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The Blitz Then And Now, edited by Winston Ramsey. Published by Battle of Britain Prints International, Ltd., London. Available to U.S. readers via the worldwide web at Volume 1: 336 pages. $49.95 hardcover; volume 2: 656 pages, $74.95 hardcover; volume 3: 592 pages, $74.95 hardcover. Add $5 postage and handling for the first book and $1.50 for each additional volume.

THE BLITZ THEN AND NOW is the most massive study in the series and is published in three hefty volumes. The first covers a period typically overlooked in histories of the Blitz–the time between the outbreak of war on 3rd September, 1939, until the fall of France in the spring of 1940. It also includes the earliest stages of the air campaign against England following France’s collapse. This phase of the German air offensive was characterised by daylight attacks aimed at depleting England’s air defences in anticipation of a naval assault. An interesting sidelight to the production of the volume, notes Winston Ramsey in his opening remarks, is that one of the aims of wartime censors was to make photos of bomb damage unidentifiable by cropping out recognisable landmarks. The purposes were to make it harder for the enemy to determine the results of its bombing campaign and to lessen the emotional impact the photographs might have on British civilians. For the publishers of this series, however, the most profound result of the policy was to make the task of determining where the pictures were taken, and photographing corresponding “Now” scenes, extremely difficult. The degree to which the publishers were successful is remarkable and represents a substantial accomplishment in historical research.

In addition to its day-by-day record of the war, the first volume contains detailed articles on British defences–including radar and sound detectors, barrage balloons, and electronic intelligence gathering–and on the various types of German bombs used against British targets during the Blitz.

The second volume of The Blitz documents the time from September, 1940, to May, 1941, which saw the most intense night-time bombing raids against English cities. In addition to the usual detailed study of combat operations, the book presents vivid insights into the work of fire-fighters and bomb disposal units as well as life in underground shelters and other aspects of civilian life in a country under attack. The final volume of the set begins with a lull in the campaign against England, brought on by the shift of German forces to the east in preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union. German attacks continued throughout the rest of the war, however, most notably during the Baedeker offensive in 1942, the Steinbock raids of 1944, and especially in the form of V-weapon attacks.

In all, this three-volume work amounts to more than 1,500 pages and represents 10 years of research.

Bruce Heydt