David Knights' Weblog

January 30, 2012

Book review: The Hardest Day

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 12:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

The Hardest Day
The Battle of Britain, 18 August 1940
By Alfred Price

223 Pgs
ISBN 978-1-4072-1458-0

The Ploesti raid is one of the most interesting events in WWII to me. What, wait a minute.  Isn’t this a review of a book on the Battle of Britain?  Yes, yes it is. But read on a little further.

This book, first published in 1979 (This edition was published in 1998), covers the events of August 18th, 1940, which the author deems to be “the hardest day” in the Battle of Britain.  On that day, 100 German and 136 British aircraft were destroyed; more than any other single day during the battle.  The author covers all of the actions on that day, covering the numerous German fighter and bomber missions and the British counterattacks.  During this phase of the battle, the Germans were still attacking airfields and radar stations during daylight.  The author does a fantastic job of providing insights and descriptions from participants on all sides of the battle, both those in the air and those on the ground.

The attack on Kenley airfield is particularly well covered.  Oh, and the tie in to Ploesti?  I didn’t know it at the time I bought the book, but one of the features on of the air war on this day that makes in particularly interesting is that the Germans planned to make a low level raid with the 9th Staffel of KG 76 on Kenley airfield just after it was attacked by high level bombers.  The 9 planes of the 9th Staffel swept in over the field at roof hanger height after the main attack.  Like the Ploesti attack, it was costly to the attackers, with 4 of the participating aircraft shot down and the other 5 damaged to varying degrees.  Author Price does a fantastic job with the story of this part of the attack.  You can tell from the attention to the detail and the descriptions of this part of the battle, it served as the inspiration to the author to tell the story of this particular day.

Having been written in 1979, many of the participants were still alive and all of us interested in the history of the battle are greatly indebted to the author for all of the personal interviews and recollections he gathered.  I am glad this book has been reissued and I can highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in this this part of the air war in Europe in WWII.  I happened to pick my copy up at Half Price Books for the bargain price of $4.99.  The only downside of the book is that it is printed on rather cheap, rough, paperback pulp, so the photographs don’t reproduce very well.

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