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Spitfire: A Very British Love Story

4.56  ·  Rating details ·  427 ratings  ·  50 reviews
'The best book you will ever read about Britain's greatest warplane.' Patrick Bishop, bestselling author of Fighter Boys.

‘A rich and heartfelt tribute to this most iconic British machine.  By focussing on the men (and women) who flew the Spitfire, John Nichol has brought a fresh and powerful perspective to the story.  And by recording their bravery, humility, camaraderie,
Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published May 17th 2018 by Simon & Schuster UK
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Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew I just had to read it. Oddly, it wasn’t until I actually started reading this book that I remembered a time when I was 14 or 15 my Dad took me to an airshow as a father/daughter outing about three hours’ drive from where we lived. I was completely fascinated.

I was only about 7 pages into the story when I first cried. There were also thrilling, exciting moments while reading, and very sad, even tragic moments. It reads like a fabulously well-written
"I am often asked which is my favourite is a very difficult question for me to answer. Who wouldn't be impressed with the gut-wrenching climb performance of the Lightning, almost touching the lower reaches of space, out of howling along in a Hawker Sea Fury? So I answer the question this way: if God said that I could have just one more flight, my last flight before I die, in any aircraft I have ever flown, I would choose to get airborne in a Spitfire."
That's Air Marshal Cliff Spink r
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The Spitfire was extremely manoeuvrable, albeit the 109 being still a bit faster, but you had to bring to bear all your skill and all of your feeling in order to be able to cope with the opponent in situations like that.” (Pg.73)

This is the human story about an aeroplane featuring firsthand accounts from pilots and mechanics.

Pilots, in spite of fear and sometimes mortal terror, took to the skies, knowing any flight could be their last but they did it anyway in an aeroplane that became as much
Thomas Land
This is no ordinary history book. This is no run-of-the-mill, over done book on a very famous plane. This is a book which shines a light into the soul of the Spitfire: it tells the story of the people.

It reveals the goings one of the rookie pilots almost begging to go up in a "Spit", it tells of the aces, the reconnaissance pilots, the test pilots, the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), which showed the first example of equal pay for men and women for the same job...ever, as well as telling the tal
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
As a member of the post Second World War generation who grew up on Biggles and the accounts of the battle of Britain, the Supermarine Spitfire has always been a thing of beauty for me. As the aircraft that saved Britain from being overrun in 1940, as the most beautiful of aeroplanes in all its variants, it is quintessentially British.

This book then is a paen, a hymn of praise to the aircraft and those who flew it during the Second World War. It is an attempt in hindsight to set it in its place i
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a bit of a WWII nut I'd never delved too deep in to the weaponry used in the war.

The human elements of this book are astonishing. Particular highlights are reading about the Women's ATA and their role in ferrying planes for the war. The heroic story of Jean Maridors sacrifice to save a hospital in Kent. I also found it fascinating on the pilots views post war and how they missed the war due to the adrenaline and structure it gave them.

Finishing the book by bringing it back to the modern day a
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Whichever way you look at this book it is a good read, with a series of firsthand bite size accounts from those who flew and worked on this iconic aeroplane. These accounts sometimes follow their authors through the war, where they survived their encounters with the enemy and, sometimes, blind luck. It would have been nice to have had a little more from those who designed and updated the plane but that really is the only gripe. In the midst of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, where people are suff ...more
Allan O'Laoire
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic narrative of the Spitfire’s story, and a touching insight into the struggles of the people who made the plane a part of their lives.
A good balance of the historical and “human story” elements, so that you won’t find yourself missing details of the planes many variants, nor frustrated by a dry recounting of specifications and events.
A great shame that many of the Spitfire pilots interviewed as part of this book are no longer with us, but this book certainly does its fair part in keep
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A gorgeous love letter to the Spitfire and the pilots who flew her. This book covers the technological developments, the dogfights in the skies and the personal lives of the pilots. It covers every theatre of the war and really gives you an appreciation for the value of this plane in the war.
Alan Goswell
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
This account of World War Two weaves it's way through the war years, without too much detail. It covers the events as seen and witnessed through the first hand accounts of those who were part of the contribution the Spitfires made to winning the war. I must confess that I found the first half of the book repetative in recounting the individual stories each of those very brave people told. There is a limit to how many times you can be told what a wonderful plane the Spitfire was.
The second half o
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a truly fascinating book from so many angles. I suspect that many, like me, would view the Spitfire as being synonymous with the Battle of Britain, but then having a very sketchy picture thereafter. This book inks in that sketch in effect by telling the story of the second world war through the contribution of this one aircraft.

The story starts with the initial design deriving from racing seaplanes in the 30s, through production difficulties in West Bromwich. With the outbreak of war, s
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

When it is hot as heck outside and there is nothing cool to do but reading as everything else makes you end up a sweaty mess, it is the perfect day for a speed reader.

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

The iconic Spitfire found fame during the darkest early days of World Wa
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A love story indeed. It pays homage to the men and women who designed the Spitfire, built her, maintained her and flew her — as well as to the Spitfire herself. The Spitfire was more than an aircraft. It was a symbol of hope, of courage and resilience, and became a legend. With its elliptic wings, it was easily recognisable in the wartime skies and became an icon, giving hope to those Allies civilians watching below. It inspired kids watching to become fighter pilots — on Spitfires.

The Spitfire
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-world
Wonderful book for a beautiful plane. I did not know it went through so many upgrades and changes as the Luftwaffe planes improved. I did not recall the long fights for Malta, or the disaster at Dieppe.
This book puts the immediate viewpoint of the men and women flying front and center and so brings you right there into the cockpit. The writing, by an ex-RAF pilot, is surprisingly tight and the suspense is held throughout.
The author follows the careers of a group (fewer than 25?) Spitfire pilots
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic, war
Although it’s over 70 years since its finest hour, the Spitfire retains a unique place in the British consciousness as a symbol of hope and, ultimately, of victory.

