The Battle of Britain – 80 years on

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Recommended reading: a selection of Battle of Britain titles

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New release: Battle of Britain 1940 – The Finest Hour’s Human Cost by Dilip Sarkar MBE.

The summer of 1940 remains a pivotal moment in modern British history – still inspiring immense national pride and a global fascination.

The Fall of France was catastrophic. Britain stood alone and within range of German air attack. America, with its vast resources was neutral, Hitler’s forces unbeaten, the outlook for Britain bleak. As Britain’s wartime leader, Winston Churchill, rightly predicted, ‘the Battle of Britain is about to begin’.

Famously, Churchill mobilised the English language, emboldening the nation with rousing rhetoric. In this darkest of hours, Churchill told the people that this was, in fact, their ‘Finest Hour’, a time of unprecedented courage and defiance which defined the British people. Connecting the crucial battle with Shakespeare’s heroic Henry V and Agincourt, Churchill also immortalised Fighter Command’s young aircrew as the ‘Few’ – to whom so many owed everything.

The Few comprised nearly 3,000 aircrew, 544 of which gave their lives during the Battle of Britain’s sixteen weeks of high drama. Arguably, however, the official dates of 10 July – 31 October 1940 are arbitrary, the fighting actually ongoing before and afterwards. Many gave their lives whose names are not included among the Few, as, of course, did civilians, seamen and ground staff – which is not overlooked in this ground-breaking book.

In this unique study, veteran historian and author Dilip Sarkar explores the individual stories of a wide selection of those who lost their lives during the ‘Finest Hour’, examining their all-too brief lives and sharing these tragic stories – told here, in full, for the first time. Also included is the story of a German fighter pilot, indicating the breadth of investigation involved.

Researched with the full cooperation of the families concerned, this work is a crucial contribution to the Battle of Britain’s bibliography.

The Polish ‘Few’ The Fallen Few of the Battle of Britain Fighter Aces of the RAF in the Battle of Britain Douglas Bader

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One of Churchill’s Own Spitfire! The Daily Telegraph – Book of Battle of Britain Obituaries Poles in the Battle of Britain

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Men of the Battle of Britain Letters from the Few Sailor Malan Battle of Britain- Airfields of 11 Group

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Click to browse the Battle of Britain digital catalogue in full

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The RAF Battle of Britain Fighter Pilot’s Kitbag – Uniforms & Equipment from the Summer of 1940 and the Human Stories Behind Them by Mark Hillier.

The scenes are familiar ones; the young ‘Brylcream Boys’ sat at dispersal waiting for the haunting call of ‘Scramble’, lounging in their shirt sleeves and fur-lined boots, their leather flying helmets lying limp by their side. But what did the RAF fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain really wear, and what vital items would their kitbags have held?

The casual air of the dashing pilots of Fighter Command in the Spitfire Summer of 1940 conceals a necessarily professional approach to their task of holding Hitler’s Luftwaffe at bay. Therefore, each item of clothing and equipment they wore and carried had a role and a function, be it for warmth and comfort, communication, or for fighting and survival.

All the objects that an RAF fighter pilot was issued with during the Battle of Britain are explored in this book in high-definition colour photographs, showing everything from the differing uniforms, to headgear, personal weapons, gloves, goggles, parachute packs and the essential Mae West life jacket. Each item is fully described and its purpose and use explained.

Relive Britain’s finest hour as never before – through the actually clothing and accoutrements of ‘The Few’.

Also available: The Luftwaffe Battle of Britain Fighter Pilot’s Kitbag

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A Battle of Britain Spitfire Squadron A Salute to One of ‘The Few’ Battle of Britain

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Battle of Britain Broadcaster Ben Bennions DFC Defending Britain’s Skies 1940-1945

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Dowding’s Eagles Douglas Bader Fight for the Sky Kenneth ‘Hawkeye’ Lee

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