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Bungay is a British historian and author who has made the Battle of Britain his pet area of study. His academic pedigree is rock solid, having studied Modern Languages (MA First Class) and Philosophy (doctoral level) at Oxford; and he was a Research Fellow at the University of Tübingen in Germany. His work is well-balanced, thoroughly researched, and having been crafted half a century after the events, there is no political sub-text being pursued.


This is not a typical SAASS academic book and one should not expect to find a new Douhetian unifying theory of air power within; or an air-oriented Clausewitzian triumvirate to take away. The Most Dangerous Enemy – A History of the Battle of Britain does exactly what its title suggests. It provides an excellent historical analysis of what turned out to be Goring and Luftwaffe’s culminating point in World War II, and in so doing provides a great opportunity to synthesize other course concepts in the context of one of the most important operational level campaigns of World War II.




The text is comprehensive, and the illustrated version represents the epitome of Sun Tzu’s deception: what appears to be a coffee table quick read, is actually a most comprehensive and well-written mix of thorough historical research, coupled with caveated anecdote and opinion. Bungay concludes that the Battle of Britain was not the close run fight that many others present. There are an infinite number of links that one can make for comps: the importance of economic power to sustain military power; Boyd’s OODA loop demonstrated in Dowding’s s defensive system of system; technology and innovation in the role and employ of radar; civ-mil relations in the form of the RAF arguing not to commit more aircraft to France despite huge pressure being exerted upon Sir Winston; and net-centric concepts of warfare including swarming. Crucially, you can employ a mass of Clausewitz’s coup d'oeil in the genius of Park and Dowding's organisation of their defence; or the strength of defence versus offense. The most resonant lesson for myself is that Jomini wrote: “Strategy is the art of making war upon the map, and comprehends the whole theater of operations. Grand Tactics is the art of posting troops.” Jomini’s assertion is perfectly depicted in Stuffy Dowding’s integrated air defence system and the iconic operations room map boards that allowed the Battle of Britain to be “war upon the map” against the German assault.


In short, Bungay’s central argument is that the British war machine was far more efficient than Hitler’s; and that Germany did not have the industrial capacity mobilized to replace the aircraft lost over England. The text spans the political, strategic, operational and tactical levels of war and captures much that has been neglected by other authors. It leaves no personality beyond critique including a decent argument as to why Douglas Bader’s concept of the Big Wing didn’t fly as a successful tactic when employed by 12 Group. A fun read but it will take a couple of days!

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