Fighter Boys: The Battle of Britain, 1940

Overview

For 123 days in the summer of 1940, 3,000 youthful airmen in the Royal Air Force fought back against Hitler’s advancing forces with a  heroism that astonished the world. Drawing on interviews with scores of surviving pilots as well as diaries and letters never before seen, military historian and journalist Patrick Bishop re-creates with astonishing intimacy and clarity this excruciating, exhilarating war of nerves. In their own words, the pilots describe what it was like to bale out from a stricken plane, to...

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Fighter Boys: The Battle of Britain, 1940

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Overview

For 123 days in the summer of 1940, 3,000 youthful airmen in the Royal Air Force fought back against Hitler’s advancing forces with a  heroism that astonished the world. Drawing on interviews with scores of surviving pilots as well as diaries and letters never before seen, military historian and journalist Patrick Bishop re-creates with astonishing intimacy and clarity this excruciating, exhilarating war of nerves. In their own words, the pilots describe what it was like to bale out from a stricken plane, to go into battle in the face of overwhelming odds, to hear the screams of a comrade as he went down in flames. With a riveting, taut narrative, Fighter Boys relates how those young heroes changed the course of World War II—and the history of the modern world.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a sometimes painfully objective treatise, Bishop (Daily Telegraph; The Provisional IRA) narrates not only the Battle of Britain but also the development of the Royal Air Force from the mid-1930s until the war, complete with all the mistakes and misconceptions of training and strategy. To this he adds the perspective of the pilots themselves-through interviews, diaries, and letters-resulting in one of the first books to deal with the Battle of Britain without reflecting the glamour and romance of Allied propaganda. Bishop stresses that the pilots came from all classes of society, thus creating a meritocracy within the RAF, and he illuminates the role that the sergeant pilots played in the campaign. The intense training period is investigated, as is the air forces' role during the Battle for France, which precluded the terrific air campaign fought during the summer of 1940, when 3000 brave young men held off successive waves of attacking Luftwaffe fighters. The German viewpoint is also presented here, making Fighter Boys a well-rounded book. Recommended for all collections.-David Lee Poremba, Detroit P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A spirited account of what Winston Churchill deemed the Royal Air Force’s "finest hour": the defense of English skies against the advancing Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940. Since Churchill’s day, the Battle of Britain has been among the most heavily studied episodes of WWII--and rightly so, the four-month-long dogfight having been one of the early turning points of that great conflict, setting the stage for future Allied victories. Daily Telegraph associate editor Bishop adds to the literature twofold. By focusing on the young men who, smitten by visions of heroism and fed in childhood on tales of WWI aces real (Albert Ball) and fictional (James Bigglesworth), made up the fighter wings of the RAF in the opening days of the war against Hitler, he first delivers a class-conscious, highly personalized view of the battle. "You did not need ties of blood or romance to feel a particular bond with the Fighter Boys," he writes of his contemporary compatriots. "The backgrounds of the 3,000 or so pilots flying Hurricanes and Spitfires in the summer of 1940 reflected the social composition of the nation." Which is to say, unlike the British army, the RAF was made up of men who, in the main, had come from the working class or risen from the ranks, whose notions of patriotism and duty were a shade different from those of the upper crust. (For all that, one of Bishop’s heroes is Denis Wissler, an heir to the fortune wrought by Marmite, the strange vegetable spread beloved of the English.) Second, Bishop draws liberally on the memories of the Luftwaffe pilots who flew against England, many of whom believed, in the words of one, that "it would be possible to beat the English in England the way we hadbeaten them in France." As, of course, they did not: and whereas the Battle of Britain didn’t, strictly speaking, bleed the Luftwaffe dry, Bishop does a good job of considering the implications of the German failure in light of subsequent developments throughout the European theater of operations. Nicely written and rich in detail: a winner for students of aerial warfare.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142004661
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/27/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 818,447
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Bishop, associate editor at the Daily Telegraph (London), is the originator of the television series The Irish Empire and the author of the highly acclaimed book The Provisional IRA. A foreign correspondent who covered the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, Bishop has also written books about the Falklands conflict and the Gulf War.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Prologue: The White Hart 1
1 Sportsmen and Butchers 9
2 Fighters versus Bombers 27
3 'Free of Boundaries, Free of Gravity, Free of Ties' 48
4 The Fatal Step 81
5 Winter of Uncertainty 106
6 Return to the Western Front 126
7 The Battle of France 147
8 Dunkirk 181
9 Doing It 197
10 Before the Storm 212
11 The Channel Battle 231
12 The Hun 253
13 Hearth and Home 263
14 Attrition 284
15 Brotherhood 316
16 'The Day Had Been a Year' 348
17 Autumn Sunset 373
18 Rhubarbs and Circuses 385
Epilogue: The Last Note 399
Notes and References 407
Index 423
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

    A glamor free accounting of the RAF's efforts to save England in WWII.

    "Fighter Boys" is written in a 1940's style and it is not a novel. It is an accounting of the unseen everyday tensions and stresses that made hero's of young men tasked to save their country. It clearly documents the realities faced by a small & dated Royal Air Force against a larger and more experienced enemy with the future of Great Briton in the balance. This book has historical value.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    "Never was so much owed by so many to so few...."

    Winston Churchill's response reflecting how moved he was at the conduct of his Royal Air Force's "Fighter Boys" sums up this book very well. It lays out quite well just how antiquated, undermanned and outgunned the RAF was in 1940 against Germany's Luftwaffe aerial armada.

    The neat thing about this book is that it mixes in personal accounts from letters, interviews etc of those that lived it, sprinkling them into the story of the attempted isolationist international politics of Neville Chamberlain and the internal jockeying between different RAF commands (bomber, fighter) as it becomes patently obvious that isolationism is giving way to aerial attack.

    Though a fan of the British people and their RAF in those dark days now known as "The Battle of Britain," never before reading THIS book did I learn that the rebellious status symbol of a British fighter pilot was to wear their tunic with its top button undone. Well done, author Bishop!

    A very enjoyable, enlightening read for those interested in this part of WW2 history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2005

    Absolutely superb!!!

    Yes, Len Deighton's 'Fighter' is a good book, but if you really want to know about these wonderful young men and what they went through at the Battle of Britain, then this is 'the' book to have. Told in a candid, first person narrative style that skillfully interweaves historical events with the personal memoirs of the 'few' who are left, this book puts you back to the days preceding and through September of 1940. One of the best World War II books that I have ever read, period!

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    Posted September 19, 2010

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