The Best Books On The Battle Of Britain

The Books I Picked & Why

The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain

By Stephen Bungay

The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain

Why this book?

Bungay packs more useful information about the Battle of Britain into this outstanding work than dozens of other books on the same topic put together. He provides the Order of Battle for both the RAF and Luftwaffe, records the squadron rotations, the attacks by date and target, the losses of aircraft and crews, and much more. No other book is as precise about what happened to both the RAF and the Luftwaffe not just stage by stage, but day by day. Yet this book also provides lucid analysis of events and assessments of key personalities. While writing about the Battle, I referred to this book so often it is now falling apart!


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Fighter Boys: The Battle of Britain, 1940

By Patrick Bishop

Fighter Boys: The Battle of Britain, 1940

Why this book?

With great skill and sensitivity, Bishop depicts the human drama of the Battle of Britain. Bishop allows the pilots to speak for themselves, collecting their thoughts from letters, diaries, speeches, and memoirs, and presenting these within a chronological framework reinforced with historical context provided by the author. The result is a wonderfully readable and moving book that embraces not just the Battle of Britain itself but also explains the society in which the heroes of the Battle were born, the institution (RAF) in which they served, and the world in which they died. It ends with a chapter telling what happened to the survivors after the war. Altogether a beautiful tribute to the “Few.”


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The Few: Summer 1940, The Battle of Britain

By Philip Kaplan, Richard Collier

The Few: Summer 1940, The Battle of Britain

Why this book?

Because pictures are worth a thousand words, I had to include this “coffee-table” book about the Battle of Britain among the “best five” books. This book is 200 pages of evocative images — of aircraft, of pilots, WAAF, controllers, and commanders, of landscapes, airfields, and equipment. The words of Bungay and especially Bishop are transformed into something more tangible and understandable by this lovely collection of contemporary photographs.


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Nine Lives (Witness to War)

By Alan C. Deere

Nine Lives (Witness to War)

Why this book?

Nine Lives is an autobiography by one of the RAF aces of the Battle of Britain and, as such, is one of a handful of authentic accounts about the Battle told by a participant. (I actually recommend all these first-hand accounts, but since I’m limited to five titles altogether, I confine myself to two.) Deere’s account stands out for its brutal honesty and his willingness to analyze his behavior and reactions to events. It is not a literary masterpiece, but its sincerity is all the greater. Deere was a New Zealander and therefore this book highlights the often-forgotten contribution of Britain’s Commonwealth to the Battle of Britain.


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First Light: The True Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies above Britain

By Geoffrey Wellum

First Light: The True Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies above Britain

Why this book?

First Light is also a memoir by a Battle of Britain veteran, but Wellum was not an ace. Wellum was a very young and very junior pilot during the Battle, and this book, written with the wisdom of hindsight by a mature Wellum, is more reflective and analytical than Deere’s account. That is its value. Wellum is a masterful writer and possesses a marked ability to evoke a mood. It is precisely because Wellum writes with mature understanding that he captures so well the innocence and naivety of his past self. This book does not educate one about the Battle of Britain, but it pulls you into the cockpit and the heart of a young man caught up in it. A wonderful read.


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