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Book Review – Faces of the Few by Dilip Sarkar

Whats it about

There remains an enduring fascination with the Battle of Britain, and the RAF aircrew who fought and won this unprecedented aerial conflict, immortalised by Churchill in August 1940 as ‘The Few’. Unlike today, when photography is a huge part of people’s daily lives, not least because of mobile phone cameras and the sharing of images via social media, back then photography involved comparatively primitive and expensive items of equipment and was not, therefore, as accessible as it is today. Furthermore, unofficial photography on service installations in Britain was strictly prohibited for security reasons, and consequently such photographs, often taken surreptitiously, are comparatively rare (although, interestingly, amateur photography was much more popular in Germany, and German servicemen took countless photographs, especially during the Blitzkrieg years). The author’s personal relationships and friendships with many of The Few, however, enabled him to unlock their personal archives, photograph albums and personal snapshots. The result of this research represents a substantial and unique archive. These photographs are not, in the main, posed official pictures, but those snapped by air and groundcrews who were keen amateur photographers, their images often shared around their squadron mates. The photographs presented here, some for the first time, provide the reader with a fascinating window on the past, through which we get an authentic glimpse of the summer of 1940 and The Few themselves. Indeed, in some cases, these are the only known images of certain individuals, whilst the likeness of others has been lost to history. That fact, therefore, emphasises the importance of this photographic record.

Our Review

Dilip’s ongoing passion for the Battle of Britain really shines though in this 210-page book!

How often do we read stories of ‘The Few’ but never get to see what some of the men look like & we do find and image it is more than likely a posed head & shoulder photograph.

This amazing collection taken before during & after the war shows the men in more relaxed settings taking a break, with pets, beside aircraft or with other members of their squadrons, as well as some taken in older age showing off medals or pieces of kit.

Each image is accompanied with a paragraph or two written by Dilip detailing that persons service & in some cases their fate.

Today we can take a multitude of high-quality photographs at no cost & can store them digitally. in 1940 the story was very different, many did not own a camera, processing was expensive, add to that the fact that there were restrictions due to secrecy on bases… it is therefore amazing that Dilip has managed to source so many photographs that tell the story of this short space in time.

A really well put together book…a must for those with an interest in the Battle of Britain!

You can buy the book via Pen & Sword books via this link

I was also fortunate enough to have a chat with Dilip about the book, watch the recording here


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