The Dive-bombing Assault on England During the Battle of Britain.
By Andy Saunders
Published by Grub Street
ISBN: 978 1 90811 735 9
I have happy memories for visits to the RAF Museum at Hendon as a young lad and when they added the Battle of Britain extension I was there to see the wonders inside including the German aircraft and the last surviving Boulton Paul Defiant. I have old photos I took back in those days and cherish them. For me, though, the plane that made it all worth it was one of the few surviving examples of the Junkers Ju87 – the Stuka.
To say something is an icon is a little difficult, because epithets are diluted in this modern age when applied to so many things that plainly aren’t. But it is the correct description for this aeroplane – one of the most recognisable bits of hardware from World War II.
This fantastic book from Andy Saunders tells the story of Stuka attacks on Britain and there is so much detail in the tactics and more importantly in the experiences of the people taking part, that I am just amazed at how much knowledge there is available. I have said before that a lot of aviation history books can be choc full of facts but short on atmosphere and rest assured this is not the case here. Mr Saunders has a easy writing style which I really got in to and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by all the information.
We know that for all it’s huge success in the attacks on Poland and the western democracies the type had practical free reign in the skies to carry out it’s missions and it wasn’t until it came up a properly organised fighter defence that things started to go wrong. Mr Saunders paints a fascinating picture of the Stuka attacks on Britain and it is easy to imagine the swarms of aircraft rumbling across the English Channel escorted by masses of Bf110 and Bf109 fighters. The experience of the people on the end of their assault forms the spine of the book as we read about attacks on ships, aerodromes and other targets. I enjoyed the combat reports and other contemporary accounts. It all comes together really well and I would say this book is something of a gem.
The Junkers Ju 87B Stuka is timeless. It is an icon. This book offers a fascinating look at the gathering nightmare building for the Stuka crews in what it is true to call a sound defeat. But they were immensely brave men and deserve our respect. Unfortunately they came up against something incredible, history was made and the course of the war was altered. The English Channel is a graveyard of the Stuka but despite this it remained in constant use until the end of the war.
There might not be many Ju87s left for us to see, the majority that came down in Britain were taken for scrap or picked clean by souvenir hunters. We certainly may never see one in flight, which I suppose would be the ultimate – but you can look at the example at Hendon or the few others elsewhere and try to imagine what it was like when these awkward birds formed great fleets in the sky and dived down to bomb with all the racket we have seen on the newsreels of old. Andy Saunders gets you close and I have really enjoyed this book.