Air Officer Commanding: Hugh Dowding, Architect of the Battle of Britain.

Author:Willingham, Frank
Position:Book review

Air Officer Commanding: Hugh Dowding, Architect of the Battle of Britain. By John T. LaSaine, Jr. Lebanon NH: ForeEdge University Press of New England, 2018 (May). Preface. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Pp. 272. $29.95 ISBN 978-1-61168-937-2; $24.99 (ebook) 978-1-61168-938-9

Dr. LaSaine holds a Ph.D. in history from Brown University. He currently serves as an associate professor at the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB AL.

Hugh Dowding was born in 1882 at the apex of British imperial power. He graduated from Winchester and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and was commissioned into the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1900. Dowding earned a position at the British Army Staff College, Camberley, and then earned his wings as a Royal Flying Corps (RFC) pilot in 1914. During World War I, Dowding led both an operational squadron at the front and a technical testing squadron in England. In 1936, he was assigned the critical task of reorganizing the Air Defense of Great Britain and ultimately became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the new Royal Air Force (RAF) Fighter Command.

During his long military career, Dowding is credited with fostering the procurement of both the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft. He also developed and oversaw the implementation of the "Dowding System," a wide-area, ground-controlled, enemy aircraft interception network. This system used a dedicated land-line telephone network to rapidly collect information from Chain Home (CH) radar stations and the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) to coordinate and direct defensive interceptor aircraft and anti-aircraft artillery against enemy targets. Dowding was also unwilling to unnecessarily sacrifice both limited British aircraft and pilot resources to the Battle of France and the "Big Wing" air combat strategy proposed by others. His Fabian fighter interceptor strategy preserved material and pilot resources to win the Battle of Britain. In spite of his achievements, Dowding's subsequent removal from command and retirement from the RAF in 1942 have been attributed to his singlemindedness, outspoken behavior, and perceived lack of political diplomacy.

LaSaine's book is a balanced compilation of the...

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