Tuesday, July 21, 2020

96. Letters from the Few

Letters from the Few: Unique Memories from the Battle of Britain. Dilip Sarkar. 2020. [November 2020] 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The Battle of Britain, at the time an air battle of unprecedented scale, was fought between 10 July and 31 October 1940–the stakes infinite. During those epic sixteen weeks of high drama, closely following the catastrophic Fall of France, RAF Fighter Command–a multi-national force–and the German Luftwaffe jousted daily for control of the air over southern England, aerial supremacy being a prerequisite for Hitler’s proposed seaborne invasion of south-east England.

Premise/plot: Letters From the Few may appeal to just a few, but to those few it will mean the world. Each chapter of Letters from The Few focuses on one man and tells his story, largely through his own words. The author Dilip Sarkar has been a dedicated fan, researcher, historian for decades. He corresponded with many, many pilots who flew during World War II in The Battle of Britain. He has selected twenty-five. (Twenty-four pilots, one ground crew support). The book closes with an epilogue featuring correspondence with a German pilot who became a prisoner of war.

Chapter One Flight Lieutenant Richard Jones AE
Chapter Two Group Captain Peter Townsend CVO DSO DFC*
Chapter Three Wing Commander Roger Boulding  
Chapter Four Squadron Leader Dennis Adams 
Chapter Five Group Captain ‘Uncle’ George Denholm DFC 
Chapter Six Squadron Leader Jack Stokoe DFC 
Chapter Seven Group Captain Herbert ‘Pinners’ Pinfold 
Chapter Eight Warrant Officer Peter Fox  
Chapter Nine Flight Lieutenant Denis ‘Nick’ Nichols
Chapter Ten Wing Commander Frederick ‘Taffy’ Higginson OBE DFC DFM  
Chapter Eleven Flight Lieutenant Reg ‘Johnny’ Johnson
Chapter Twelve Air Commodore Herbert ‘Tubby’ Mermagen CB AFC  
Chapter Thirteen Wing Commander Frank ‘Fanny’ Brinsden 
Chapter Fourteen Wing Commander George ‘Grumpy’ Unwin DSO DFM  
Chapter Fifteen Air Vice-Marshal David Scott-Malden CB DSO DFC
Chapter Sixteen Group Captain Alec Ingle DFC AFC AE
Chapter Seventeen Air Commodore Peter Brothers CBE DSO DFC
Chapter Eighteen Flight Lieutenant Reg Nutter DFC
Chapter Nineteen Squadron Leader Boleslaw ‘Gandi’ Drobinski VM KW DFC
Chapter Twenty Squadron Leader Bob Beardsley DFC  
Chapter Twenty-One Flight Lieutenant Harry Welford AE
Chapter Twenty-Two Flight Lieutenant William Walker AE
Chapter Twenty-Three Air Marshal Sir Denis Crowley-Milling KCB DSO DFC
Chapter Twenty-Four Squadron Leader Jerzy ‘Jurek’ Poplawski VM KW  
Chapter Twenty-Five Sergeant Ray Johnson
Chapter Twenty-Six Group Captain John ‘Cat’s Eyes’ Cunningham CBE DSO** DFC* AE
Epilogue Hauptmann Hermann Kell Heinkel 111 Pilot 
The narrative weaves together bits of their letters. And gives a general overview of their life--some more than others. I get the feeling that he knew some men better than others. Most chapters include photographs. 
My thoughts: I find this a valuable book to be published. It includes many primary sources. It isn't the story of one man or one unit or squadron. It gives details and glimpses but not necessarily an extensive overview. The details tend to be more technical and related to flying specific missions and skirmishes. Some chapters are more lively than others. 

My favorite quote:
‘Without historians, archaeologists and memories, we humans would soon be without a past, without parameters for our judgement and guidance; without hope and just a black hole as the future.’

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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