View Full Version : The Most Dangerous Enemy

06-09-2007, 06:39 AM
There was a THREAD (http://shockwaveproductions.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8057) on this over at the Shockwave boards but I wanted to spread the good word about this book to my Il2 friends.

I'd like to recommend a truly superb book about the Battle of Britain: The Most Dangerous Enemy by Dr. Stephen Bungay.

It is IMO the most comprehensive analysis of the battle ever written and a "must read" for anyone into the real BoB and combat aviation generally.

Here is one interesting excerpt from Chapter 15 "The Numbers Game" a portion concerning the LW Bomber's relative ineffectiveness against the RAF fighters. He analyzed in depth statistics during a portion of the real Battle of Britain:

"Of fighter command's combat losses of 115, no less than 87, three quarters of the total, were caused by Bf109s. They also accounted for half of those damaged - fifty-two. This shows the LW's belief that they could only defeat the RAF by engaging it in a fighter battle to have been basically correct. It also shows the vital importance of the Bf109. As far as can be ascertained, Bf110s only shot down six Hurricanes or Spitfires and damaged ten others. Bombers accounted for all but a few of the rest, their air gunners shooting down thirteen of their assailants, and damaging thirty eight. They were more formidable opponents than is often presumed, and many British pilots have testified to the accuracy and determination of their return fire.....

However, they were far less deadly than the Bf109. Of the 139 British fighters hit by Bf109s, 63% were shot down and destroyed. of the 51 hit by return fire from bombers, only 25% were shot down. More tellingly, of the eighty-nine British pilots killed in combat, sixty-nine were in aircraft hit by Bf109s and only five in aircraft hit by bombers. To put it another way, Bf109s killed 50% of the pilots in the machines they hit, whereas bombers killed the piolot only 10% of the times they hit the plane. There were two main reasons for this.

The first was the BF109s were aggressively trying to kill, usually from behind. Having passed through the thin structure of the fuselage, the first thing their bullets would meet would be the back of the pilot's seat. If he were lucky, they would be stopped by the armor plating, but alot of them got through. A bomber on the other hand was simply trying to defend itself and carry out its bombing mission. An attacking fighter would typically be flying straight towards it, and the first thing the bullets would hit would be a large engine or a toughened windscreen. A lot of the fighters had hits on the glycol cooling system at the front of the engine. When hit it streamed white smoke, giving the inexperienced eye the look of catastophe and providing further material for false claims, but most pilots damaged in this way broke off and got home with a hot engine. the pilot himself was only really vulnerable at the end of his attack when he flew past the bomber, exposing other parts of his machine, but even then he was a fast moving target.

The second reason was the cannon fitted tot he Bf109. The rifle-caliber machine guns of the bombers, even if accurate, did far less lethal damage....."

In that chapter he goes on to talk about the actual lethality of the RAF fighter's .303 rifle-caliber machine guns - for two reasons: They had eight of them firing simultaneously which on convergence especially caused significant damage and also many were using a unique type of incendiary munition.

He also analyzes in detail the reasons for the Spitfires relatively higher survival rates than Hurricanes, in large part due to the Hurri's much greater propensity to burn due to its fuel tank design and position within the fuselage.

The book covers virtually every single aspect of the battle - the buildup to war, the overall strategy, intelligence, the aircraft, tactics - all of it.

All you guys interested in this game and the real Battle of Britain really should consider getting this book.... Its a great companion piece.

06-09-2007, 08:00 AM
Interesting read, tx for sharing. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

06-09-2007, 12:25 PM
Thanks! Been meaning to get my grubby little mits on a copy of this for some time now.

I can also recommend 'Duel Of Eagles' by Peter Townsend for an excellent view of the Battle of Britain from both sides perspective.

06-09-2007, 01:33 PM
Read it about a year ago...it is an excellent book.

06-09-2007, 02:19 PM
although this book isnt one of my favourites on the subject I found it an interesting and worthwhile read , however I preferred Fighter Boys by Patrick Bishop.

06-09-2007, 04:23 PM
I have it, but haven't read it yet. Now I will. That's for the prod, SV!

06-09-2007, 04:55 PM
Good Post http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

I have this book on order and the author is well respected.

But maybe your post is unintentionally selective. The RAF's priority was to shoot down bombers. LW Bomber losses were very high.To this end the RAF succeeded.

The RAF lost more fighters than the LW lost 109s. This does not mean that the 109 was better than the Spitfire or Hurricane in general terms.

An RAF Squadron of 12 fighters would often attack single-handedly a formation of of over 100 bombers and fighters. This was the tactic employed by Dowding to conserve the inferior numbers of RAF fighters.

Just my thoughts.

Best Regards,

06-09-2007, 05:02 PM
I only buy this if Kurfurst approves.

06-09-2007, 05:44 PM
The author Stephen Bungay can be seen in this clip from the History Channel regarding the BoB:


Best Regards,

06-09-2007, 07:39 PM
@ MB_Avro_UK:

The excerpt above is there only because its what I happened to have had it handy. We had recently been discussing at SW in another thread something about the LW bombers and I had cited that section in the other thread.

I just didn't want to have to type up yet another little excerpt of something else to give people a small taste of whats in the book.

06-09-2007, 07:45 PM
thanks, ill try to find it; always enjoyed "The Hardest Day" by Alfred Price, a comprehensive look at August 18 1940

06-10-2007, 02:46 AM
One of the best , if not the best books on the subject.

Most of the books I've read on the BoB fill in detail on an already well known theme.

Bungay had a lot of stuff that I'd never heard of before; and some very insightfull observations.

06-10-2007, 10:14 AM
Yes, I really liked Bungay's writing too. A lot of very original insights and a determined attempt to cut through the legends of the the BoB and get to the underlying truth. I highly recommend.