James, T. C. G.


Whitehall History Publishing in association with Frank Cass, 1st ed., 2002. Xiv + 149 pp., 12 photo-plates + 2 maps. D.j., 25 x 18cm. FINE. This volume deals with the development of Britain's air defences during the years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War and the development of the system during the early period of the war, leading up to the Battle of Britain. Originally classified as 'secret', this report was written during the war as an internal Air Ministry history by Cecil James, a historian working for the Air Historical Branch. It is published here for a general audience for the first time. The report describes the development of Fighter Command and the air defence network, often called the 'Dowding System', and in so doing makes it clear how much of the groundwork for success was laid down in the 1920's by those working at a time when radar had yet to be developed. It was indeed the integration of technological advances such as radar and reasonably efficient radio telephones that allowed the defences to keep pace with the ever-increasing speed and sophistication of bomber aircraft. The result was the world's first truly integrated air defence network, designed to give its commanders both a picture of the enemy's air attacks as they developed and a sophisticated command system to assign and control the defending forces sent up to meet the enemy in the air. The flexibility this allowed Sir Hugh Dowding and his subordinate commanders during the Battle of Britain enabled them to conserve and concentrate their forces in the face of the Luftwaffe's numerical superiority. The book also discusses the part played by Fighter Command during the Battle of France and gives an objective analysis of the disputes over the despatch of reinforcements to France and the roles of Sir Hugh Dowding and Sir Cyril Newall.

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