Dogfight, The Battle of Britain, Anzac Battles Series

B1842

The author starts off by asking the question ‘Do we need another book on the Battle of Britain?’. He then fails to completely answer the question in his introduction, although he answers it very well in the earlier Acknowledgements. This is essentially a view of the Battle of Britain from the perspective of Australian and New Zealand pilots. As such it is a very welcome addition to the pool of information on what was the first turning point in World War Two.

The author tells the story of the 171 airmen from New Zealand and Australia, the second-largest group in the foreign contingent, put their skills, resolve, character and courage into the largest aerial battle yet to be fought in the skies of Europe. ‘Dogfight’ tells the story in detail and completes the knowledge of what these brave young men did in fighting Nazi aggression.

Reviews

ASDNews

Broadly Guns

Nighthawk News

Firetrench Directory

NAME: Dogfight, The Battle of Britain, Anzac Battles Series
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
FILE: R1842
DATE: 240613
AUTHOR: Adam Claasen
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
PAGES: 224
PRICE: £12.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT:: 1940, 1939-1945, Second World War, World War Two, ANZAC, Battle 0f Britain, Luftwaffe, German Air Force, Hurricane, Spitfire, Defiant, RAF, Fighter Command, The Few
ISBN: 1-78159-362-1
IMAGE: B1842.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.comqfzr9d4
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: The author starts off by asking the question ‘Do we need another book on the Battle of Britain?’. He then fails to completely answer the question in his introduction, although he answers it very well in the earlier Acknowledgements. This is essentially a view of the Battle of Britain from the perspective of Australian and New Zealand pilots. As such it is a very welcome addition to the pool of information on what was the first turning point in World War Two.

As time moves towards the 80th Anniversary of this great aerial struggle, it is perhaps coming towards the point where new perspectives will bring new knowledge and even begin to change the overall perceptions. There may yet be some personal accounts from those who were there, but it is now more likely that these will be valuable reprints of books written some time ago, or collations of personal accounts edited by someone born after the events. Time is also removing the elements of deep hatred that were generated by the German attempts to rape Europe and conquer the world, at a time when a re-unified Germany again sets out to establish a Greater Germany ruling the vassal states around it, this time through blackmail and bullying, forcing the replacement of national leaders in subordinate cultures with the same arrogant zeal that started the Second World War.

Until the Summer of 1940, Germany had swept all before it by extortion or military violence. The British Army had succeeded in evacuating, together with large numbers of French troops from the beaches of Dunkirk. In their amazing escape, they were forced to leave behind much of their equipment. It was not a victory but it was a welcome propaganda coup and it did ensure that a cadre of trained soldiers was available to defend the home islands. What they left behind in France was rapidly replaced by an outstanding industrial effort, and the replacement equipment was generally better than the lost equipment. With each week that passed, the British Army was growing more capable and those soldiers of other nations who had escaped were formed into an additional fighting force, operating either under a Government in Exile, or being absorbed into British formations. That would make any German invasion a more costly affair for the Germans and progressively reduce their prospects of success. There were even the first attempts to fight back as small raids were begun on the Occupied Coast and RAF bombers moved from dropping leaflets to dropping explosives on military targets in Germany and the Occupied Countries. To deny the French warships in North African bases to the Germans, the Royal Navy shelled and destroyed many of those warships.

What was not initially begun was an air war over the British Isles. At first the Germans attacked coastal convoys in the hope of bringing up and destroying the RAF fighters piecemeal. That failed. The Battle of Britain then commenced with attacks on RAF fighter stations and radar sites. That also failed, partly because the Germans decided to begin bombing civilian targets in the cites and partly because the RAF distributed its fighters to satellite fields and the very advanced command and control system, with its radar sites and human spotters of the Royal Observer Corps, was maintained and expanded. The Germans had begun the battle with an over confident expectation, that was dashed as German losses mounted and the RAF continued not only to maintain its defence, but to increase the numbers of fighters being brought into contact with the German bombers and escorts further and further from the target areas. Inevitably, the Germans moved over to night attacks in the same way that the RAF moved to night bombing, with a reduction of bomber losses but also with a reduction of accuracy and a movement to area bombing of what where then mostly civilian targets around war production sites and other points of military interest. When the turn came for Germany to receive intensive night bombing, the RAF were operating larger bombers with greater bomb capacity at night and the US had entered the war to bomb in daylight. By that stage the Allies were able to establish air superiority over Germany, which the German Air Force failed to do over Britain in 1940.

Where Dunkirk was no victory but an outstanding achievement in the face of defeat, the Battle of Britain was a victory of arms because the initiative passed to the RAF in home defence, enabling its Bomber Command to take the battle to Germany with increasing power. What was not realized at the time in Britain, beyond a handful of people, was just how close the Battle was, and how much of a debt was owed to the airman who flocked to Britain from the furthest parts of Empire and fought alongside volunteers from across the Occupied Countries of Europe. Relatively little has been written by or about those volunteers who enabled the RAF to man the new fighters rolling off the production lines. It is therefore particular welcome to see a new book published that expands the coverage of volunteers from overseas. Pilots and crews came in an increasing flow from New Zealand, Australia, India and Canada, from South Africa, East Africa, the Caribbean , the East Indies, and from countries including the Irish Republic and the United States that were not part of Empire and where their home countries were declared neutrals.

Welding that diverse group of individuals into an advanced fighting force was no small achievement. For those such as the Poles and Czechs, it was an opportunity to take their flying skills and aggression to an enemy now on equal terms with aircraft as good as anything the enemy owned and using technologies that were superior.

The author tells the story of the 171 airmen from New Zealand and Australia, the second-largest group in the foreign contingent, put their skills, resolve, character and courage into the largest aerial battle yet to be fought in the skies of Europe. ‘Dogfight’ tells the story in detail and completes the knowledge of what these brave young men did in fighting Nazi aggression.

It is perhaps unfair, or even inaccurate, to say that Britain would have lost the Battle of Britain without this help from the other English-speaking nations. Had they not been participating so successfully, the RAF would have had to take drastic efforts to keep up with the rate of attrition. The probability is that more pilots would have been drawn from Bomber Command, Coastal Command and the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. The margin of victory would have been narrower and other consequences would have followed in other areas of combat as those formations donating pilots to Fighter Command would have struggled and suffered increased costs. Perhaps, the Battle of Britain would have been lost. We will never know. What we do know is that the contribution by ANZAC fighter pilots was key to the success that was achieved.

Leave a Reply