Nichol, an ex-RAF man himself, interviewed a number of veterans for this book and it is the tale not so much of the aeroplane but of the men and women who flew and worked on it. The pilots’ stories make up the bulk of the book, from ‘The Few’ of the Battle of Britain, to the photo reconnaissance pilots who flew unarmed Spitfires deep
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is so moving it is written respectfully as a tribute to this magnificent aircraft and the men and women that flew or worked with them. Fighter Aces, air crew, transport women, reconisance pilots many now in their 90s or older. So many who contributed did not see its publication but the author was able to capture the testaments of the last of the generation that flew them. I met the Spit fire ace Johnnie Johnson at the historic Battle of Britain flight in wood hall Spa and everyone was ...more
Brian Harrison
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliantly written and well researched book on this, the most iconic of aircraft, and it will find an eager readership amongst a world wide group of aviation enthusiasts in general, and Spitfire enthusiasts in particular.
The strength of John Nichol`s book lies in the many personal accounts, covering all the major WW11
campaigns, by the pilots who flew the Spitfire,ground crew who serviced them, and the ATA girls who delivered aircraft to the various squadrons.
Arguably, no other aircraft has cr
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
To say I have a love for the Spitfire is to put it mildly. From the first time my dad taught me how to draw one right up to now, I have been absolutely fascinated by this most beautiful machine.

Usually I’ve read about it during the Battle of Britain or perhaps the Defence of Malta... but as this book most fascinatingly demonstrates, there is much much more.

This book is not a history in the traditional sense. It is very much a love letter to the plane and those who flew it. Most particularly, i
Julian Walker
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of a legend, lovingly told with the style, panache and skill of the fighter plane itself.

The author cleverly weaves formal history with personal reminiscences, to create a fabulous tale of perhaps the most iconic plane ever invented (I am British so I may have a small bias here).

I was hooked from the very first pages as he describes the last flight of an aged former pilot and the look on his face as he lands - and the pace and engagement never gives up.

Filled with fascinating facts, t
Jason Smith
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Always had a keen interest in Warbird planes. But this book is utterly incredible.

John Nichols does not give you a cliche history lesson here, he helps you to understand the plane. He takes you on a sky high journey from its first days till its last. He makes you feel the intimacy the pilots had with this plane while also explaining the dangers of aerial combat with the ever troubling Messershcmitt.

I understand this national icon of a plane better now than i ever thought I would. John Nichols d
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A beautiful testament to a machine and the group of people who flew it but have now passed away. At the very end of the book there's a bit that made me quite angry. It involves a Dutch man called Hennie Noordhuis from Borne who gets in touch with pilot Jimmy Taylor in 1990 to tell him he's found his goggles, oh and by the way, after you parachuted down three men in our village were executed. This news "shattered" the old pilot. Was it really necessary to tell him that, Mr Noordhuis? Shame on you ...more
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must for aviation lovers. Whereas most literature about aircraft tends to be very technical and factual, this book gives a voice to the pilots of this wonderful warplane. I liked that it not only talked about the aces and the male pilots, but also about the countless woman pilots who were ferrying them about and the impact this had on emancipation. Well written and based on many interviews with pilots still alive when Nichol started writing. If the Spitfire ever touched you when you were young ...more
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful exploration, filled with admiration for, not only one of the greatest fighter aircraft ever designed and built, but also for the men and women that piloted the Spitfire. From the Battle of Britain to every major theater of operation in WWII we learn about the one of the greatest planes to fly and the actions and adventures of those who flew her. This is a loving tribute to some amazing people and an iconic machine that played a critical role in WWII. Without question, an enjoyable an ...more
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed this book. It gave a detailed account of the difficulties the pilots encountered and the problems of keeping the planes and airfields serviceable in all areas of combat. This was brought to life with the accounts of individuals who took part and brought to life how the war affected them. Each individual account was a story in itself and made for easy reading. I can't imagine the fatalities being accepted these days. The numbers killed are horrendous and very hard to contempla ...more
Bill McFadyen
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
John Nichol has written a fine book about this beautiful and amazing aircraft but more importantly he has captured the stories of some of those men and women who designed , built , maintained transported and flew the airplane.
His empathy towards those involved shines through on every page and he managed to capture their stories just in time as they pass away into the heavens where this warplane flew.
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very competent review of the Spitifre, her history in the WWII and a selection of stories from pilots who flew the Spitfire in WWII. Well written, the book hits just the right balance between gripping war story on the one hand and contemplative, historical description on the other hand. Simply mellow.
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More about the people who flew and maintained the Spitfire than the aircraft itself. A good, easy and enjoyable read - they were amazing people - that puts the aircraft into context. I don't agree that it is the best book written about the Spitfire though but then I am an aeronautical engineer and I look at this incredible aircraft from a different perspective. Highly recommended.
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A powerful book, totally engaging in the honesty of all these true stories of unassuming heroes. A vivid picture of wartime life, and the terrible cost of war.
A great book, and a surprisingly passionate love story about an aeroplane and the people who were involved with it.
Yes, I highly recommend this book!
Tony Wyatt
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best book ever written about the true history of this wonderful aircraft.. told through the eyes of the brave men and women whose accounts of events will have you captivated from start to finish.
John Nichol has done an excellent job in putting these stories across to the reader, bringing it superbly to life.
Bloody Brilliant
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes you find yourself caught up in the action so much, it seems like fiction. Then you have to take a breath and remember that these are real tales of real people and it makes you wonder how people went through all this and came out the other side.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.

John Nichol was Scottish man of letters, and the first Regius Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow.

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