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Enemy Sighted

...from Air World, part of Pen & Sword

Title: Enemy Sighted
Author: Dilip Amin
Publisher: Air World
ISBN: 978-1-39904-930-6

The sub-title gives the perfect guide to what this is all about, 'The story of the Battle of Britain Bunker and the world's first integrated air defence system'. A 229-page hard-cover book from an author who is one of the volunteers at the underground bunker at Uxbridge, which is now a popular visitor destination.
I am sure that I won't be the only person who reads this book who starts with some knowledge of the history of the Battle of Britain yet I enjoyed learning so much more. The control room in the bunker at Uxbridge was the heart of the system for No. 11 Group, commanded by Keith Park. It is likened to a spider's web, connected to the various signal and capture threads of a web that stretched over South East England, and even reaching parts of Northern France. A marvellous account of the workings of the network that knitted together not only the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the fighter squadrons based at airfields around the counties of South East England but also the Chain Home and Chain Home Low radar stations, the inland posts of the Royal Observer Corps, the anti-aircraft guns, the barrage balloons and not forgetting the vital support of the Post Office Telephone services who worked so hard to ensure the vital telephone lines that linked all these elements together. The Luftwaffe has a numerical superiority throughout the battle, but under the leadership of Keith Park and the control room at Uxbridge, they managed to orchestrate the success of the RAF in the Battle. The description of the bunker itself, and the people who worked there is so well explained, clear and easy to read and understand. There are plenty of individual accounts of some of the pilots and their experience of taking part in air to air combat with the Luftwaffe. The support required from both No 10 and 12 Groups is included, when the squadrons of 11 Group were fully committed. The descriptive account of Churchill's visit to watch the bunker at work is first class.
Along with all this there are the questions of the tactics employed by both the RAF and the Luftwaffe, which I felt were tackled in a well balanced way. There are also one or two stories that many may recognise from their inclusion in the famous film 'Battle of Britain'. The questions of 'what if' about Luftwaffe tactics remain, as they were switched eventually to attacking London, when their attacks on the Chain Home radar stations and the Fighter Command airfields themselves had born some fruit, but which was not recognised by their intelligence services. What if questions which can never really be answered. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, explaining what it took before the control room boards indicated 'Enemy Sighted', which meant that the system had worked and successfully brought the RAF fighters into actual combat with the attacking Luftwaffe formations. Recommended.
Thanks to Air World/Pen & Sword for this review copy.


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