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Battle of Britain The Movie (Hardback)

The Men and Machines of one of the Greatest War Films Ever Made

Aviation > Reference Aviation > WWII > Battle of Britain Photographic Books WWII

By Robert J Rudhall, Dilip Sarkar MBE
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781399014755
Published: 21st April 2023
Last Released: 29th August 2023


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Released in 1969, the film Battle of Britain went on to become one of the most iconic war movies ever produced. The film drew many respected British actors to accept roles as key figures of the battle, including Sir Laurence Olivier as Hugh Dowding and Trevor Howard as Keith Park. It also starred Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer and Robert Shaw as squadron leaders. As well as its large all-star international cast, the film was notable for its spectacular flying sequences which were on a far grander scale than anything that had been seen on film before.

At the time of its release, Battle of Britain was singled out for its efforts to portray the events of the summer of 1940 in great accuracy. To achieve this, Battle of Britain veterans such as Group Captain Tom Gleave, Wing Commander Robert Stanford Tuck, Wing Commander Douglas Bader, Squadron Leader Boleslaw Drobinski and Luftwaffe General Adolf Galland were all involved as consultants.

This detailed description of the making of the film is supported by a mouth-watering selection of pictures that were taken during the production stages. The images cover not only the many vintage aircraft used in the film, but also the airfields, the actors, and even the merchandise which accompanied the film’s release in 1969 – plus a whole lot more. There are numerous air-to-air shots of the Spitfires, Messerschmitts, Hurricanes and Heinkels that were brought together for the film. There are also images that capture the moment that Battle of Britain veterans, some of whom were acting as consultants, visited the sets. Interviews with people who worked on the film, such as Hamish Mahaddie, John Blake and Ron Goodwin, among others, bring the story to life.

"An engrossing read, enlivened by a good selection of photographs..."

Aeroplane - September 2023

"Not only is the film discussed in great detail, but for the modeller there are multiple references to the aircraft, replicas and models that were used in filming. Highly recommended."

IPMS Magazine - Issue 3: 2023

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book brings back many memories for me. I was serving as an Air Traffic Controller at RAF Bassingbourn just 4 miles from RAF Duxford during the making of the film and assisted, with a colleague, during the arrival at Duxford, of the fleet of German marked aircraft for the film. Subsequent to that event we were constantly aware of the intense activity of the aircraft involved with our own very busy Canberra aircraft movements at Bassingbourn.
The book of the film making gives an excellent description of the difficulties of the film makers bringing together all the aircraft, aircrews, actors and locations necessary to bring the story of the Battle of Britain to the screen. As mentioned in the book, this was before the era of CGI and although there were not completely original aircraft or scenes available, the essence of the Battle was captured in the best way possible. The film remains an excellent tribute to all those involved in this historic struggle during WWll.

NetGalley, Sandra Miller

If you are a fan of WWII aircraft with a specific interest in the Battle of Britain, both the event and the move, check out this book. The detail in which the various aircraft were found, brought up to snuff and used in the movie is extraordinary. Filming this movie more than 25 years after the event created some overwhelming logistical challenges including finding the craft they not only could film but could put in the air. There are some fascinating stories including the Spanish Air Force that had planes that could double as the German ones and pilots who could fly them.

They were also trying to film the move at the end of the swinging 60s where many viewpoints had changed and the desire for the story to be told was waning. But it was a story that deserved telling and in spite of the various conflicts that existed where one faction wanted things to be told from their perspective to the need to come up with fictional characters and squadrons in case someone was left out and feelings hurt, it is amazing that it got told. In fact, the second part of the book where the movie is reviewed scene by scene and judged for accuracy was the most interesting part for me.

It is full of fascinating stories both from the battle to the screen. Having watched the movie many times, I always find it uplifting and exciting. I cannot wait to see it again now that I know the inside scoop. Four purrs and two paws up.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Battle of Britain The Movie by Robert J Rudhall and Dilip Sarkar MBE gives readers a look at the work that went into creating the realistic scenes in the movie. And so much more.

