I have read a little about “The Few” – the small band of Royal Air Force fighter pilots who defended Britain against the German Luftwaffe – and have come away with a deep respect for these men. Stephen Bungay’s The Most Dangerous Enemy: An Illustrated History of the Battle of Britain is a wonderful narrative and analysis of the Battle of Britain. This book is a pictorial follow-up of his earlier book entitled The Most Dangerous Enemy: The Definitive History of the Battle of Britain.
The book is 261 pages with roughly 150 b&w and color photographs, illustrations, diagrams, and charts scattered throughout the book. It is divided into three parts: Build-Up; Battle; and Aftermath. Bungay crams a plethora of information into the book. Without going into too much detail, he describes the commanders on both sides and their strategies and tactics to be used in the Battle; how the Battle unfolded, including important events and critical periods for both sides; and the ramifications of the Battle on the rest of the war.
Bungay thoroughly explains each phase of the Battle and how the decisions made in the 1930s affected the Battle. For example, the British made a conscious decision to increase its aircraft production beginning in the mid-1930s. However, the German aircraft industry was not as efficient as the British and the German planners were ill-prepared for the coming war. As a result, the British had more fighters than the Germans and they were able to replace their losses more easily than the Germans – German aircraft manufacturing did not hit its stride until 1943 and 1944.
Bungay’s writing is superb and easy to follow. He does not get too detailed or too broad with his descriptions. A novice of the subject will get a lot from this book, but I think an expert will learn a thing or two.
I highly recommend this wonderful narrative of the Battle of Britain.