“To Defeat The Few” by Douglas C. Dildy & Paul F. Crickmore

I have been an admirer and keen follower of Osprey Publishing as they have published many books relating to a period in history which has always fascinated me, namely World War II. Winston Churchill immortalized the fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force  in 1940 during the Battle of Britain. In his inimitable style, Churchill said, ” Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” The RAF pilots came to be known as The Few.

Douglas C. Dildy, a former fighter pilot and Colonel in the United States Air Force, and Paul F. Crickmore,  a former air traffic controller and a well-known aviation enthusiast have written, “To Defeat The Few”  published by Osprey Publishing. This books seeks to provide a more balanced view of the fighting over Britain, with the authors having had greater access to material from the Luftwaffe, (German Air Force) and other sources of Nazi Germany of those times.

The conclusion, of course, is foregone. The Luftwaffe failed in its objective of destroying the Royal Air Force (RAF) to facilitate an early invasion of England by Hitler’s forces. The failure was not so much for the lack of fighting spirit or bravery on the part of the Luftwaffe pilots. Although the Luftwaffe was numerically far superior than the RAF, the biggest cause of its failure was the clear lack of strategic leadership. For all his vanity and supposed exploits as a fighter pilot of World War I, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering could not provide the leadership that was required. Certainly his leadership was mediocre in comparison with that provided by Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh ” Stuffy’ Dowding , the chief of RAF Fighter Command.

The book traces the air war over Britain from the time the BEF was left stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk following Hitler’s blitzkrieg till the time the invasion of England was formally called off by Hitler. It covers the relative strengths and weaknesses of the fighting units, the challenges they faced, and their respective successes and failures. It highlights how, largely for the purpose of propaganda and for lifting the morale of the public, vastly exaggerated claims were made on both sides of  “kills” in air combat.

It also details the backgrounds and contributions of all the leaders in the air war on both sides, the RAF as well as the Luftwaffe. It is interesting to see how superior technology came to the aid of the Allies by way of early warning systems. The fact that German codes were cracked by the British Intelligence gave them yet another edge in the battle.

Overall, this book is a comprehensive account of the battles in the Luftwaffe’s campaign to destroy RAF’s Fighter Command in 1940. Students of military history and World War II buffs like me will vastly enjoy the book.

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