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The Battle of Britain

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  413 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
'If Hitler fails to invade or destroy Britain, he has lost the war,' Churchill said in the summer of 1940.He was right.The Battle of Britain was a crucial turning point in the history of the Second World War. Had Britain's defences collapsed, Hitler would have dominated all of Europe and been able to turn his full attention east to the Soviet Union.

The German invasion of F
Hardcover, 704 pages
Published May 13th 2010 by Transworld Publishers Ltd.
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Mar 16, 2014 James rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
I really enjoyed reading this book, James Holland does a brilliant job in encompassing all aspects of the Battle of Britain not just Fighter Command. He details the role played by The Observer Corp, Bomber Command, the RN, the Home Guard, Radar and AA defence. From the German perspective he goes on to explain the roles of the U boats and S boats and the workings of the German High Command.
A significant portion of the book deals with the lead up to the Battle of Britain, the Battle of France is w
'Aussie Rick'
Dec 19, 2009 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2, aviation
This book offers the reader a very enjoyable account of the five months between May and October 1940 when Germany invaded the Low Countries smashed France and chased the BEF back to England. The book covers the fighting in France, the retreat back to Dunkirk and then the German operations against England in preparation for 'Sealion', the invasion of Britain.

The book just doesn’t cover the aerial offensive but also the German naval operations that included the U-boats and Schnellboote's and also
A very populair history novel about the Battle of Britain. James Holland mixes an overall account of the battle with personal stories from people who actually experienced it, from both sides. For someone who is generally interested in history (like me) it's a very enjoyable read.
Oct 23, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it
The funny thing about e-readers is you can't tell how long the book is, or how much of it you have left, aside from the percentage listed on the bottom, which just isn't the same as the way the balance of a book changes based on how much you've read versus how much you still have left to read. So this book turned out to be longer than I had anticipated, but that was for the most part a good thing. The author took the long view of what the Battle of Britain was, rather than just the aerial war ov ...more
Aṣwin Mannepalli
Sep 06, 2015 Aṣwin Mannepalli rated it it was amazing
As someone who spent preschool mostly playing "jet" with arms outstretched and running around in circles chasing imaginary MiGs, I can't imagine a cooler gig than being a fighter pilot. The fact is that after one of those end-of-the-world college breakups, I actually called a recruiter and tried to sign up for the Air Force. When I found out that there was no way in hell Uncle Sam would trust my eyesight with an expensive aircraft I turned to a life of pushing numbers around on a spreadsheet. (M ...more
Barbara Mader
Sep 07, 2011 Barbara Mader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii
This is a decent, accessible, popular history of the Battle of Britain. It brings in the personal experiences and reflections of a handful of pilots, gunners, and seamen from both the British and German military. Because I haven't read many books yet about the personal experiences of people serving in the German air force or navy, and none at all during the time of the Battle of Britain, those bits were of particular interest to me. There were also some character sketches of various American, Br ...more
Aug 31, 2012 Cathy rated it it was amazing
This book showed me how little I really knew about the Great War as my Grandad called it. It is amazing how much the outcome of that war depended on mistakes made by the German forces and some very good luck on the side of the allies.

It is not an easy read, but it is interesting - I found it wasn't dry like many history books, I suggest reading it in chunks rather than trying to read the whole thing in one go. It was definitely worth persevering with, especially as it brought to life real people
Jan 01, 2012 Charlotte rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed reading both sides of the story. I found myself re-reading chapters and looking up people for whom I had never heard of. It was also good to read how there were Germans who did not slavishly follow Hitler and the Nazis. There was descent, but it also gave food for thought again, how easily people are swayed to an extreme hatred and aggression. A lesson we should all heed.
Steven Voorhees
Feb 13, 2017 Steven Voorhees rated it really liked it
The Battle of Britain saved freedom. It was one of World War II's inarguable twists (next to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union). In 1939-40, Nazi Germany conquered Europe from east to west. It bended all to its will. After it crushed France, the Third Reich set its sights across the English Channel on Britain. If England had caved, German victory in World War II might have been complete. But the Teutonic war machine stopped, literally, at the water's edge. ...more
Apr 08, 2013 Mormonhermitmom rated it liked it
I only took one course of Military History in college, but I enjoyed it. I don't qualify as an "armchair tactician". That being said, I don't enjoy a work of military-focused nonfiction that goes too far into terms that only military personnel would understand. I can follow only a short ways before long acronyms and other jargon start to lose me.

