In the balmy summer of 1940, the most critical battle of the Second World War was fought out over the fields and towns of southern England.
In this book, Ralph Barker unearths twelve little-known but unforgettable stories of men whose names may be unfamiliar but without whose selfless tenacity Britain would not have survived.
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The restoration of squadron morale after the debacle in France, the misunderstanding of the RAF's role at Dunkirk, the harnessing of the 'ace' mentality to the attritional contest - all these are recounted, together with the inside story, related here for the first time.
The award of Fighter Command's only VC; of the 'mad Irishman' who knocked down his adversary with his wing-tip in mid-air; of the fight to the death over Hyde Park Corner which stopped London's traffic; and of the poignant tragedy of the nineteen-year-olds who sold their lives dearly when thrown in at crisis point with scant preparation to plug ever-widening gaps.
The bomber crews, too, are not forgotten, their losses being even greater than those of the fighter pilots; nor are those left behind to mourn, like 'Bunny' Lawrence, who loved two brothers and was equally loved in return, only to lose them both within twenty-four hours at the climax of the Battle.
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About the author
Ralph Barker was born in 1917 and educated at Hounslow College. He joined the editorial staff of Sporting Life in 1934, but later went into banking. Meanwhile, he had begun writing, and several of his sketches and scenes were produced in West End Revue.
In 1940 he joined the RAF as a wireless operator/air-gunner, served in the Middle East and West Africa as well as the UK, and completed 2,000 flying hours before demobilisation in 1946. He returned to banking for a year, and then went into civil aviation as a radio officer. At the end of 1948, Ralph Barker rejoined the RAF and went to Germany as a public relations officer on the Berlin Airlift; he worked on the official airlift history. After two years in Service broadcasting at BFN Hamburg, he was posted to the Air Ministry in November 1952 to work on official war narratives.
His first book Down in the Drink was published in 1955, and in addition to several other non-fiction books with an aviation background, The Schneider Trophy Races, he has written an account of a mountaineering expedition and three books on cricket. In 1959 he was posted to RAF Aden, until April 1961 when he retired voluntarily from the RAF to write full time. He was a frequent contributor of feature stories to the Sunday Express.