"Part military history, part chronicle of survivors' memories and part moving tribute to London, the result is reminiscent of Richard Collier's The City That Would Not Die, but is a captivating and important contribution in its own right...Mortimer's dramatic renderings of what Londoners and German and British military men experienced make for compelling nonfiction." - Kirkus Reviews
"A microscopic analysis of this night frozen in time." - Mail on Sunday (London)
Drawing on scores of eyewitness accounts and previously classified records, British journalist Mortimer has written the first extensive account of the deadliest night of the 1940-1941 London Blitz. Believing that "terror attacks" against civilians would break "England's will to resist," the Luftwaffe began bombing London on September 7, 1940. Instead of caving in, however, the British responded with an endearing bravado. The great raid of May 10-"the savage climax to the Blitz"-severely strained that indomitable spirit. That night, the Germans sent 507 aircraft to drop 711 tons of bombs-including 86,173 incendiary bombs-on London. By dawn on May 11, London was near collapse. More than 2,000 fires blackened the sky, 11,000 homes lay in ruins and more than 3,000 people were dead or wounded. What Londoners did not know was that that night would be the last major raid against the city; the Blitz would end on May 16. While Mortimer focuses on London, he also switches the narrative seamlessly among the city's residents, the air crews at their bases in the English countryside and the Luftwaffe pilots attacking from their bases in occupied France. The author notes that the Blitz has become a clich to later generations and asks rhetorically if it has "relevance in modern London." The recent terrorist bombings in London's subways emphatically answer that question. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Fisher's book about a lesser-known aspect of the Battle of Britain, the "Dowding System," using radar for air defense, crackles with energy when describing the science behind the fledgling radar and the maneuvers of reckless pilots. Fisher (cosmochemistry & environmental sciences, Univ. of Miami; A Race on the Edge of Time) also brings about real drama in describing the back-room political struggles between Churchill and Dowding's Royal Air Force (he was head of Fighter Command) in implementing the new and misunderstood tool of war. The author follows the progression of Lord Dowding from a committed, brilliant, yet vague air force commander to his loss of the post in late 1940 and transformation into a man more interested in paranormal phenomena and communing with his dead wife. Dowding's evolution should have been a riveting thread in the narrative, but instead the reader's sense of him never gains any momentum. Not recommended. Freelance journalist Mortimer's compelling narrative of one terrible, deadly night of the London Blitz intertwines multiple eyewitness accounts throughout the intense raid by the German Luftwaffe. Mortimer (Shackleton) supplies enough of the military facts to set the stage but allows the personal stories to be the main focus of the book. With perspectives from pilots (on both sides), firefighters, teenagers, and everyday families, his composite uniquely follows these people through several hours that changed their lives. Recommended for public libraries. A prolific author of military fiction (e.g., Goshawk Squadron) and some previous nonfiction, Robinson authoritatively takes on the myths surrounding the threat of a German invasion of Britain by sea in 1940. He has a wide command of the historical facts behind much of the perpetuated conventional wisdom and systematically lays out a case for how overblown the invasion scare was. Instead of the Spitfire pilots of the RAF, heroes of the Battle of Britain, preventing Hitler from launching an attack, Robinson argues that it was always British naval power that was standing by to defend and overwhelm an invasion. His arguments are compelling, but the writing and arrangement of topics is rather choppy. For military history collections only.-Elizabeth Morris, Illinois Fire Svc. Inst. Lib., Champaign Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
An emotionally stirring account of the single most devastating attack on London during the Blitz. Mortimer offers an engaging, down-to-the-minute retelling of May 10-11, 1941, the night hundreds of German warplanes bombed London relentlessly, threatening Britain's standing in the war. Part military history, part chronicle of survivors' memories and part moving tribute to London, the result is reminiscent of Richard Collier's The City That Would Not Die (1960), but is a captivating and important contribution in its own right. True to his journalistic roots, Mortimer opens by introducing a large cast of characters, most of whom he personally interviewed. The experiences of those who were in and around London that fateful night drive the narrative. Readers with some prior understanding of basic events and terminology of the war may have a slight advantage, though Mortimer offers great insight into the intricacies of World War II London, its population, physical layout, architecture and history, as well as the complexities of German and British warplanes and weaponry of the period. Occasional missteps (a Luftwaffe "major raid" is defined only on the final page, for example) do nothing to diminish the heartfelt testimony of survivors who, when paired with Mortimer's dramatic renderings of what Londoners and German and British military men experienced, make for compelling non-fiction. Emphasis is placed on how fear, confusion and devastation were offset by the unprecedented ways in which Londoners came together to offer assistance. Mortimer's focus is on people, but some of the most emotionally wrenching passages concern not the terrible loss of life, but the destruction of some of London'smost beloved architectural and historical treasures. Reader-friendly, informative reporting-history that reads like a novel.