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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Taking London by Martin Dugard and a short list of WWII nonfiction

Taking London by Martin Dugard is a bit misleading in both the title and the cover.  The author does spend some time on Churchill and Chamberlain and their opposing views of Germany's intentions in the decade or so before the war.  Churchill spent years trying to persuade the country to prepare for another war with Germany, but the majority of England still resisted the idea.   

With Germany's move on Poland, however, public opinion began a slow change and Churchill began climbing back to influence and power, continuing to warn of the need to be prepared.  Then France falls.

I found the first section disjointed, although there was interesting information about the "Spitfire" and "Hurricane" fighter aircraft, Air Vice-Marshall Hugh Dowding, the RAF/Luftwaffe differences, and the efforts to prepare for invasion before the Battle of Britain.

The majority of the book deals with four legendary fighter pilots and their personal experiences.  The sections on the pilots (Peter Townsend, Richard Hillary, Geoffrey Wellum, and the lone American, Billy Fiske, long before America entered the war) were much better written and flowed more easily, even though the author went back and forth between them and their individual missions to hold back the Luftwaffe.   The Battle of Britain has been described as a "David vs Goliath" situation as England was badly outnumbered in both planes and pilots.

The book would certainly have benefitted with a thorough proofreading to give a more coherent presentation. The information on the individual pilots and their accounts made it worth persevering.  

"RAF pilots were at the heart of the Battle of Britain. Just 3,000 men stood between Britain and a German invasion – those who Winston Churchill famously called 'The Few'."

WWII nonfiction, Print length:  349 pages.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group

Some recommended WWII nonfiction:

 Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

 The Liberation of Paris by Jean Edward Smith

  The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Plot to Stop the Nazi Bomb  by Sam Keane

  Dick Cole's War by Dennis R. Okerstrom  reviewed here

The Code Girls by Liz Mundy 

 Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks

  The Citizens of London by Lynn Olson

All of the above nonfiction are extremely readable, well-documented, and fascinating.



  1. Between Silk and Cyanide is one of my favs! It's such a good book. And I'm intrigued by Code Girls. I think I need to check that one out. :D

    1. Code Girls is fascinating and about American women sought out during the war for skills their skills in decoding. The Secret Lives of Codebreakers is also excellent about Bletchley Park and breaking the Enigma codes.

  2. I'm distracted by errors that should've been caught be proofreaders. Such a shame. It's good the history is being preserved. It gets harder as the generations pass on.

    1. Yes. it wasn't typos, but coherence that bothered me about the first part of the book. I almost didn't keep reading, but the parts on the RAF pilots was much better written!

  3. Is this the Dugard who co-writes all those "Killing So and So" books with Bill O'Reilly? I find that most of those suffer from the same problem, if so, but I kind of blamed that on O'Reilly forcing the issue more than anything else. Those have almost, in my experience, promised more than they deliver so I swore off them for good.

    1. Oh, damn. Just checked and it is the same one! I almost abandoned the book, but the parts on the pilots were good, so I kept reading. I knew I wouldn't be reading more by Dugard, there are too many really good authors of history, but I had not realized he'd written so many books--with such strange titles! It bothered me that the title was Taking London, when London wasn't taken, even before starting the book.