BOOKS

By Jonathan Reeve

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE -

This au­tumn marked the 75 th an­niver­sary off the Bat­tle of Bri­tain. His­to­ri­ans may ar­gue ove r the sig­nif­i­cancece of the bat­tle, but there is no doubt about the brav­ery of ‘the Few’. In this book, Jonathan Reeve has gath­ered to­gether the mem­oirs, di­aries and let­ters of 37 of the Bri­tish, Com­mon­wealth and Euro­pean pi­lots who pre­vented the Luft­waffe from gain­ing air supremacy over Eng­land. It is pleas­ing to see ac­counts from sev­eral Pol­ish pi­lots, whose role in the vic­tory is of­ten down­played.

It is hard not to be moved by their courage, their sangfroid and, per­haps, above all, by their youth. Few of the men whose ac­counts are in­cluded here were older than 25. It was a young man’s war and one that they thor­oughly rel­ished, de­spite the con­stant risk of death. The ac­counts all men­tion the com­rades who failed to re­turn, gen­er­ally with­out emo­tion. Many of the writ­ers re­ceived se­vere burns or other wounds when their planes were shot down.

Most ac­counts have ap­peared in print be­fore, so this is re­ally an an­thol­ogy. How­ever, the au­thor in­cludes ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about each man’s RAF ser­vice from of­fi­cial and other sources. This and the care­ful se­lec­tion of texts makes it a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to the sub­ject. Si­mon Fowler is a pro­fes­sional writer and his­tory re­searcher

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