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Letters from the Few (Hardback)

Unique Memories from the Battle of Britain

WWII Aviation Battle of Britain

By Dilip Sarkar MBE
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 50 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526775894
Published: 1st August 2020

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Fascinated by the Battle of Britain from an early age, as a young man Dilip Sarkar realised that recording and sharing the Few’s memories was of paramount importance. At the time, back in the mid-1980s, membership of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association was well populated and the then Honorary Secretary, the now late Wing Commander Pat Hancock DFC, OBE, supported Dilip’s research by forwarding letters to individual pilots of interest.

Those members of the Few included a wide-range of personalities, from famous airmen like Group Captain Peter Townsend and Air Marshal Sir Denis Crowley-Milling, to the ‘also rans’, as Battle of Britain Hurricane pilot Peter Fox famously described himself and peers. Indeed, it was Peter’s ‘also rans’ that were of the greatest interest to Dilip, who recognised that whilst many famous and distinguished pilots had either published personal memoirs or had biographies written about them, lesser-lights had no platform to record and share their experiences. This Dilip became dedicated to resolving.

For many years, Dilip enjoyed prolific correspondence with the Few. These letters – hundreds of them – now represent a unique primary source, confirming the incredibly close relationship the author enjoyed with his heroes and high esteem in which they likewise held him. Over the years, Dilip’s published work has enormously benefited from his unique knowledge of the people involved through this very personal association, the memories collated providing his books a real ‘human’ touch. As the Few sadly fade away, it is only now that the significance of Dilip’s correspondence, industry and archive arising are becoming truly apparent.

In Letters From The Few, Dilip shares with us, for the first time, a small selection of his correspondence with Battle of Britain fighter pilots, providing us an inspirational insight into the immeasurable value of this research and personalities involved.

Who better to tell the story of the Battle of Britain than those were there, the celebrated FEW? Through Dilip Sarkar MBE, THE FEW's words, their correspondence with him over the years, have found another outlet through his prolific pen and his passion for aviation. We who follow in their footsteps are the beneficiaries, and this book is as good as any - first hand accounts, supporting narrative and awash with photos.

This is a valuable addition to the Battle of Britain library and we would all do well to read their words and remember. If some of us think that we live in dark times today, this really was a dark hour for Britain and paradoxically, for THE FEW, their finest hour.

Read the full review here

Paul Nixon

I have to say, that having read the book I found the story of the pilots interesting and at times amusing ,but for me the short entry by Sergeant Ray Johnson was the one that I enjoyed the most, as the mix of highs and lows, I feel gave me the best idea of what it was to live and serve during this particular point in history covering the few, during the Battle of Britain.

Read the full review here

Aeroscale

Listed in the Book Shelf feature: 'The best of this month's Hertfordshire-linked books and book news

Hertfordshire Life, February 2021

This is probably the best of the many works on the Battle of Britain from the past year, the 80th Anniversary.

FlyPast, February 2021

As featured in competition promotion

Sussex Local (Pulborough), 1st January 2021

Article featured in nostalgia column by Brian Lee

South Wales Echo, 6th November 2020

I enjoyed reading the book. Because of its design, it is easy to dip in and out of, or to read in longer sittings. The language used is jargon free and easy to read. There are multiple quotes from letters and other correspondence with the few, all put into context by Dilip.

If you want to go beyond the myths of the Battle of Britain, this is a good place to start.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

This is an amazing collection of letters home from the men who became known as "The Few", those amazing, dedicated, selfless pilots who enabled Britain to survive when faced with overwhelming odds in 1940. Superbly put together, and tugs at the heartstrings.

Books Monthly

Sarkar has produced another great book that tells those stories that are not included in the logbooks, often very informative, but dry and cold. He recovered stories of fantastic pilots and ordinary people who became extraordinary at an extraordinary time for the world and for England. He saved them from oblivion thanks to his work, fortunately started in time, giving us, together with Pen & Sword, a book of absolute value.

Read the full Italian review here

On The Old Barbed Wire

The intimacy of this book came through so clearly in the pictures and personal letters from over 25 airmen who fought at the Battle of Britain. Glimpses from the letters provide the opportunity see the war from their viewpoint and Sarkar expounds upon already rich details. As a royal watcher, the letters and insights from Group Captain Peter Townsend (once connected to Princess Margaret) caught my attention. I was drawn to his input regarding the Spitfire and its contributions to the war as well.

NetGalley, Katie Barr

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is how history should be taught! The author brings the Battle of Britain alive through personal stories from pilots who flew the deadly WWII skies. As Prime Minister Churchill said of this ragtag crew, “Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few.”

There are 25+ featured flyers, including Group Captain Peter Townsend, known for his romance with Princess Margaret, and even one German pilot, who recalls fierce fights against Britain’s Royal Air Force. I’ve been forever thrilled by RAF history, even more so now that I’ve read LETTERS FROM THE FEW. Also features photos of pilot memorabilia that add vivid authenticity.

5 out of 5 Stars

NetGalley, Literary Soirée

About Dilip Sarkar MBE

Driven by his passion to research and share the stories of casualties and record the human experience of war, DILIP SARKAR is a best-selling author whose work is highly regarded globally. A noted expert on the Battle of Britain period, who enjoyed a long and very personal relationship with the Few, Dilip was made an MBE in 2003 for ‘services to aviation history’, and, in 2006, elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society. He is a sought-after, dynamic speaker whose enthusiasm is infectious, presenting at many prestigious venues, including the Imperial War Museum Duxford, RAF Museums Hendon and Cosford, National Memorial Arboretum, Oxford University, Bentley Priory Museum and Airborne Museum, Oosterbeek. Dilip’s work has been exhibited internationally and he continues to work on TV documentaries, on and off camera. 

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