Norman Franks Presents AIR BATTLE FOR DUNKIRK Book Review- A Timely Addition For Fans of The Film

Franks Recounts the Air Battle For Dunkirk

With the recent release of the blockbuster film on the same subject, Franks’ recounting of the air battle for Dunkirk is timely for those who left the movie theater wanting more. AIR BATTLE FOR DUNKIRK was originally published in 1983 and was reissued for the release of the film.

The book follows the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the battle for Dunkirk. AIR BATTLE FOR DUNKIRK explains their side of the story when many from the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) believed that they weren’t even trying to save them as they stand stranded on the beach.

In the film, Christopher Nolan attempted to be as accurate as possible, making adjustments in the historical record for moviegoers’ clarification. For example, Nolan made the choice to change the nose of the planes, he used to yellow to signify that they were German (a move that actually wasn’t done until after Dunkirk) but this was only to make clearer the difference between German and RAF planes.

The film is split into three story arcs; one that of the BEF on land, that of the civilians who used their boats to help rescue the soldiers, and that of an Allied pilot in the air. Each storyline is developed to explain why decisions were made from each side of the battle of Dunkirk. In the film, the air storyline feels a little underdeveloped, but this was purposeful by Nolan because it created the same effect that the BEF felt when they felt there was an absence of the air force and also helped build the time limit placed on the pilot of one hour.

As you can hear throughout the film by the BEF, “where is the RAF?”, this book explains exactly where the Royal Air Force was when the soldiers did not feel their presence. Frank provides a detailed play by play as to where the air force was during the evacuation. Dealing with the hardship of Dunkirk being deemed a lost cause by many, the RAF overcame many obstacles to aid the evacuation.

Franks Creates A Detailed Image for His Audience

The re-issuing of THE AIR BATTLE FOR DUNKIRK is very captivating despite this writer not having any prior interest in aviation history. It was a fascinating glimpse into the past. You can savor a fair amount of details —from serial numbers to names of pilots, etc  It helps us to place ourselves next to the pilots to understand the decisions and sacrifices made throughout the battle.

THE AIR BATTLE FOR DUNKIRK is recommended for those who loved the film and wanted more context. This book is especially recommended for those who are interested in aviation history. Despite being seen by many as a disaster, the Battle of Dunkirk was actually a huge victory because so many lives were saved. That is what Christopher Nolan and Norman Franks hoped to inspire in their respective works—to shine a light on an underappreciated piece of history.  

Five Supermarine Spitfire Mark Is of No. 19 Squadron, Royal Air Force Photo from collections of the Imperial War Museum.

For more information on this book, visit Casemate Publisher’s website.


Click here for more Picture this Post articles by Nicole Granados.

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