The Full Story of a Unique Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron
As seen in the Daily Mail, April 2019: 'Lives of The Few: Rare photos show the gaunt faces and bullet-holed Spitfires of the heroic RAF Battle of Britain pilots who saw off Hitler's Luftwaffe.'
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As a child, Dilip Sarkar was fascinated by the haunting image of an anonymous RAF Spitfire pilot. Taken minutes after landing from a Battle of Britain combat, this was Squadron Leader Brian Lane DFC, the commander of 19 Squadron, based at Fowlmere – and author of the stirring first-hand account Spitfire! The Experiences of a Fighter Pilot, published under the pseudonym B.J. Ellan. Deeply moving was the discovery that in 1942 Brian was reported missing after a futile nuisance raid over the Dutch coast.
During the mid-1980s, Dilip began researching the life and times of both Brian Lane and 19 Squadron, forging close friendships with many of the unit’s surviving Battle of Britain pilots and support staff. This enabled identification of the wartime censor’s blanks regarding people and places in Brian’s book, and the publication in 1990 of Dilip’s first ever book, Spitfire Squadron: 19 Squadron at War 1939-41.
Nearly thirty years later, sadly all of the survivors are now deceased, but Dilip’s close relationship has provided a huge archive of correspondence and interviews in addition to a unique photographic collection. Furthermore, the author, a retired police detective, has thoroughly investigated the life – and death – of Squadron Leader Lane.
This completely new book, Spitfire!, covers everything we would ever need to know about such a unit during the critical pre and early war period: the social, political, aviation and military history all in one volume – emphasising the human experience involved and the stories of casualties. With an immense photographic collection – many published here for the first time – this book is destined to become a classic.
So, strap yourself in, turn gun button to ‘fire’, and join 19 Squadron’s Spitfire pilots during our Darkest and Finest Hours … the ultimate ‘Band of Brothers’?
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Sandra Miller
The timeline of the story of the interrelationships of the Command structure, the individual pilots’ combat history and personal lives, and the evolution of the Spitfire aircraft in operations is fascinating and the author’s style brings it all to life. I found the detailed history contained facts I had not read before and having read a considerable number of similar books, new information with a personal touch made for an addictive read. The one thing that stands out is that this history will never be repeated and the present younger generations should be encouraged to read such books as a reminder that the young men and women of that generation were more than capable of stepping up to the many challenges the world faced then.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Jan Tangen
If anyone is accustomed to due diligence, it's the author, a retired police detective. He has applied this skill to researching the history of the use of the Spitfire in the RAF and particularly the men of 19 Squadron. Special emphasis on Squadron Leader Lane. The whole has been (obviously) thoroughly researched, documented, and peppered with archival photos. The presentation is as interesting as can be, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Ron Baumer
An excellent account of a British squadron during the Battle of Britain. The firsthand accounts and personal stories really enriches the learning and makes this book a great read. If you are a history fan, this is a must read.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Collette Sherriffs
I've had a lifelong interest in planes, especially the iconic Spitfire and Hurricane and their roles in the Battle of Britain.
This new book gives a fascinating insight into 19 Squadron and Squadron Leader Brian Lane, it's history, and their role as the first squadron testing and in combat with the new Spitfire. With the authors accounts from the squadrons survivors of the war, it paints a picture of how pilots, engineers, and ground staff coped during the early war years, the Dunkirk evacuation, and on through the Battle of Britain. The book also has a lot of original photographs from this period.
As I read this book, I felt as if I was there, living through this period with The Few.
A thoroughly enjoyable read, I would recommend this to all.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, John Derek
Incredible publication, full of detail and history like no other. Beautifully illustrated throughout. Photographs of the aircraft and the heroes that flew them.
Life stories that come out of boys own comics will touch the heart of any reader. Fantastic accounts of dogfights against all the odds and how the few managed to win against the many.
Spitfire is a well written and well-researched book, with insightful observations from the author.
It is good to know that the life stories of the people have now been documented. And so, these brave few will not be forgotten.
The only thing that niggled me in the entire book was the missing name of that brave farmer. Minding his own business, driving the tractor suddenly dead (head removed by a spitfire on night training) whilst doing his hard work of producing food that maybe, was going to end up on a pilots table. (Surely he was a hero that deserved some mention?)
The book 'Spitfire' is a superb achievement. It is one of the best books ever written on the Battle of Britain before, during, and after.
The book is full of informative accounts that were almost impossible to put down. Inundated with incredible feats and achievements that should be remembered.
This publication should grace every history reference library and every public library history reference shelf.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Kevin Stabler
A fantastic book covering the exploits of 19 squadron and its pilots in the early years of World War 2.
The book is very well written with a great balance of facts and story telling, very much a compelling read.
It is fascinating with details of each pilot and their own stories, detailing operations flown, aircraft lost or shot down, with a full breakdown of victories and losses at the end of the book.
So if you are interested in military aviation or just love a war story this book will satisfy, definitely one for the collection!
