1940: The Battles To Stop Hitler
by Mitch Peeke (Pen & Sword e-book)
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1940: The Battles To Stop Hitler is a new e-book by Mitch Peeke – and it’s clearly a labour of love. As he explains in his introduction, he was motivated to write the book by the twin march of time and political correctness diluting British pride in their victory of 1940.
However he takes a rare approach in treating the Battles of France and Britain as one connected sequence, as it undoubtedly was for both the Luftwaffe and the RAF.
There were clear phases, of course, and these are repeated in Peeke’s narrative, but the broad overview helps illuminate the full ebb and flow events, strengths and morale on both sides.
The Battle of France gets fewer pages than the Battle of Britain by a ratio close to a third. The RAF faced a rampant Luftwaffe in France, and proved equal to the fight. Aces and heroes were made – a toll taken and paid. So I would have liked to have read more of those stories too.
Then again, that struggle was all but done in two blinding weeks (‘Lightning War’, indeed), while the Battle of Britain was slugged out over several months… So in the context of ‘stopping Hitler’, especially in the air, the Battle of France was a prelude to Dunkirk and Dunkirk was a prelude to the Battle of Britain (Kanalkampf included).
Not just the Battle of the RAF
Peeke offsets his broad sweep with anecdotal details that hold the history to a human scale, in terms of both events and time.
He doesn’t just recount the air battle either; he has also sought out stories and memories from non-combatants, lending the perspective, activities and sacrifices of “the many” to the better known actions of “The Few”. I think that’s a good thing. It reminds us that it was the Battle of Britain, not just the Battle of the RAF.
That’s underlined by the author’s particular focus on his local area, around RAF Gravesend. The constant references to this one field do feel a little parochial at times, but two appendices covering the history of the aerodrome and the 15 individual pilots who lost their lives from it in 1940 adds plenty of the granular detail that’s often missing from campaign histories.
Informative and very human
If you already have a collection of ‘Battle books’, you might be left looking for the earth-shattering revelations in this one, but that’s not what Mitch Peeke sets out to do. His stated goal is to revitalise the history and contemporary interest in it. So it’s forgivable that this is a ‘Spitfires and Hurricanes’ version of events, and that some touches feel like a personal letter from the author to a new generation.
At 348 pages, the e-book will be a regular go-to on your iPad, Kindle or what-have-you. Better yet, it’s an essential addition to your kids’ tablets.
There’s even a list of historic places to visit on your next family vacation to southeast England.
Maybe we’ll see you there!