Pen & Sword Books Ltd 2019
One moment the sky would be full of aircraft wheeling and positioning for the best shot at the enemy; a sky full of danger and menace. The next instant there would just be a clear blue empty sky with the sun shining down on a calm and beautiful landscape. Such was the phenomenon experienced by pilots who fought in the key battles of France and Britain in the Summer of 1940.
These air battles were certainly the most important ever fought in defence of the country and have deserved the millions of words that have been written about them. However, as the number of surviving veterans dwindles to single figures, interviews with some of The Few' who actually fought the battle are of increasing importance and rarity. This book tells the story of nineteen men and women who were there.
Through a series of filmed interviews their stories were preserved, allowing them to tell the part they played in the nation's defence in their own words. It is the transcriptions of these interviews that form the basis of this unique collection of accounts. The nineteen stories are riveting and insightful, yet full of modesty and humour.
The veterans talk about not being very good or just being followers of the aces - but underneath it all is a great pride that day after day they flew sortie after sortie against an enemy who had never been beaten until that moment. They talk of aerial battles perhaps three or four times each day; of the aircraft that carried them into battle without faltering; of the social life in their precious moments of quiet and peace; but most of all they talk about comradeship, friends and colleagues. Some friendships lasted barely a few days while others continued for decades.
Three of the interviewees epitomise the men from fifteen other countries who joined the RAF to fight. Others represent the thousands of ground crew, WAAFs, ATA, drivers, plotters, radar operators, airfield defenders, controllers, aircraft builders, cooks and associated personnel without whom the Royal Air Force would have been unable to maintain the fight against Germany.