Summer 1940: The Battle of France is over; the Battle of Britain is about to begin. If the swastika is not to fly over Buckingham Palace, the RAF must prevent the Luftwaffe from gaining air superiority over Great Britain. Standing on the front line is No. 606 (Hurricane) Squadron. As the casualties mount, new pilots find a cold reception from the clique of experienced pilots, who resent them taking the place of their dead friends. Meanwhile, despite credible service in France, former RAF aerobatics pilot Robin Priestman finds himself stuck in Training Command -- and falling for a girl from the Salvation Army. On the other side of the Channel, the Luftwaffe is recruiting women as communications specialists -- and naïve Klaudia is about to grow up.
Helena P. Schrader is an established aviation author and expert on the Second World War. She earned a PhD in History from the University of Hamburg with a ground-breaking dissertation on a leading member of the German Resistance to Hitler, which received widespread praise on publication in Germany. Her non-fiction publications include Sisters in Arms: The Women who Flew in WWII, The Blockade Breakers: The Berlin Airlift, and Codename Valkyrie: General Friedrich Olbricht and the Plot against Hitler, an English-language adaptation of her dissertation. She has also published a number of historical novels and earned over twenty literary awards. For more about her publications visit her website at: http://helenapschrader.com
"Its high-octane descriptions of air maneuvers and daring escapes are breathtaking.... Because of its ambitious scope and phenomenal details, down to the last "Mae West" jacket, the novel is compelling, humanizing a historical event ....." Foreword Clarion Reviews (Read full review.)
"Scenes exploring the characters inner lives are compelling... [and] Schrader also succeeds in accurately portraying the bombing raids and defense missions.... A painstakingly researched war novel with complex characterizations." Kirkus Reviews (Read full review.)
RAF Battle of Britain Ace Wing Commander Bob Doe called it "The best book about the Battle of Britain I have ever seen! It got it smack on the way it was for us fighter pilots. I couldn’t put it down!"
The President of the Battle of Britain Historical Society Paul Davies said it "will become a classic."
Aviation expert Simon Rodwell noted "it is hard to imagine that a new novel could be written that would make the Battle of Britain seem fresh. Yet this is exactly what Helena Schrader has achieved."
USAF General Kencil Heaton noted: "This is a great book that any pilot or would-be-pilot will love. The description of the flying scenes is so accurate, I can easily imagine myself in all of the air-to-air battles."
Feathered Quill Reviews (Amy Lignor) said: “This author struck gold with this story. …The human side of war is intense and the detailed descriptions of the crafts and the fights were so vivid that they pulled me back in time… Quill Says: I cannot recommend this highly enough. Do not miss this memorable, intense, amazing story.”
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What a wonderful, exciting and poignant account of of the Battle of Britain! My father was a bomber pilot of a B-17 flying missions over Germany but never talked about his experiences. I think I now understand what he, his crew and those of the English men who fought, went through during WWII. Helena Schrader brings to life the frightening, heartrending but realistic experiences of the
men who flew missions from Britain against Nazi Germany, the women who served and families who coped during the war.
I'd not read anything about the day-to-day experiences of the dependable ground crews who supported the fighter pilots and bomber crews, keeping their planes up and running with relentless, constant repairs. Instead of being just a cursory topic it is fully fleshed out as to just how important this support is to holding off the German bombing offensive over Britain. The huge impact of the other ground staff is also shown in the descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of the Women's Auxiliary doing the jobs of operations room plotter, radar operator, even women pilots! and of canteen workers, cooks and other support personnel.
The realism in the book of the dogfights among the fighter pilots, the defensive maneuvers available to bomber pilots and the explanations of the advantages/disadvantages of air tactics of the English planes versus the German opened up a perspective I'd not considered or thought much about before. It was a real chess match in the air and the author makes one feel right in the cockpit beside the pilot, afraid, but steeling oneself to do what must be done to prevail or at least to survive.
The author touches on the class structure of England and features several characters from all walks-of-life. Despite these class differences, they are able to form up, work together, and become a formidable fighting force. The English characters' emotions, lives, loves are fully-fleshed out and made this reader really care about them and what happens to them. Not neglected are the Germans whose lives are also fully drawn and whose humanity is evident in the book's descriptions of their actions and feelings.
