Monday, July 20, 2009

Coming Soon - The Most Dangerous Enemy

Almost seventy years since Spitfires, Merlins and Hurricanes fought to protect Britain’s skies, it is surprising how little is publicly known about the Battle of Britain. Many people may not even be aware that the RAF’s triumph in this battle was integral in saving our country from German invasion in the Second World War. What collective memory exists at all undoubtedly features a soaring Spitfire as the hero of this epic battle, with little more detail than the faint sound of air-raid sirens. However, in the 1980s and 90s, scholars began to counter this image, publishing works which devalued Churchill’s leadership and the quality of the Spitfire’s engineering. Not sure who to believe, Stephen Bungay set out to discover the truth behind these myths. The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain contains his surprising revelations. The book brings to light stories of first-hand experience, compiled from extensive research and interviews, one of which reveals how oblivious some fighter pilots were about the significance of their actions. Outnumbered, and with little previous experience of air warfare, it appears that British pilots managed an astounding victory.

The Most Dangerous Enemy has been described as “the most exhaustive and detailed account of the Battle of Britain”, but the book is far from an alienating history textbook. Bungay manages to make an event over sixty-nine years old accessible to a modern reader by establishing the background to the battle without patronising the knowledgeable or veering into dull statistics. We learn how the Battle of Britain may not have happened, had Churchill not have been elected as Prime Minister, and how Churchill’s military confidence and sense of moral obligation stood alone against government and public calls for peace.

For the avid historian there is still much to learn about the Battle of Britain, and Bungay weaves his newfound knowledge into an exciting and compelling narrative. This is a thoroughly readable account of one of the most important battles in British history, finally providing a comprehensive and thoughtful insight into our country’s past.

The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain by Stephen Bungay will be available from August in paperback at £8.79

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