The Battle of Britain Then and Now, edited by Winston Ramsey. Battle of Britain Prints International, Ltd., London. Available to U.S. readers via the worldwide web at www.afterthebattle.mcmail.com. 816 pages. $110 hardcover. Add $5 for postage and handling.
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN THEN AND NOW covers roughly the same time period as the first volume of The Blitz, but from the perspective of the RAF aircrews who blunted Hitler’s designs against Britain. It is the most poignant book of the Then and Now series, with hundreds of portraits of RAF fliers, copies of diaries and letters sent by homesick aviators, and photos of grave sites of those of the “Few” who sacrificed their lives in battle. (The editors personally visited the grave of every RAF flier who died in the campaign, and the book lists the exact location of each, down to the cemetery plot number.)
Many of the airfields from which RAF squadrons operated are profiled as well. The characteristic “Then and Now” photos were particularly difficult to provide in this volume, Winston Ramsey notes, since the rural airfields with their grass runways gave the wartime photographs relatively featureless backgrounds without recognisable landmarks that can be compared to the present-day landscape. The editors have succeeded nonetheless, creating a sometimes sad record of spots that were once the centres of the airmen’s universe but are now no more than overgrown meadows.