Updated: Jul 31
Author: Dilip Amin
Publisher: Air World, 2023
This is a most interesting book. I found it so for two reasons: It taught me things I did not know or understand about the Battle of Britain (and the Second World War generally) and it often explained the more commonplace in original and illuminating terms. There is much technical information which seems generally accurate as far as I am qualified to judge.
As a work of reference on Britain’s defence system in 1940, with all the key elements on the ground and in the air explained, Enemy Sighted has plenty to commend it. For those with a keen interest in the subject it is a good read, too, a comment which notably applies to the account of events on 15 September 1940.
The author is a volunteer tour guide for the “Battle of Britain bunker” at the former RAF Uxbridge. That makes his approach lack a little in objectivity and perhaps means that the bunker is emphasised and receives a disproportionate amount of space, vital though it was.
While they are irritants rather than significant deficiencies, it is a pity that there are instances of minor errors and loose writing; the sort of things which should have been caught in editing and proofing.
For instance, on P17 we have a reference to “Royal” Auxiliary Air Force in 1940. On P23 Geoffrey de Havilland becomes “De Havilland”. On P12 “Robert Watson-Watt” is referred to in 1935. Watson Watt did not hyphenate his name until he was knighted in 1942, or so the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography claims.
On P30 (and elsewhere) Sir Hugh Dowding is demoted to “AOC”, instead of AOC-in-C, of Fighter Command. On P31, Trafford Leigh-Mallory and Keith Park are erroneously represented as knights at the outbreak of war. Neither achieved that distinction until well after the Battle of Britain. A more serious mistake here is to suggest that Keith Park commanded No 11 Group in September 1939. His date of appointment was 22 April 1940.
When it comes to the unveiling of the Sir Keith Park statue in Waterloo Place, London, in 2010 (P125), the point is rather missed regarding Wing Commander Bob Foster’s appointment as an unveiler. He was indeed one of a significant number of the Few who were present. However, his participation in the ceremony owed something to the fact that he was chairman of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, of which Sir Keith had succeeded Lord Dowding as President.
Finally in this selection is the old chestnut on P148 (in relation to Flight Lieutenant Nicolson’s recognition) that the VC is awarded “for valour in the face of the enemy”, with the words presented as a quotation. Actually, the recurring phrase in official documents is “in the presence of the enemy”. This is the case, for example, in the first VC warrant of 29 January 1856 and in the 1931 warrant, operative in 1940.
Maybe there will be some tidying up before a future edition and then we will have an even better candidate for a Battle of Britain library.