Dogfight - The Battle of Britain, Adam Claasen

Dogfight - The Battle of Britain, Adam Claasen

ANZAC Battles Series

This book looks at the 171 Australian and New Zealanders who fought with RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. The main focus here is on the day-by-day narrative of the fighting, built around detailed accounts of individual pilot's activities. These often use first-hand accounts written by those pilots, some from post-war memoirs, others from wartime reports, including some written during the battle by airmen who didn’t survive.

These individual accounts are supported by a good framework that places them in context, tracing the overall development of the battle and its various phases. In these sections the most important Anzac of the battle comes into centre stage - The New Zealander Air Vice Marshal Keith Park, commander of 11 Group throughout the battle. He was thus in charge of the most important group in the RAF at the time, and faced the worst of the Luftwaffe offensive.

One interesting feature to emerge from this book is the dominance of the 'ace' - New Zealand produced seven aces during the battle, Australia six, and they accounted for 40% and 60% of their nation's claims during the battle - a very high proportion. Most of these men had logged significant hours in their aircraft before the battle and most had fought in France earlier in the year, demonstrated the experience. One of the more melancholy images of the Battle of Britain is of the new pilot who doesn’t even get time to unpack before being shot down, having arrived at their squadron with only a handful of hours in a modern aircraft.

This book will obvious appeal to an Australian and New Zealand audience, but I also found it to be of more general appeal, providing a look at an interesting cross-section of Fighter Command's pilots, as well as the way in which the Anzacs integrated into both the wartime RAF and Britain.

1 - Beginnings
2 - The Prelude
3 - Channel Battles
4 - Life and Death
5 - Eagle Attack
6 - Shot Down
7 - Sector Airfields
8 - Hard Pressed
9 - London Burning
10 - Last Gasps
11 - Conclusions

Author: Adam Claasen
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 224
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2012

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