In the summer of 1940, the future of Britain and the free world depended on the morale and skill of the young men of Fighter Command. This is their story.
The Battle of Britain, fought in the skies over Britain during the sweltering summer of 1940, was one of the most crucial battles ever fought: without the Luftwaffe's control of the skies it was unlikely that Nazi Germany would mount an invasion across the Channel.
For most of the 3000 young British airmen involved this was their first real experience of combat. The pressure on the pilots, groundcrew and their controllers was unimaginable; at certain points in the Battle a single blunder or failure of nerve could have been enough to tip the balance of the contest and give victory to the enemy.
Patrick Bishop creates a new and surprising portrait of the Battle drawing on previously unseen source material and testimonies from survivors on both sides. Against the background of wider strategic considerations, he focuses on the lives and thoughts of the combatants, their attitudes towards 'the enemy' and their aircraft, the fear, horror and exhilaration of flight and battle, attempts by each side to gain the upper hand through daring technological innovations; coping tactics, mess room life and friendships.
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‘I know of no more thoughtful nor yet more moving study of their achievement.’ Max Hastings, Sunday Telegraph
‘A living, breathing monument to the fighter boys.’ Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
‘As a vivid chronicle of who the Battle of Britain pilots were, what motivated them, and why they were ultimately successful, “Fighter Boys” is unsurpassed.’ Daily Telegraph
‘No one reading this book can possibly doubt the heroism of those involved…there can’t be a finer history.’ James Holland, New Statesman
‘Powerful yet restrained, at times almost unbearably touching.’ T. J. Binyon, Evening StandardFrom the Back Cover:
A remarkable, intimate portrait of the young men of Fighter Command, whose skill, temperament and morale determined the fate of Britain and arguably the free world.
Drawing on extensive research and fresh source material in the form of diaries, letters and interviews with scores of surviving fighter pilots, Patrick Bishop's 'Fighter Boys' is a surging narrative of unprecedented power and insight. Reaching beyond the myths that have long surrounded this elite band, he brilliantly anatomises their personal qualities – their motivation, spirit and character – and gives us an astonishingly vivid sense of what it was to be a fighter pilot.
The young men of Fighter Command – most of them 19 or 20 – were shy heroes struggling to overcome the loss of their fellow pilots and the trauma of constant aerial combat. Cordial towards enemy fighters who had been captured and often uneasy after shooting them down – 'the unpleasant business of being an executioner' – they would borrow a car after a long day of combat and head to London night clubs, returning to camp for a few hours sleep before the next day's scramble. Their world and their ethos as it developed from the First World War onward was distinct from that of the other armed forces: more egalitarian with their comrades, they fought alone in their machines in conditions that demanded nothing less than extraordinary skill, courage and unsurpassed timing.
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