With an introduction read by Max Hastings. Bomber Command's offensive against the cities of Germany was one of the epic campaigns of the Second World War.
More than 56,000 British and Commonwealth aircrew and 600,000 Germans died in the course of the RAF's attempt to win the war by bombing. The struggle began in 1939 with a few score primitive Whitleys, Hampdens and Wellingtons, and ended six years later with 1,600 Lancasters, Halifaxes, and Mosquitoes razing whole cities in a single night. Max Hastings traced the developments of area bombing using a wealth of documnets, letters, diaries, and interviews with key surviving witnesses. Bomber Command is his classic account of one of the most controversial struggles of the war. Max Hastings, author of over 20 books, has been editor of the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard. He has received many awards for his journalism and was knighted in 2002.
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Stunningly real. Gritty. Breathtaking.
A British Story in British Voice
I tend to listen to each of my Audible purchases twice. Not this one, although I may do so in the future. It just isn't as comprehensive a book as Max Hastings' later works.
Barnaby Edwards' reading was excellent. I appreciated the second to last chapter, which detailed the experience of the Germans "under the bombs" (whereas the bulk of the book dealt with the British experience of the campaign).
To an American ear, his Churchill performance seemed spot on.
I had no extreme reaction to this book. The material verged on dryness a lot of the time. Hastings takes on a very strong British tone in this book. There's a slight air of detachment that persists throughout the telling. That's not to say the material isn't enlightening.
As an American brought up on tales of the air war over Europe, I realized that the breadth of my knowledge dealt with the American and German perspectives. I wanted to know what the British went through. I appreciated this book because it gave me exactly that: a British perspective on their area bombing campaign. I've gained plenty of knowledge on their campaign, and along with it, a new appreciation for what the British bomber crews went through in the night skies over Western Europe.
In this book, you spend a lot of time in the bombers with the crews, and an equal amount of time at the planning table with figures like Butch Harris. What you don't experience in great detail, however, is the experience of the Germans. Hastings does devote some time to explaining the German air defenses. He quotes the night fighter pilots on one or two occasions. The second to last chapter is devoted to the experience of the civilians on the ground at Darmstadt. However, I craved more--so much that I've actually bought a separate book on the Hamburg raid of 1943 to bolster what I feel is a gap in my knowledge.
The short is this: Bomber Command isn't as comprehensive as Max Hastings' later works, such as Nemesis and Inferno.
The vast majority of this book is from the British perspective--which makes complete sense, absolutely. I just felt that it bore mention that as I listened, I had a continuous urge to get out of the Lancasters, Sterlings, and Wellingtons. The voice and tone are also distinctly British, which isn't easy to explain, but as an American, I had trouble *feeling* the events that Hastings was recounting. There's a sort of divide between our cultures that other Americans will probably notice as they listen to this story. I don't enjoy saying this, but I couldn't bring myself to root for the British bomber crews in the same way that I do for the boys in the Fortresses and the Liberators.
If you, like me, are an American who's looking to expand his knowledge about the air war, this book is worth your time. You'll learn a lot. Just be prepared to know the British side--don't expect a comprehensive telling from all who experienced the night bombing campaign.
- Thomas K. Krug III