I was looking forward to reading this book but I can't remember ever feeling as let down as I do by any work having a claim to historical scholarship. History narratives stand or fall on structure, argument and evidence but 'The Royal Navy & the Battle of Britain' disappoints on all levels.
With a close examination of the evidence it should not be difficult to make the case for the Royal Navy's contribution to the battle for Britain being as great or possibly greater than that of the Royal Air Force. After all it was not the RAF that frightened the leadership of the Kriegsmarine, especially in the aftermath of the Norwegian campaign. However Mr Cumming makes a hash of it by spending much of the book critiquing the RAF in great detail including its tactics, training, equipment and leadership. Most of the material for these attacks is drawn from a single source, 'Dizzy' Allen's book 'Who Won the Battle of Britain'. Even Cumming admits that Allen's book overstates the case for the RAF coming off second best in the contest of July-October 1940.
This curiously unbalanced approach in making the case for the Royal Navy by tearing down the RAF is not helped by a lack of similar analysis directed at the Luftwaffe's mistakes. Not the least of which was attempting to mount a long-range strategic bombing campaign with a short-range tactical air force. Mr Cumming fails to mention in his catalogue of RAF technical woes that their H/F fighter radios were next to useless too. Ultimately what any of this has to do with the Royal Navy escapes me.
There are a number a good ideas including some analysis of the overall poor performance of air weapons against ships in 1940, but no real detail on the actual nature of the threat posed to and by the Royal Navy in any long cross-channel invasion attempt using unarmed towed barges in rough seas. There was an interesting passing mention of the role of the navy in bombarding and destroying barges on the French coast but this is soon left behind. I could go on at length about other problems but my essential argument with this book is clear. Despite the title, if you want to know about the Royal Navy and the Battle of Britain this is not the book to choose.show more
by Marija Bokan-Maton