I found the information about getting vintage planes, making sure they could still fly, and finding pilots qualified to do so very interesting. For those interested in the broad area of vintage aircraft and reenactments, this may well be the best aspect of the book. While I found it essential to a full appreciation of the film, my interest leans more toward what is on film in relation to the history itself.

I was not disappointed in this, learning about the people involved in the war and their involvement in the movie offered the opportunity to give historical context to much of what is in the film. I especially enjoyed the scene-by-scene breakdown of the film. This is a great companion for viewing the movie and in many places adds even more context to what actually happened that might not have made it into the film, or is just alluded to.

After reading this book, you will have a better appreciation of both the movie and the events of the Battle of Britain itself. For this reason I can highly recommend this to film lovers, aircraft/war hobbyists, and history buffs. There is something for everyone and it is all woven into a nice solid whole.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For discerning fans of WW2 movies, this book is a must read! Such people appreciate when extreme efforts are made to make such films technically correct and historically accurate, such as were evident in the making of the 1969 classic film The Battle of Britain. A film whose flight sequences using mostly real aircraft, remain to this day unparalleled. The book describes the huge effort made to assemble a fleet of Spitfires, Hurricanes, Messerschmidts, Heinkel bombers, etc to enable scenes showing the scale of bombing raids with fighter support, and the ensuing chaos in the skies when RAF Fighter Command engage them. The book is packed full of details and not just the technical stuff around the aircraft. A lot of the broader film process is covered as well as the star studded cast and the story they are telling. One of the more interesting stories is the musical score and the fact the film has two distinguished conductors whose music is still greatly admired more than 50 years later.
The book finishes with a minute by minute account of the film sequence with detail of what is portrayed and comparisons to actual events. I have used this to follow the film and found it really enhanced the viewing experience.
I read the book electronically on my iPad rather than a kindle to make the most of the large number of photographs and illustrations.
I thoroughly recommend this book to war film buffs, people interested in war movie production or anyone interested in film making in general.

NetGalley, Michael Neill
 Dilip Sarkar MBE

About Dilip Sarkar MBE

Dilip Sarkar has now written over sixty well-received books. Having enjoyed a privileged relationship with many of The Few, he is a globally acknowledged expert on the Battle of Britain, currently working on a career-topping eight volume official history for The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and National Memorial to The Few. Described by the late Dr Gordon Mitchell, son of the Spitfire’s designer RJ Mitchell, as an ‘aviation detective’, Dilip Sarkar did actually begin his professional life as just that – a police detective. His evidence-based approach and ability to discover new material is well-known – in 2023, for example, he was responsible for having Air Chief-Marshal Sir Keith Park, a New Zealander, officially recognised as one of The Few. Made an MBE for ‘services to aviation history’ in 2003, Dilip was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society in 2006, achieved First Class Honours in Modern History as a mature student in 2010, and in 2024 was made both a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and member of London’s Royal Air Force Club. During his long career, Dilip has exhibited and spoken internationally at such prestigious venues as Oxford University, the RAF Museum, IWM Museum, and Airborne Museum, Oosterbeek; he has worked on many TV documentaries, on and off screen, again internationally, and has an engaging presence on YouTube and Facebook in particular.

Perfect Partner

The Battle of Britain on the Big Screen ‘The Finest Hour’ Through British Cinema (Hardback)

During the Second World War, the British movie industry produced a number of films concerning the war, all of which were, by necessity, heavily myth-laden and propagandised. Foremost among these productions was The First of the Few, which was the biggest grossing film of 1942. In the immediate post-war period, to start with there were no British aviation war films. The first to be released was Angels One Five in 1952. It was well-received, confirming that the Battle of Britain was a commercial commodity. Over the next few years, many famous war heroes published their memoirs, or had books written…

By Dilip Sarkar MBE

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