This work by James Holland, fortunately, doesn't go too far that way. I learned a lot about 'the Blitz' from this book I hadn't known before.

For instan
Nov 15, 2011 Palmyrah rated it it was ok
A square, thick book that covers the eponymous event comprehensively and from a wide range of perspectives. Holland argues that the Battle of Britain really began with the French and British defence against the German invasion of Belgium and France, which ended in the heroic but shambolic retreat from Dunkirk. He spends nearly all of the first half of the book on this, as well as on setting the scene with regard to politics in Britain, the changing role of America, the strategic decisions and ta ...more
Jun 30, 2016 Wulfburk rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2
This is the best WW2 book ive read. Not only Holland takes a look into the major aspect of the operations, beginning with the fall of france, then dunkirk and later on the battle of britain itself, but he also goes deep into the personal level, having interviewed tons of german and british soldiers, pilots, civilians and etc. The end was quite heartbreaking, with him reporting what happened to all the people he had focused on the ground during these 5 months of struggle.

The book is quite large,
May 12, 2014 Scott rated it it was ok
Most readers seem to like the author's approach of constructing an imagined narrative in which the author tells us what participants in the events were thinking, feeling, smelling, hearing, etc. But for me this was hugely distracting and annoying. Although the endnotes sometimes give clues about what sources were used to undergird the narrative, ultimately this book feels more like historical fiction than history. The approach makes it very difficult to discern what is truth, what might be truth ...more
Martyn Handley
Jan 03, 2014 Martyn Handley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, the title of the book is a little misleading. You would think that it would focus on the aerial battle between the RAF and the Luftwaffe in 1940...but you'd be wrong. A large proportion of the book (at least half) deals with the German invasion of France and the Allies total inability to counteract the German Blitzkrieg offensive. The author explains that this is where the actual battle FOR Britain began, and I agree with this and don't have a problem with it, but the title of the ...more
Jesper Jorgensen
What can I say other than James Holland cuts some very good an readable books?

This time I was told how close Great Britain was to defeat in the summer and autumn of 1940, why she was not due to the clever set up and management of British defence assets and resources by Sir Huge Dowding. And of Churchill's 'clever hand' in choosing the right persons to the right posts in a time of utter urgency. (Like Lord Beaverbrook in charge of aircraft production)

And of the poor management of German resources
Steve Rippington

Holland's 'Battle of Britain' is insightful, balanced and well written. Decades after the events covered in this book, the subject is still emotive. However, this book manages to look at the lead up to the Blitz objectively, without ever being dry or dull. The German side of the story is given as much attention as the British, and the atrocities, mistakes and difficulties for the Allies and the Axis are dealt with fairly.

The book starts with the declaration of war on Germany, by the Briti
Jan 27, 2013 Aleks rated it really liked it
A massive and possibly definitive account of the Battle of Britain from the prelude including the rearming of Germany and creation of the Luftwaffe and the Fall of France. Holland is very comprehensive and debunks a lot of popular myths about the players and forces involved, but this book needed serious editing on the readability side. Holland tends to make unclear transitions and to give fascinating facts without sufficient explanation. I understand that Holland is a historian, not a novelist, ...more
May 01, 2012 Lee rated it really liked it
Since the first nearly three hundred-plus pages deal with the German blitzkreig and the evacuation of the BEF from France, the title is a bit misleading but probably represents how Holland views the critical importance of not sending precious fighter squadrons to France where they would have certainly been largely destroyed.

His balanced, largely non-judgemental and occasionally humourous approach makes sense given that he is recounting events largely through the eyes of ordinary soldiers, pilots
Robert Morrow
Sep 22, 2011 Robert Morrow rated it it was ok
The first part of the book, describing the fall of France and Dunkirk is both compelling and moving. The author intersperses the narrative with personal stories of the soldiers involved, and while sometimes this can be distracting, the stories become reflections on the absurdity of the war raging around them.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book falls flat; the narrative build-up is lost so much that when you finally get to the Battle of Britain, it's anti-climactic and lacks a coherent story lin
Dec 04, 2013 Gary rated it really liked it
It's not often that a book makes one cry, much less three times and a work of non-fiction at that.