I was not only entertained but also educated by the author and learned a great deal about the events, men, women, air tactics of both the English and German sides. The historical note, glossary of abbreviations, slang and other vocabulary greatly added to my understanding as well as the superb photos. The poignant poem "High Flight" in the beginning pages is a perfect tribute to the pilots-it made me feel their motivations.
I was so immersed in this book that it was impossible to put down. Highly, highly recommended and will definitely be re-read.
I’m absolutely giddy about the decision to re-release this book. Why? Simply because if you did not get the chance to enjoy this spectacular read when it was titled Chasing the Wind: A Story of British and German Pilots in the Battle of Britain a few years back, then you now have the opportunity to delve into one of the best historical works to appear in a good, long time.
This release marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and this author does an incredible job by taking on both the German and English point of views when it came to the strategies they created in order to win. She also was able to deftly present the emotions of each person and show how they handled the celebrations and losses they felt, like the perfect ‘human’ chess game unveiled to the public.
In the telling, Helena Schrader opens the world to the early days of WWII, first placing us in Dunkirk to see the Battle of France end, before heading to Britain where their storied battle came to pass. We meet a menu of characters who will lead us through the story, like Robert “Robin” Priestman, RAF aerobatics pilot. We learn of a true flaw that he has to deal with on a daily basis. When stress hits him hard, he stops seeing the fact that he has limitations like any other normal person does, and tends to cross the line. The Air Ministry is already down on the man because of a mistake he made related to the King’s Regulations. And even though he has compiled a good service record when fighting with a squadron in France, it is the Battle of Britain that sticks his body in Training Command, and places his heart in danger as he falls deeply in love with a woman from The Salvation Army.
No. 606 (Hurricane) Squadron is still trying to come back from the losses they incurred over Dunkirk. Although new pilots join every day, the squadron’s morale is low and their resentment of these newbies runs deep as they continue to mourn their now dead friends. But in the end, the goal of the RAF is to make sure that the hideous Nazi flag never finds a place atop their beloved Buckingham Palace.
Their monster nemesis, however, the Luftwaffe, will do anything to stamp that dreaded swastika on every front porch of every house in Britain. They have plans in place, and are even recruiting women as communications specialists to help them in their fight.
Enter...Klaudia von Richthofen. A sweet, inexperienced female who is recruited by the Luftwaffe Women’s Auxiliary. She is not only seduced by a man who she should run from, but also finds herself falling for one, Baron von Feldburg. Who she doesn’t seem to recognize is Feldburg’s wingman, Lt. Ernst Geuke, who has eyes only for Klaudia and wants her to see him as more than a secondary character in her life. Of course, it doesn’t help Ernst that, next to these handsome men, his face and body and background simply don’t measure up, causing it to be nearly impossible to catch Klaudia’s eye.
Page after page we have pilots risking their lives on both sides of the Channel in order to call themselves heroes when the dust settles on the battlefield. Following both the females and the pilots, readers really get to know all the characters while they are off-duty and showing their more vulnerable sides. One of the most interesting parts of this book was the fact that even though I was intrigued by the RAF and their support, I was equally intrigued by the German Luftwaffe members. The author did a fantastic job of showing that death and the emotional aftershocks of losing someone has no boundaries. In fact, she showed that much like the North and South during our Civil War, both sides of the Battle of Britain went through the same type of pain, loss, and love – and each side worked just as hard to achieve success.
In addition, another attention-keeper was when the author vividly showed the “walls” that most assuredly are still seen in daily life: The hatred that flows between the poorer working class and the officers; the fact that no one is invincible, no matter what country they hail from or what flag they fly under; the fact that you may feel like the “supreme power” yet, in the end, the classic scrappy dog fighters who will never stop until they break the ‘big man’ continue to win.
This author struck gold with this story. You can now read what you perhaps missed the first time around, while all those readers who are already in love with this woman’s writing can go back and read this tome once again and enjoy it even more. The human side of war is intense and the detailed descriptions of the crafts and the fights were so vivid that they pulled me back in time...everything found in this book brought this somewhat overlooked battle to life.
Quill says: I cannot recommend this highly enough. Do not miss this memorable, intense, amazing story.