Sunday Express


- By James Rampton

THE GERMAN Pows couldn’t believe their luck. They’d been shot down over England during the Battle of Britain. But rather than being sent to a harsh camp, they were cosseted in Trent Park, a 14thcentur­y country house in north London with sweeping grounds once used for hunting by Henry IV.

The prisoners were kept in some comfort – officers were treated to whisky and were free to walk the parkland. If it was a cage, it was a gilded one. But there was a catch.

What these Pows did not know was that their every word was being bugged by the British Secret Service.

The clandestin­ely recorded conversati­ons provided a goldmine of highly confidenti­al intel and aided theallied effort enormously as the Battle of Britain went on.

As historian James Holland says in a compelling documentar­y, The Battle Of Britain: The Real Story: “Throughout the battle, these overheard conversati­ons were a direct line into what the Germans were thinking.”

The Trent Park revelation­s have helped Holland re-evaluate the Battle of Britain. Drawing on them along with testimony of veterans from both sides he has fascinatin­g new theories about the conflict.

We will celebrate the 80th anniversar­y of the Battle of Britain this summer, and it is quite rightly seen as one of our finest

‘One of the greatest victories against odds’

hours.this David and Goliath story forms a vital part of our national mythology.

The conflict inspired Winston Churchill’s memorable speech when he praised the astonishin­g courage of the Spitfire pilots: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

During the Luftwaffe’s all-out attack on Britain, preparatio­n for a full invasion, 2,500 German aircraft were pitted against the 650 fighters of the RAF.

Intoxicate­d by their conquest of France, the Germans believed total victory was a formality. Hitler thought Britain would have to sue for peace. But we did nothing of the sort. We refused to cave in. An epic battle ensued, where the future of this nation was at stake. Lasting five months, the Battle of Britain was the largest air conflict in history. It is regarded as one of the greatest victories against the odds in military history. A comprehens­ive win in this pivotal conflict decisively shifted the course of the war in our favour. Yet The Battle Of Britain: The Real Story offers a radical new interpreta­tion of the clash. If you thought you knew everything about it, Holland suggests, think again. “The Battle of Britain is part of our legend. But the real story is richer and more extraordin­ary.”

Holland, 50, says: “The

Battle of Britain is mired in myth. It’s Captain

Mainwaring, Dame Vera

Lynn, the white cliffs,

Spitfire pilots, The Few.

The message is of little

Britain with its back to the wall, the plucky amateurs against the might of

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