Amongst the twenty-five BoB veterans you will find, next to representatives of the whole Commonwealth, also a Polish, a Czech and a Belgian man, but no Dutch man. These I have also not been able to find on the BoB memorial plate in St. Pauls Cathedral, during a recent visit. I must admit that due to this my interest for this book slightly diminished. The twenty-five reports have mainly come about through historical digging and relentless effort. Stories written in the 1st person -from the pilot himself- are not in it. On the other hand, almost none of them are still alive anymore.
The performances of the in this book described RAF Veterans can be called extra ordinary. The BoB period is by Air Marshall Dowding himself characterized as: ‘our goal was not to win, but to not loose’. The report of this seems very Wikipedia-like to me. No emotions of the involved air hero’s, but a factual story of their pilot experiences during WWII and how it went with them afterwards. It becomes clear though that the civilian society posed very different demands on them after the war than the solo jet fighter existence.
What is striking in this book is that of almost each air battle above Great Britain it is known who the German opponents were. The Luftwaffe sections as well as the involved pilots and crew members are mentioned and what happened to their plane and crew. However, there are also some German ‘Aces’ mentioned, who took down more than a hundred allied airplanes and survived the war. They managed to climb to the highest ranks, soon afterwards, in the post war Bundes Luftwaffe. The quickly developing Cold War provided opportunities for these successors of the Red Baron!
The photo material in this book of course shows all the mentioned BoB pilots, often with their planes and mascot dog. From the German airplanes almost only photos of burned down wreckages are included. Photos from German Pilots do not appear in this book, whilst quite a large number of them did end up in captivity. Mentioned is though, that the BoB pilots regularly visited their less fortunate opponents.
Summarized: It has not really became a ‘read in one go book’ but a reference book. Sometimes a bit too much of the same in a BoB period of about a year, with some escapes to how it went with the BoB pilots after the war. About the real public hero’s, like Sailor Malan, Douglas Bader and Peter Townsend, who by the way, you will not find in this book, have already appeared plenty of books with their personal stories.