Monday, December 27, 2010

Len Deighton "Fighter"...

Just finished this, and despite the amount of time it took me, this was purely down to lack of time to finish it rather than any other reason.. I blame Christmas and the lurgy!

I must have first read this almost 20 years ago as I do remember reading it, and the companion volume "Bomber", and thinking at the time they were good - well, a re-read all these years later has confirmed the view...

Deighton is probably best known for his fiction ("Hook, Line and Sinker" series, "Winter", "Ipcress File" etc.) but for my money he also writes very, very readable military history..

This book was written in 1977, and benefited from a lot of then recently uncovered documents and diaries. It covers the classic period of the war known as the Battle of Britain - the summer of 1940 - both in terms of technology, but also tactics & personalities.

He starts with the lead up to the battle first in terms of the development of the aircraft from both the German and British perspective - the Messerschmitt BF109 E and the Hurricane/Spitfire, but not in the tradition Anglo-centric way of comparing everything the to the perfection of the Spitfire. There's some good information on how each plane was good in it's own way, but also how each had imperfections - the Spitfire was in overall terms the better of the three but not perfect. Some interesting snippets on the political infighting within the Luftwaffe that lead to the delay in development of the Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter, and the Focke Wulf 190 which was a far better plane than the 109.

He covers off the standard tactics of both sides, and how thanks to their wars in Poland and Spain the Germans were considerably in advance of the RAF at the start of the battle... the RAF however soon caught up.

He then covered off the other technologies, radar which the RAF only really got into full operation months before the battle, but turned out to be a real winner for them. At the same time the Germans were experimenting with their own radio beam technology which they were fitting to their bombers to make them frighteningly accurate - I hadn't realised as well that it was the Germans that developed the pathfinder tactics that the RAF was to use with such devastating effect later in the war.

Couple this with an almost day by day coverage of the height of the battle, and more scenario idea's than you can shake a stick at, then if you have an interest in wargaming the air battles of the summer of 1940, this book is an absolute must have - I don't have the wargaming interest (though it does tempt!!) and I still rate this as a nine out of ten - absolutely recommended!


  1. His Blitzkrieg book is also worth tracking down.


  2. Also wrote a great history of Britain's war before the Americans joined, called Blood, Sweat and Tears. I read Fighter and Blitzkrieg a loooong time ago, too. Be interesting to read them again.

    Thanks for the review.

  3. Wings of War it is then. Baggsy the Lightning (if they do one).