage of radar. Sort of. Early radar could provide some information, but it was easily foiled by planes flying low over the water. It also had difficulty telling anything other than range. It was only later that shorter wavelength equipment was able to reliably tell altitude. Also the sets were fixed and so it required a chain of stations to provide full coverage. These stations were fairly easy to take out and many times there were huge gaps in coverage due to bomb damage.

In the end, it was a lack of range of the fighters to protect the bombers that led to the failure of the campaign. With the inability to allow Hitler to start the invasion, Hitler lost interest and focused on the Soviets and the attacks on the UK generally fizzled out.

The author has done a lot of original research and this has enabled him to provide greater insight into the campaign. It will shake up a lot of people who firmly believe what has been oft repeated in books and movies. I found it refreshing and a new look on things. As usual, the book is superbly illustrated with period photos, several of which are old friends. It is further enhanced by the art work and illustrations of Graham Turner. It is a book that is both a fascinating read and a bit of an eye opener for those with an open mind. Highly recommended and a great start to a new series.

January 2018

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