Paperbacks: The First Day of the Blitz, by Peter Stansky

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The Independent Culture

Shortly after 4pm on Saturday 7 September 1940, 348 bombers supported by 617 fighters began crossing the Channel for the first Luftwaffe raid on London. Using first-hand reports from a wide range of sources, Stansky explores how Londoners were introduced to "modern terror on a large scale". For one American reporter, "it seemed like the end of civilisation".

But for Air Chief Marshal Dowding, it was a "crucial day", because Hitler's decision to switch from bombing airfields enabled the RAF to recover. While casting doubt on the British stiff upper lip, Stansky concludes that "Terror very rarely... achieves its objects."

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