The best books to really understand the Battle of Britain

Who am I?

I'm a retired diplomat and award-winning novelist with a PhD in history. I became fascinated by the Battle of Britain because of a visit to RAF Tangmere, a Battle of Britain airfield, when I was still a girl; that encounter captured my imagination for a lifetime. I read every book I could find, I spent hours in the Imperial War Museum gazing (and touching) the Spitfire. I purchased the memoirs of pilots, watched films, and interviews. I started writing a Battle of Britain novel while still at university, but it was 30 years before I released a book. Within weeks one of the few surviving aces, Wing Commander Bob Doe, wrote me that I had got it “smack on the way it was for us fighter pilots.” There can be no higher compliment to an author of historical fiction.  


I wrote...

Where Eagles Never Flew: A Battle of Britain Novel

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Where Eagles Never Flew: A Battle of Britain Novel

What is my book about?

This superb novel about the Battle of Britain, based on actual events and eye-witness accounts, shows this pivotal battle from both sides of the channel through the eyes of pilots, ground crews, staff — and the women they loved.

Summer 1940: The Battle of France is over; the Battle of Britain is about to begin. If the swastika is not to fly over Buckingham Palace, the RAF must prevent the Luftwaffe from gaining air superiority over Great Britain. Standing on the front line is No. 606 (Hurricane) Squadron. As the casualties mount, new pilots find a cold reception from the clique of experienced pilots, who resent them taking the place of their dead friends. Meanwhile, despite credible service in France, former RAF aerobatics pilot Robin Priestman finds himself stuck in Training Command -- and falling for a girl from the Salvation Army. On the other side of the Channel, the Luftwaffe is recruiting women as communications specialists -- and naïve Klaudia is about to grow up.

Where Eagles Never Flew won the Hemmingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction awarded by Chanticleer International Book Awards

The books I picked & why

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

By Stephen Bungay,

Book cover of 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!

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

By Stephen Bungay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Most Dangerous Enemy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen Bungay' s magisterial history is acclaimed as the account of the Battle of Britain.

Unrivalled for its synthesis of all previous historical accounts, for the quality of its strategic analysis and its truly compulsive narrative, this is a book ultimately distinguished by its conclusions - that it was the British in the Battle who displayed all the virtues of efficiency, organisation and even ruthlessness we habitually attribute to the Germans, and they who fell short in their amateurism, ill-preparedness, poor engineering and even in their old-fashioned notions of gallantry.

An engrossing read for the military scholar and the general…


Fighter Boys: The Battle of Britain, 1940

By Patrick Bishop,

Book cover of 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.”

Fighter Boys: The Battle of Britain, 1940

By Patrick Bishop,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fighter Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For 123 days in the summer of 1940, 3,000 youthful airmen in the Royal Air Force fought back against Hitler's advancing forces with a heroism that astonished the world. Drawing on interviews with scores of surviving pilots as well as diaries and letters never before seen, military historian and journalist Patrick Bishop re-creates with astonishing intimacy and clarity this excruciating, exhilarating war of nerves. In their own words, the pilots describe what it was like to bale out from a stricken plane, to go into battle in the face of overwhelming odds, to hear the screams of a comrade as…


The Few: Summer 1940, The Battle of Britain

By Philip Kaplan, Richard Collier,

Book cover of 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.

The Few: Summer 1940, The Battle of Britain

By Philip Kaplan, Richard Collier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Few as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fifty years ago, in the blue skies of a late English summer, history's first major air battle was fought. In a journey to the airfields and other key locations, this book looks back on the Battle of Britain.


Nine Lives (Witness to War)

By Alan C. Deere,

Book cover of 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.

Nine Lives (Witness to War)

By Alan C. Deere,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nine Lives (Witness to War) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the autobiography of Alan Deere, New Zealand’s most famous RAF pilot who saw action from the Munich Crisis to the invasion of France in 1944.

Al Deere experienced the drama of the early days of the Battle of Britain while serving with Spitfire squadrons based at Hornchurch and Manston, and his compelling story tells of the successes and frustrations of those critical weeks.

Deere’s nine lives are the accounts of his fantastic luck in escaping from seemingly impossible situations. During the Battle of Britain he parachuted from stricken aircraft on three occasions and once was blown up by…


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

By Geoffrey Wellum,

Book cover of 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.

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

By Geoffrey Wellum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First Light as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first-hand account of a 17-year-old Englishman who became an ace fighter pilot with the RAF, the youngest at the time, and flew Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Battle of Britain, the British Royal Air Force, and the United Kingdom?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Battle of Britain, the British Royal Air Force, and the United Kingdom.

The Battle Of Britain Explore 14 books about the Battle of Britain
The British Royal Air Force Explore 25 books about the British Royal Air Force
The United Kingdom Explore 448 books about the United Kingdom

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Battle of Britain, A Moment in Time, and Eagle Day if you like this list.