30 Jul 19
Posted by: Dr James Bosbotinis

At first glance, this book appeared to be one which would be less of a read and more of a quick skim. However, this reviewer was pleasantly surprised. Defending Island Britain in the Second World Warprovides an interesting and readable account of the preparations undertaken to defend Britain, particularly from invasion and air attack. The author, David Rogers, has a background in industry and has also written 15 books, including five dedicated to the British war effort in the Second World War. Defending Island Britainfollows on from books covering subjects including the British establishment of shadow factories, preparation for Operation OVERLORD, and technology development during the Second World War. As with previous titles, this book brings together principally extracts of primary source materials – letters, documents, etc., together with some extracts from contemporary sources such as websites. The author provides an overarching narrative giving the text structure.

The book is divided into 10 chapters encompassing government infrastructure (for example, covering the appointment of a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and the creation of the Ministry of Home Security), government committees, invasion conditions (including such topics as evacuation, martial law and resistance), Civil Defence organisations, vital installations and passive air defence, camouflage and deception, air defences, coastal defences, the government evacuation scheme, and the cease fire book and its evolution. This provides an in-depth treatment of the nature and scope of wartime planning, especially to counter the potential threat of German invasion, which makes for thought-provoking reading. Defending Island Britainalso charts the development of wartime planning as the strategic situation evolved and the threat of invasion diminished. In this context, within the chapter on ‘Vital Installations and Passive Air Defences’, this includes discussion of the threat posed by and implications of German long-range weapons, that is, the V-1 and V-2. The book also includes nine appendices covering topics including the organisation of the British Army in the UK, the role of the Police in responding to a German invasion, guidance for troops on providing assistance to civil authorities, aircraft production and the operational strength and wastage amongst day fighter squadrons in the Battle of Britain, and for comparative purposes, civil defence arrangements in Germany.

Defending Island Britain in the Second World Waris well-written and edited; the author has effectively compiled the original source material into a coherent, wider body of text. The book is informative and provides valuable insight into the planning undertaken for the defence of Britain. Where the author has had to abridge the original documents or further materials exist, he has complied charts listing those additional papers. This will enhance the appeal of the book to researchers. In this regard, the book should hold wide appeal. Defending Island Britain in the Second World War will be of interest to the enthusiast and academic reader alike. The text is accessible and complemented by informative charts. Further, at £19.95, the book provides good value for money. For those particularly interested in the Second World War, the defence of the British Isles, or a more general interest in military history, Defending Island Britain in the Second World Warwill be a worthwhile addition to bookshelves.