Jean-Vincent's Reviews > Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain

Fighter by Len Deighton
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Apr 27, 2010

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bookshelves: wwii-air, wwii-uk, wwii-western_front
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Fighter - Thre True Story of the Battle of Britain

Recommended. As its title obviously implies, this book is about the Battle of Britain. It is a general overview of the battle as seen from both side of the Channel and makes for an interesting introductory reading. Those who have a thorough knowledge of the battle will find it brings an interesting perspective and a good read, but not much "new" informations per see.

The book is made of five parts:

1- Strategy
2- Air Chief Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander in Chief Fighter Command
3- Weapons: The Metal Monoplane and Radar
4- Tactics
5- The results

It aslo includes a short selected bibliography.

The author is a good writer, and the pace of the story keeps you into it all along. The book goes into the most important elements of the battle, from RAF and Luftwaffe high command problems, intents and ambitions, its technical side, to the way it's been fought, up to its results. As with most books on the BoB, the misfortune of Dowding is ever-present, and one can safely assume Deighton is rather sanguine about this (and so Leigh-Mallory and Bader each get 'sort of' a beating).

It does have a few shortcomings though. The most important is the lack of footnotes/endnotes. It's not possible to know where Deighton got his information, and as such, it cannot be considered a "true" histroical work. This is especially true when Deighton write about the role of Ultra intercepts during the battle, refering to "Nonsenses" that have been written about this, without saying just what he refers to (My guess is Anthony Cave Brown's "Bodyguard of Lies"). Deighton, for example, refering to the infamous Coventry bombing during the night of the 14-15 November, dismiss the idea that Churchill was aware - through Ultra - of its impending occurence, explaining the horrific efficiency of the raid through a failed british attempt to jam the X-Gerät guiding device that actually helped the German formations instead of confusing them. That may well be the case, but good historian practice requires one to actually offer arguments to counter previous thesis. Sneering hardly cuts it.

This also leads to the second irritating aspect of the book: Deighton write as if he was the first to do so, without mentionning previous work on the matter. This would have help put his own book in perspective, but as stated above, the book, being aimed at a large audience, is really more a vulgarisation.

All in all, I definitely recommend this book as a quick, interesting read on the Battle of Britain.

Jean-Vincent Roy
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