By Jonathan Reeve
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