The Right of the Line: The Role of the RAF in World War Two, John Terraine

The Right of the Line: The Role of the RAF in World War Two, John Terraine

This is one of the classic histories of the Second World War, focusing on the role played by the RAF in the war against Germany, both at home and overseas. In this rather large single volume Terraine covers the pre-war expansion of the RAF, the battle in France, the Battle of Britain, the Atlantic, the strategic bombing campaign, the campaigns around the Mediterranean and the final victorious campaign between D-Day and VE Day.

In general studies of the air war fall into two camps - one that focuses almost entirely on the aircraft, and the other that looks at squadrons, theories and strategies, while rarely if ever getting involved in any debate on the technology involved. Terraine manages a rather better balance that this, admitting that a study of the aircraft involved is an essential study of the air war, as it’s the aircraft that make everything else possible. A good example is the number of fighter squadrons in the RAF in 1938 and 1939 - while the number of squadrons and even aircraft hardly changes, the biplanes of 1938 have been replaced by an ever increase number of Hawker Hurricanes and the first Spitfire squadron, making the fighter force far more effective.

Despite its age (now 25 years old), this is an incredibly valuable piece of work, presenting a well researched and fairly comprehensive overview of the RAF's contribution to victory against Germany, looking at its failings (the early bombing campaigns) as well as its achievements (the battle of Britain or the successes of the Mosquito and Lancaster).

I: The Preparation
II: The Test
III: The Strain: The Battle of Britain
III: The Strain: The Battle of the Atlantic (I)
III: The Strain: The Strategic Air Offensive (I)
IV: The Victory: The Mediterranean
IV: The Victory: The Battle of the Atlantic (II)
IV: The Victory: The Strategic Air Offensive (II)
IV: The Victory: Victory in Europe

A: Western Air Plans, September 1 1939
B: 'Diversions' of Bomber Command
C: The Crisis of the U-boat war: British, Allied and neutral shipping sunk, January 1942-May 1943
D: Sinkings of U-boats, January 1942-May 1943
E: A Mass Air Force
F: Secretaries of State and Chiefs of Staff, 1933-45
G: Sir Charles Portal and the long-range fighter question

Author: John Terraine
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 840
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2010 edition of 1985 original

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