Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain

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First edition (publ. Jonathan Cape)

Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain (ISBN 1845951069) is a Second World War military history book by English author Len Deighton. First published in 1977, Fighter was Deighton's first history book, he having made his name as a writer of spy fiction. Deighton was encouraged to write the book by his friend, the British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who wrote the introduction to Fighter. Fighter covers the traditional period of the Battle of Britain and the build-up to it, describing the war in the air as much from the German point of view as the British.

Deighton explains both the political and personal machinations and how they influenced technical decisions and affected the efforts of both countries. There are short biographies of the major "players", from the commanders down to the pilots in the field. It covers the errors made in the strategic, tactical and technical decisions made by both sides with remarkable objectivity.

Many 'myths' about the Battle addressed are punctured by Deighton, which leaves one to conclude that the RAF achieved their main aim - merely to survive as an effective fighting force - largely because they made fewer mistakes than did the German Luftwaffe. Deighton's description of RAF Manston ground crew, under repeated attack, remaining against orders in their air raid shelters and refusing to carry out their duties has been characterized as a 'myth' itself.[1]

Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding is Deighton's hero in this book, being one of the few people who perceived the situation accurately. Deighton argues that his strategy prevented a German victory. Despite winning the battle, Dowding was very badly treated by the Whitehall bureaucracy and dismissed - along with Keith Park, commander of 11 Group which had borne the brunt of the fighting - shortly after the victory.[2]

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