The Battle of Britain Experience

Roger Moorhouse enjoys a lavish Second World War book package

The Battle of Britain Experience
Author: Richard Overy
Publisher: Carlton
Reviewed by: Roger Moorhouse
Price (RRP): £30

The latest volume of Richard Overy’s Experience series is a timely examination of the Battle of Britain, coinciding as it does with the 70th anniversary of that momentous summer of 1940, when Britain stood alone against the Luftwaffe. 

Like its predecessors, this book is a most impressive and well-produced package. Drawing on Professor Overy’s proven experience in this field, the text is as readable and reliable as one would expect from a historian of his stature, covering all the relevant developments, the controversies and the personalities involved. 

The book is nothing so grand as a reinterpretation or reassessment, it is a straight-forward retelling of the story – from the earliest German raids to the post-war commemoration of the conflict. In truth, there is perhaps little here that would be new to the battle-hardened enthusiast of the subject, but the lavish treatment – with numerous illustrations, maps and box-outs – more than compensates for any lack of novelty.

As with the other volumes in the series, the real surprises are often in the book’s enclosures, however, which are a treasure trove of facsimiled documents and memorabilia; from pilots’ log books and contemporary maps to private letters and official correspondence.

The result is a cornucopia of information which will fascinate and enlighten in equal measure, and will be enjoyed both by the cognoscenti and by those approaching the topic for the first time. If it’s possible to produce a ‘coffee-table’ book on a subject as gruesome as warfare, then surely this is it. 

Roger Moorhouse is the author of Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler’s Capital, 1939–45 (The Bodley Head, 2010)

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