This is a remarkably unbiased and objective account of those fateful months in 1940 when a scant few brave men from Britain and her Empire and a select few others (Czech, Polish and American volunteers) fought off the Nazi hordes, turning the tide of World War II and beginning the defense of global freedom.

The book is notable for its presentation of the conflict from both sides and for doing so from
Aug 27, 2016 Bryan rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
At over 600 pages covering just 5 months, I thought I would be overcome with detail by this book. However, with the exception of a few of the air battle descriptions blending together, the book more than held my attention, adding some real depth to my understanding of this critical juncture in history. I especially liked it when the author would galvanize a moment by adding Churchill's oratory to his assessment- 'And so bear ourselves, that if the British empire and its commonwealths last a thou ...more
May 05, 2011 Jerry-Book rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More detailed study than others. This may be the definitive study. This book points out what I had not considered that Churchill almost blundered severely by committing too many airplanes to a doomed France. Also it shows what a bad manager Goreing was and his reliance on the wrong airplanes and the wrong strategy. The wrong strategy was the commitment of German fighters to protecting bombers. The right strategy was shooting down British fighters. Of course, I was familiar with Hitler's decision ...more
Fraser Cook
Sep 13, 2011 Fraser Cook rated it really liked it
Interesting and well paced exploration of Britain's finest hour. dispelling some myths, confirming others. Told from the viewpoint of both British and German personnel. Interesting viewpoint, that Hitler managed to invade Europe, defeat France, narrowly miss beating Britain, with troops that were vastly outnumbered by their better equipped French and British opposing forces. In the end, alone but for the commonwealth, Britian prevailed due to to better organisation, better tactics and indeed thr ...more
Sep 05, 2016 Nathan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, military
A comprehensive, readable, and thoroughly researched examination. In contrast to most histories of the Battle of Britain, Holland spends little time discussing the battle proper, instead devoting nearly 2/3 of the book to background information--the May offensive in France, the cultural climate in Germany and Britain, technological and political developments, etc. This may seem tedious, but it gives a crucial context, and explains several aspects of the battle that I have found confusing in the ...more
Vikas Datta
Aug 06, 2012 Vikas Datta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is no shortage of books - well-researched and well-argued ones - on this vital flight but Mr Holland's account more than holds his own among the illustrious selection, as it seamlessly moves from the big grand strategic and strategic picture to a wealth of small details that arouse and maintain interest about the human angle including vivid and incisive pen-portraits of the senior commanders on both sides, the pilots engaged in combat and those waiting for them at home...
Mar 11, 2012 A.N.Satrio rated it it was amazing
This is my first book related to battle of Britain and I think it gave an accurate information on the topic. I've always thought the British's Spitfire was the best WW-2 single fighter plane from the start which is not! the German ME109 was. Also, read to see how Hitler made a blunder that saves Britain, how German sole conviction defeat much stronger French-Britain forces in the first wars. Worth reading.
Sep 23, 2013 Andrew rated it it was amazing
The definitive account

Holland takes an expansive view of the battle, looking at the fighting in France and elsewhere in great detail before turning to the air war itself. But this approach pays off by giving the author a thorough insight into the strategy of bith sides both before and during those all-or-nothing months of 1940.

Thoroughly recommended - this is the benchmark for anybody writing about this sphere of the war.

'The Policeman of Secrets'
Sep 23, 2016 Dave rated it liked it
Holland provides a lot of detailed insight into the battle of Britain. The hard core historical reader will probably enjoy it more than I did. The book got a bit long. Holland includes a ton of personal accounts. He mixes the personal accounts back and forth between the German side and the British side with no transition in between so that it is sometime difficult to know who he is referring to.
Stephen Mccullough
May 09, 2013 Stephen Mccullough rated it liked it
Interesting approach to argue the Luftwaffe's defeat in the Battle of Britain was partially due to the heavy losses it suffered in the successful conquest of France. One annoying habit of the author was to continually refer to people by their first name. This was good pop history but far from the definitive study of he topic.
Johan Hammar
Nov 12, 2013 Johan Hammar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good account of the battle! Although it took half of the book until they even left Dunkerque it gives a good account of the events that led up to the real subject and then a good picture from both sides.
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James Holland was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and studied history at Durham University. He has worked for several London publishing houses and has also written for a number of national newspapers and magazines. Married with a son, he lives near Salisbury.

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