Norman Stone

Downfall

The Third Reich at War

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 873pp £30 order from our bookshop

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung used to run a regular feature, the Proust questionnaire. It was designed to reveal a personality through answers to such enquiries as ‘what is your favourite colour?’, etc. One question was ‘what is your favourite military achievement?’ No doubt in Proust’s time it would have been Marathon. Isaiah Berlin found the modern answer of genius: the Battle of Britain. In the summer of 1940 England looked likely to go the way of France, crushed by the terrible Nazi machine. The bombers duly appeared, in hundreds, over London and the airfields. They were stopped by RAF fighters and though in London many thousands were killed there was never any danger that morale would collapse. It was a heroic moment.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter