The best Battle of Britain books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about the Battle of Britain and why they recommend each book.

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The Most Dangerous Enemy

By Stephen Bungay,

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

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!


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

Fighter Boys

By Patrick Bishop,

Book cover of Fighter Boys: The Battle of Britain, 1940

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.”


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 Few

By Philip Kaplan, Richard Collier,

Book cover of The Few: Summer 1940, The Battle of Britain

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.


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

Nine Lives (Witness to War)

By Alan C. Deere,

Book cover of Nine Lives (Witness to War)

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.


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

Tally-Ho! A Yankee in a Spitfire

By Arthur Donahue,

Book cover of Tally-Ho! A Yankee in a Spitfire

Art Donahue is the inspiration for my character, Gerry Donaldson, in my book, and Tally-Ho! is the book he wrote about his life while the Battle of Britain was still raging around him. Art was one of many Americans who volunteered at the risk of losing US citizenship, but as a fully qualified flying instructor he jumped the queue and very quickly found himself in a Spitfire cockpit flying into hostile skies with 64 Squadron. Donahue went on to fight in other theatres and write further on his experiences. Sadly, he did not survive the war, but this unique and vibrant document serves as a memorial and a celebration of a true American pioneer.


Who am I?

It all started in the cinema of a seaside town in 1970 when, as a young boy, I sat open-mouthed in front of a sparkling Technicolour movie. Before my eyes, the very foundations of British life were defended from tyranny by dashing pilots riding in sleek, powerful fighter planes. The film, The Battle of Britain, instilled a life-long fascination with the events of 1940. Years later I discovered one of The Few had grown up in my hometown and was buried in our local graveyard. I started to research the life and times of this man and his story became the foundations of my first novel, Bluebirds.


I wrote...

Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

By Melvyn Fickling,

Book cover of Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

What is my book about?

My Battle of Britain novel is based on the true stories of an East Anglian RAF airman and an American volunteer, arguably the first from his nation to fire guns in anger against the Nazis.

The Battle of Britain defined the future for Britain, Europe, and America. Bluebirds tells the story of the ordinary young men who are thrown together into deadly jeopardy as Hitler plunges Europe into its darkest ever hours. Andrew Francis and Gerry Donaldson were born on different sides of the Atlantic just before The Great War. Together with the mildly psychotic Bryan Hale, they fly Spitfires through the summer of 1940 when invasion is imminent and Britain faces almost certain defeat. This is the first book of the Bluebird Series.

Eagle Day

By Richard Collier,

Book cover of Eagle Day: The Battle of Britain

It might be a venerable classic, but it’s still in print for a very good reason. Collier focusses on the six weeks of 1940’s English summer when Great Britain was in extreme peril of defeat and subjugation. He relates the history of this pivotal moment using a rich tapestry of personal accounts and eye-witness testimonies of the real people who were involved in this epic struggle. We hear the voices of pilots fighting for their lives in the air, their crews grafting on the ground to keep the aircraft serviceable and the civilians who daily watched the frenetic dogfights that swirled through the sky above their towns and villages, duels to the death upon which the very fate of the nation depended.


Who am I?

It all started in the cinema of a seaside town in 1970 when, as a young boy, I sat open-mouthed in front of a sparkling Technicolour movie. Before my eyes, the very foundations of British life were defended from tyranny by dashing pilots riding in sleek, powerful fighter planes. The film, The Battle of Britain, instilled a life-long fascination with the events of 1940. Years later I discovered one of The Few had grown up in my hometown and was buried in our local graveyard. I started to research the life and times of this man and his story became the foundations of my first novel, Bluebirds.


I wrote...

Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

By Melvyn Fickling,

Book cover of Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

What is my book about?

My Battle of Britain novel is based on the true stories of an East Anglian RAF airman and an American volunteer, arguably the first from his nation to fire guns in anger against the Nazis.

The Battle of Britain defined the future for Britain, Europe, and America. Bluebirds tells the story of the ordinary young men who are thrown together into deadly jeopardy as Hitler plunges Europe into its darkest ever hours. Andrew Francis and Gerry Donaldson were born on different sides of the Atlantic just before The Great War. Together with the mildly psychotic Bryan Hale, they fly Spitfires through the summer of 1940 when invasion is imminent and Britain faces almost certain defeat. This is the first book of the Bluebird Series.

The Battle of Britain

By James Holland,

Book cover of The Battle of Britain: Five Months That Changed History; May-October 1940

Historian James Holland is also a novelist, and it is that parallel writing talent that makes his history books as compelling to read as a thriller novel. In this history of the Battle of Britain he casts his net back to events in France, marking the beginning of the battle proper as early May 1940, two months before the officially recorded date. This presents the battle as a continuation of the wider events that caused it to be necessary. He widens his narrative beyond the desperate struggles of the fighter pilots to include the experiences of bomber command, the navy, the back-room boffins, and the politicians. The result is a highly readable and deeply satisfying account of one of history’s most important pivotal events.


Who am I?

It all started in the cinema of a seaside town in 1970 when, as a young boy, I sat open-mouthed in front of a sparkling Technicolour movie. Before my eyes, the very foundations of British life were defended from tyranny by dashing pilots riding in sleek, powerful fighter planes. The film, The Battle of Britain, instilled a life-long fascination with the events of 1940. Years later I discovered one of The Few had grown up in my hometown and was buried in our local graveyard. I started to research the life and times of this man and his story became the foundations of my first novel, Bluebirds.


I wrote...

Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

By Melvyn Fickling,

Book cover of Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

What is my book about?

My Battle of Britain novel is based on the true stories of an East Anglian RAF airman and an American volunteer, arguably the first from his nation to fire guns in anger against the Nazis.

The Battle of Britain defined the future for Britain, Europe, and America. Bluebirds tells the story of the ordinary young men who are thrown together into deadly jeopardy as Hitler plunges Europe into its darkest ever hours. Andrew Francis and Gerry Donaldson were born on different sides of the Atlantic just before The Great War. Together with the mildly psychotic Bryan Hale, they fly Spitfires through the summer of 1940 when invasion is imminent and Britain faces almost certain defeat. This is the first book of the Bluebird Series.

Spitfire

By John Nichol,

Book cover of Spitfire

The book is well named. The Spitfire invokes a visceral response in most people, amplified in those that feel even the slightest cultural connection to the events that unfolded in the Kentish skies in 1940. Nichol centres his book on this emotional premise, conveying the feelings of the pilots who flew the Spitfire, including the ladies of the Air Transport Auxiliary, and the crews that maintained them. We learn about the development of this most beautiful of all warbirds and follow it into all the world’s theatres of war, a story expressed through the first-hand accounts of many veterans who flew and fought behind the roar of the Merlin. This is as close as most of us will come to being inside the cockpit of a Spitfire.


Who am I?

It all started in the cinema of a seaside town in 1970 when, as a young boy, I sat open-mouthed in front of a sparkling Technicolour movie. Before my eyes, the very foundations of British life were defended from tyranny by dashing pilots riding in sleek, powerful fighter planes. The film, The Battle of Britain, instilled a life-long fascination with the events of 1940. Years later I discovered one of The Few had grown up in my hometown and was buried in our local graveyard. I started to research the life and times of this man and his story became the foundations of my first novel, Bluebirds.


I wrote...

Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

By Melvyn Fickling,

Book cover of Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

What is my book about?

My Battle of Britain novel is based on the true stories of an East Anglian RAF airman and an American volunteer, arguably the first from his nation to fire guns in anger against the Nazis.

