BATTLE OF BRITAIN – RAF Operations Manual – Review by Mark Barnes

Despite bouts of airport shutting fog and dollops of rain this is turning out to be something of an Indian summer here in sunny Essex. The effect is to help extend the Battle of Britain summer we have enjoyed in the UK during the 75th anniversary year. I’ve told you before that the mountain of books on the battle was growing higher and higher and one of the men responsible for this is Andy Saunders and here he is again with another solid piece of work.

That tatty Renault 5 servicing manual I have in my archives seems some way removed from this really nice book from Haynes but the ancestry is evident and format much the same and I love this aspect of how the publisher has morphed into producing these excellent histories while keeping a firm eye on tradition.

The straightforward fact is this is a really excellent book.  Mr Saunders knows how to present the battle with enough general, technical and human-interest elements to make these things work with aplomb.  I am never so deluded to assume I know everything about the conflict and, indeed, here I learned how aircraft recognition errors led some RAF pilots to claim combats with Heinkel He 113 fighters. A small detail but it shows the level of thought that goes into this book.  I loved the ‘then and now’ element showing the remains of radar masts and other structures essential to the defence of the UK. There are some excellent images of pilots and all the usual hardware and the use of a WAAF’s original drawing is lovely.

With such a record of aviation books behind him it must be something of a challenge for this author to find something new or worth revisiting in a book of this nature. But, I have to say this book seems fresh and really sharp. Perhaps it’s just the Haynes format or something else, I don’t know, but I am impressed with the way the battle is presented and the clarity of the history telling. A Haynes book has to be technical, but there is nothing overtly anoracky here and this is good.

What do I say now? The C word is upon us the wrong side of Bonfire Night and Armistice Day and while this raises my hackles it has to be faced. If you are looking for an ideal Battle of Britain book for someone special at the end of December, even if that is you, then this could just be the one. Top marks.

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online.


July to October 1940
RAF Operations Manual
Haynes Publishing
ISBN: 978 0 85733 508 1

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.