Thursday, February 27, 2014

Battle of Britain - Movie Review

Ah, this is something I wanted to see. The stories of British RAF and its heroic fight against Germany's superior firepower with its Lutfwaffe are well etched in my mind. The movie did not let me down - it has some fine air fight scenes and generally shows how the period in the summer-autumn of 1940 passed. Based on the book 'The Narrow Margin' by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster 'Battle of Britain' is a 1969 movie with an ensemble cast directed by Guy Hamilton.

German attack on Great Britain had to be preceded by an air attack mainly because their naval forces were depleted. The German air attacks on Britain started with bombing of industries and then air force fields and air craft industries. What the Germans did not do well was to estimate rightly the British RAF capabilities. The RAF stood up well against a stronger opponent and fought off the superior Luftwaffe. In fact RAF audaciously raided Berlin and bombed Berlin, something that angered Hitler enough to order an all out attack on Great Britain. RAF, with support from the commonwealth pilots and most importantly Polish pilots who were highly motivated after what the Germans did to Poland, fought to the last man, even having every single aircraft up in the sky at one time on the fateful 'Battle of Britain' day, September 18, 1940. Suffering heavy losses, the Germans withdrew and that marked a turn in the course of the Second World War. Experts felt that if Germany went ahead and sacrificed 200 aircraft a day even after that day, London might have capitulated in a week. By the end of the war Germany lost 2300 aircraft to the RAF (in that period alone they lost about 1630 aircraft and Great Britain lost some 1300 aircraft). The Battle of Britain indefinitely postponed Hitler's plan of invading Britain 'Operation Sea Lion'. Winston Churchill in his speech mentioned famously that '..never has so much been owed by so many to so few, 'the few in question being the RAF fighters. The decisive day of resilience against all odds turned the fate of the world and handed Germany a defeat it never recovered from.

The leadership of Dowding and Park, the use of information and technology and superior strategy, the force multiplier effect of passing information to fighters who could accurately zero down to their targets, were important factors. Interestingly Dowding was sacked as was Park for causing differences in the ranks with their differences over strategies. The King and Queen stayed put in the Buckingham Palace instead of flying to Canada as suggested.

Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Robert Shaw, Christopher Plummer are some of the names that star in this epic battle. A first timer with little understanding of the context may not fully grasp the movie and its importance, but its still a gripping tale. I enjoyed watching it and intend watching it again.

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