'Very good'.Traces of War
Full review here
A highly readable and detailed history of the RAF in WWII and in particular Squadron Leader Brian Lane DFC, 19 Squadron and Duxford. The book is full of quotes from the time all interweaved with the authors brilliant commentary and detail. Dilip’s research which, for this book, was triggered from seeing a picture of 3 Spitfire pilots (on the book cover) when he was a child, is simply outstanding.Vintage Airfix
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A really excellent, detailed, comprehensive and moving history of 19 Squadron, RAF during the Second World War. It begins pre-war with their delivery of the early Spitfires (the first operational RAF squadron to get them) but follows them throughout their service during Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain and after. 19 Squadron was based at Duxford, as part of 12 Group, and the book doesn't shy away from the controversy over the "Big Wing" concept, and the friction with 11 Group defending Kent and the south east. It also doesn't shrink from criticising Douglas Bader and his somewhat personal attitude towards fighter combat, diverging from that of his more senior officers.Clash of Steel
The book sets the leadership of Sqn Ldr Brian Lane front and centre of the account, and you come away with a good impression of what it might have been like to have been led by him into battle. I recently took a trip to the IWM at Duxford and was able to walk around some of the aircraft, hangars, ops room and other buildings that would have been familiar to Sqn Ldr Lane and his colleagues. It was very moving, and much of that was thanks to this book.
Very much recommended.
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The book is the result of extensive research with first-hand accounts and official reports from the people who took part in the Battle, with plenty of details about the preparation for the war, the evolution of the tactics, the dogfights, the problems of the first Spitfires and how they were solved. Definitely a must read for any WW2 aviation fan.The Aviationist
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An interesting book full of first-hand information.Miniaturas JM
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First-class unit history. 10/10The Great War Magazine, November 2019
It's a fitting and fully rounded story of a Spitfire squadron during the darkest, and, ultimately, finest hours.The Armourer, November 2019
Researched from the 1980s, this is the most thorough book about any squadron in RAF service during the Battle of Britain. This research captured the thoughts and experiences of the pilots who are now all dead. It is an impeccable source of information and a gripping story – Most Highly Recommended.Firetrench
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This completely new book, Spitfire!, covers everything we would ever need to know about such a unit during the critical pre and early war period.Scale Modelling Now
Watch the full video review here
Yet again Dilip Sarkar delivers. His writing style is joyous and free flowing. An author who gives you history and the facts without sending you to sleep. Mr Sarkar writes the sort of book that once you pick it up, you will not want to put it down. Well done!Amazon Customer, David Baverstock
Anoher superb volume from this prolific author. A most enjoyable and interesting read. I have all his books (many signed by the author and or BOB pilots) and this is the best yet! Well done Dilip.Amazon Customer
A book all battle of Britain scholars should have on their shelf.Amazon Customer, Richard Domoney-Saunders
This book is easy to read and pact full of information, I highly recommend this to all.
... we give Spitfire! a healthy recommendation.Britain at War, October 2019
Promotion for author Kent BoB event as featured byIsle of Thanet Gazette (9th & 16th August 2019)/Dover Express (8th & 15th August 2019)
Dilip Sarkar comes across a kind man who enjoys an enduring affection and connection with the men and women of Fighter Command.Review by Mark Barnes for War History Online
His book is a fine monument to No19 Squadron – it’s pilots, technicians and administrators. The reality is however many Battle of Britain books that come along in the year ahead, some, like this one will stand out. Highly recommended.
Publicity for author's Bentley Priory Museum event as featured byOptima, 22nd June 2019
As featured inRAF News 23/8/19
Featured inRAF News, August 2019
Dilip Sarkar now turns his atttention to the Spitfire, Britain's most iconic warplane, and the one that most commentators believe was most intrumental in helping Britain to achieve air superiority during the Battle of Britain. Superbly told.Books Monthly
"This is an admirable book with high production values with the author getting into the spirit and culture of the squadron and the RAF at this crucial time."Robert Bartlett
'Renowned historian to launch new book at museum'My Radlett & Shenley News, July 2019
Featured "On The Bookshelf" by Neil Smith forWargames Illustrated, June 2019
Life among The Few: Rare photos show the gaunt faces and bullet-holed Spitfires of the heroic RAF Battle of Britain pilots who saw off Hitler's LuftwaffeMail Online
Researched over many years with the full co-operation of 19 Squadron's surviving pilots, support staff and the relatives of casualties, this 'highly detailed but readable' book covers the aviation, military, social and political aspects of the famous unit.The Bookseller 8/3/19
The Supermarine Spitfire arguably remains the most iconic fighter aircraft ever produced. Unsurprisingly, it has become a symbol of British excellence and national pride. Interest in the Spitfire remains undiminished as time goes on, and its bibliography is virtually infinite. Whilst many of these books feature the technical and operational history of the Spitfire, this book features the human element of the story, concentrating on the stories of not only those who flew the Spitfire into battle, but also the men and women who maintained and built it. By the summer of 1941, the Spitfire had replaced…By Dilip Sarkar MBE
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