The Battle of Britain defined the future for Britain, Europe, and America. Bluebirds tells the story of the ordinary young men who are thrown together into deadly jeopardy as Hitler plunges Europe into its darkest ever hours. Andrew Francis and Gerry Donaldson were born on different sides of the Atlantic just before The Great War. Together with the mildly psychotic Bryan Hale, they fly Spitfires through the summer of 1940 when invasion is imminent and Britain faces almost certain defeat. This is the first book of the Bluebird Series.

Piece of Cake

By Derek Robinson,

Book cover of Piece of Cake

Robinson’s evergreen work of fiction shines forever bright thanks to his gritty characterisation of the realities of life in a fighter squadron in France, and later in post-Dunkirk Britain, in 1940. You’ll not find any of the usual stereotypes in Hornet Squadron, yet the characters are quickly made real in the reader’s mind, familiar and grotesque in equal measure as they struggle to overcome the inertia of RAF combat doctrine, the frictions of class prejudice, the joys of impossible love and the clash of incompatible personalities, all while fighting for their lives in the cockpits of their near-obsolete Hurricane fighters against horrifying odds.


Who am I?

It all started in the cinema of a seaside town in 1970 when, as a young boy, I sat open-mouthed in front of a sparkling Technicolour movie. Before my eyes, the very foundations of British life were defended from tyranny by dashing pilots riding in sleek, powerful fighter planes. The film, The Battle of Britain, instilled a life-long fascination with the events of 1940. Years later I discovered one of The Few had grown up in my hometown and was buried in our local graveyard. I started to research the life and times of this man and his story became the foundations of my first novel, Bluebirds.


I wrote...

Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

By Melvyn Fickling,

Book cover of Bluebirds: A Battle of Britain Novel

What is my book about?

My Battle of Britain novel is based on the true stories of an East Anglian RAF airman and an American volunteer, arguably the first from his nation to fire guns in anger against the Nazis.

The Battle of Britain defined the future for Britain, Europe, and America. Bluebirds tells the story of the ordinary young men who are thrown together into deadly jeopardy as Hitler plunges Europe into its darkest ever hours. Andrew Francis and Gerry Donaldson were born on different sides of the Atlantic just before The Great War. Together with the mildly psychotic Bryan Hale, they fly Spitfires through the summer of 1940 when invasion is imminent and Britain faces almost certain defeat. This is the first book of the Bluebird Series.

Fly for Your Life

By Larry Forrester,

Book cover of Fly for Your Life: The Story of R. R. Stanford Tuck

A classic biography about one of the Royal Air Force’s most colorful fighter pilots during the early part of the war.  Robert Stanford Tuck was born into a wealthy family, but had an individualistic spirit that was sometimes at odds with that family.  Prior to the war, he went to sea aboard a tramp steamer where he did much growing up. Upon his return, he was drawn to the excitement of flight and joined the Royal Air Force. Not an intrinsically gifted pilot, he nearly washed out of training, but ultimately flourished. He excelled as a leader as one of the “few” during the Battle of Britain. 


Who am I?

I am an aviation historian and writer, a defense analyst, and a retired, combat-experienced, Marine Corps fighter pilot. I am one of the lucky ones. Since early childhood, I wanted nothing more than to become a fighter pilot. It was a combination of good fortune, hard work, and a bit of talent that made it possible for me to realize that dream. I was inspired by the memoirs and recollections of World War II fighter pilots, and I read every book on the topic that I could find.  Following my military service, I transitioned from a reader to a writer; my experience as a military pilot helps to make my books real and credible.


I wrote...

Jayhawk: Love, Loss, Liberation, and Terror Over the Pacific

By Jay A. Stout, George L. Cooper,

Book cover of Jayhawk: Love, Loss, Liberation, and Terror Over the Pacific

What is my book about?

It is a story like no other. Born in the Philippines to an American father and a Filipina mother, George Cooper saw action over some of the bloodiest targets in the Pacific. Adding tension to his war was the fact that he fought the same enemy that held his family captive in the Philippines. This isn’t just a story of patriotism and combat, rather it explores personal relationships, emotions and the process of becoming a man in the skies of World War II.

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