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Churchill's Few

The Battle of Britain

John Willis



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01 July 2020
True war & combat stories; True stories of heroism, endurance & survival; History; Second World War; Air forces & warfare
Eighty years after the Battle of Britain this vivid and dramatic book tells the story, in their own words, of six brave young men who fought courageously in the skies above England to prevent Hitler's invasion of Britain. This thin blue line in their Hurricanes and Spitfires were the 'few' to whom Churchill said the nation owed so much. It was, as one pilot's wife put it 'a queer, golden time', when men in their teens and twenties fought each other in a brutal but still gentlemanly conflict. At stake was the very future of Britain. The six men in this sympathetic but honest portrayal were from vastly contrasting backgrounds. Geoffrey Page, shot down in his Hurricane and the victim of horrendous burns, was a founder member of the legendary Guinea Pig Club. Bob Doe, also badly injured, was one of the most successful fighter aces but remained unheralded and out of the public eye. Cyril Bamberger rose from humble origins as a Sergeant Pilot to win a DFC and bar. Joseph Slagowski was one of the small band of heroic Polish pilots whose contribution to the Battle, as this book shows, remains scandalously undervalued. Former Daily Telegraph journalist Geoffrey Myers, Intelligence Officer in a squadron that was hopelessly and fatally led, wrote eloquent contemporaneous letters to his family, extracts of which are published here for the first time. Not all the heroes fought for Britain. Unusually this book includes the parallel but contrasting story of Luftwaffe pilot Ulrich Steinhilper, shot down and captured over Kent and destined to become one of the greatest escapers of World War II, evading British and Canadian prison camp guards five times. This unique and moving record throws light on the long-term consequences of the Battle of Britain on the lives of the young pilots in the frontline. These insightful portraits illuminate the ineradicable marks that one momentous battle made on the brave participants of both sides. Just a few months of brutal aerial combat changed their lives and history forever. As Geoffrey Page said: 'I still find it hard to take when children point at me because of my burnt face and hands. They are my enemies now, not the Germans.'
By:   John Willis
Imprint:   Menschenkinder
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 135mm, 
Weight:   532g
ISBN:   9781912914050
ISBN 10:   1912914050
Pages:   368
Publication Date:   01 July 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

John Willis is one of Britain's best known television executives. He is a former Director of Programmes at Channel 4 and Director of Factual and Learning at the BBC. He was Vice-president of National Programs at WGBH Boston. In 2012 he was elected as Chair of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). He started his career as a documentary maker and won a string of major awards for his films including Johnny Go Home, Alice - A Fight for Life, Rampton - The Secret Hospital, and of course Churchill's Few on which this book is based. He is currently Chair of Mentorn Media, producers of Question Time for BBC and he also chairs the Board of Governors at the Royal Central School for Speech and Drama. He divides his time between London and Norfolk.

Reviews for Churchill's Few: The Battle of Britain

Reviews of the documentary on which the book is based - The most moving programme of the week. The film was beautifully made by John Willis. -- Alexander Chancellor * The Spectator * Reviews of the documentary on which the book is based - Willis's characteristic sensitivity produces a film which praises yesterday's bravery without sparing society's embarrassment at their appearance today. -- Mark Lawsom * The Times * Reviews of the documentary on which the book is based - An exemplary memoir of the kind that ought to be made while the participants are still lively. -- Philip Purser * The Sunday Telegraph * Reviews of the documentary on which the book is based - Eerie unsettling perspective of a pacifist's analysis of the second world war...the remaining members of the famous few are revealed not as heroes but as flotsam in a sea of forgetting. * The Sunday Times *

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