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Defiant

Defiant

‘Robert Verkaik makes a revisionist case for an unsung aircraft, the Boulton Paul Defiant. This two-seat gun-turret fighter is, argues Verkaik, the forgotten fighter of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain; the effectiveness as well as the courage of its crews is overlooked in standard accounts. To advance his case, he notes that a Defiant squadron still holds the record for the number of enemy aircraft shot down in a single day, with a claimed figure of 38’
Times

‘Robert Verkaik tells the story of the Battle of Britain’s unlikeliest hero with verve and phenomenal grasp of detail. He brings the Defiant fighter back into focus as an important part of the victorious RAF in the hour of its greatest trial’
Mark Urban

‘Meticulously researched and rich in human and social as well as military interest, Defiant fills a crucial gap in our understanding of that most perilous time’
David Kynaston, author of Austerity Britain

‘Firmly establishes the aircraft’s role in those crucial aerial battles of 1940 and elevates the brave aircrews who fought and died in their forgotten Defiants, to rank alongside their comrades in the better remembered Hurricanes and Spitfires.’
David Fairhead, director of Spitfire

‘Verkaik is an excellent guide, making his case with a restrained passion, taking us through the inter-war rearmament before cataloguing the muddled thinking, the political infighting, the inter-service and personality rivalries. His research was clearly a labour of love, leaving no Whitehall paper or airman’s letter unturned in his search for the truth, and he never forgets the human dimension behind the losses’
Simon Humphreys, Mail on Sunday, five stars

Defiant is both a stirring testament to the courage of the men who flew them and a welcome new examination of one of the Second World War’s most famous conflicts’
Alexander Larman, Observer

Praise for Jihadi John:
‘An exemplary account . . . The book’s most important contribution is to highlight the difficulties faced by the intelligence services . . . a first-class primer on Muslim extremism in Britain.’
Max Hastings, Sunday Times

Praise for Posh Boys:
‘The latest in the series of powerful books on the divisions in modern Britain, and will take its place on many bookshelves beside Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Owen Jones’s Chavs.’

Andrew Marr, Sunday Times

‘Inspired, committed, careful and kind.’
Danny Dorling, author of Inequality and the 1%

In this startling new perspective on the Battle of Britain, Robert Verkaik reveals the surprising truth about the battle’s forgotten fighter, the Boulton Paul Defiant.

The crucial role played by the Spitfire and the Hurricane has been exhaustively recorded, but, to date, next to nothing has been written about the third British fighter which took part in the battle. By writing from the unique perspective of the pilots who flew the Defiant and their air-gunners, Verkaik helps to set the record straight.

The Air Staff regarded the Defiant as a state-of-the-art bomber destroyer and wanted to equip a third of all Fighter Command squadrons with this new plane. But the head of Fighter Command, Hugh Dowding, had other ideas and went to war with Whitehall over its plan to saddle him with hundreds of ‘obsolete’ turret fighters. Then at Dunkirk, a Defiant squadron scored a huge success against the Luftwaffe by shooting down more German planes in one day than any other RAF unit before or since. Fighter Command, enthusiastically urged on by the Air Ministry, now committed its third fighter to the coming air battle over southern England. In the desperate dogfights of the battle, Defiants shot down both German bombers and fighters but suffered heavy losses too – one squadron was almost wiped out when it was ambushed by a superior force of Messerschmitt 109s. On 30 August 1940 all Defiant squadrons were withdrawn from the front line.

The families of the Defiant air crews believed that their husbands, brothers and sons had died in vain, but the truth is that their vital contribution to the battle over Dunkirk and their role in the Battle of Britain has been all but erased from the official history. The story of the Defiant has not been allowed to mar the glorious victory won by the Spitfire and the Hurricane.

But Verkaik has uncovered new records, including top-secret memos written by Hugh Dowding and his deputy Keith Park as well as correspondence with the Air Staff, combat and squadron reports, pilot logs and recordings of the last interviews with Defiant crews. He has also succeeded in tracing relatives of Defiant pilots and gunners to tell the story of the Battle of Britain as it has never been told before. He reveals how the myths which have grown up around the Defiant mask some inconvenient truths.

Genre: Humanities / History / Military History

On Sale: 4th June 2020

Price: £20

ISBN-13: 9781472143532

Reviews

Praise for Jihadi John: An exemplary account . . . The book's most important contribution is to highlight the difficulties faced by the intelligence services . . . a first-class primer on Muslim extremism in Britain.
Max Hastings, Sunday Times
Praise for Jihadi John: Verkaik gives a fascinating if frightening picture of the jihadists in our midst.
Francis Wheen, Mail on Sunday
Praise for Jihadi John: An outstanding pulling together of the fractured career of one of the most notorious terrorist psychopathic killers of this or any other age. The book is exceptional because its author makes no false claims for what he doesn't know and never confuses explanation with explaining away . . . [an] excellent and thought-provoking book.
Robert Fox, Evening Standard
Praise for Jihadi John: A riveting and compelling portrait of Mohammed Emwazi on his journey to the heart of darkness.
Andrew Hosken, author of Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State
In Defiant, Robert Verkaik has achieved the impossible - resurrecting the reputation of one of World War Two's worst remembered fighter planes. Unwanted, unloved and rushed into service, the Defiant nevertheless turns out to have achieved far more success in combat than has been previously acknowledged. This is mainly down to the brilliance of the officers who commanded the two operational squadrons and whose record Verkaik rightly praises. This book firmly establishes the aircraft's role in those crucial aerial battles of 1940 and elevates the brave aircrews who fought and died in their forgotten Defiants, to rank alongside their comrades in the better remembered Hurricanes and Spitfires.
David Fairhead, director of Spitfire
Meticulously researched and rich in human and social as well as military interest, Defiant fills a crucial gap in our understanding of that most perilous time.
David Kynaston, author of Austerity Britain
From the corridors of the Air Ministry to the skies over Dunkirk, Robert Verkaik tells the story of the Battle of Britain's unlikeliest hero with verve and phenomenal grasp of detail. He brings the Defiant fighter back into focus as an important part of the victorious RAF in the hour of its greatest trial.
Mark Urban
Verkaik is an excellent guide, making his case with a restrained passion, taking us through the inter-war rearmament before cataloguing the muddled thinking, the political infighting, the inter-service and personality rivalries. His research was clearly a labour of love, leaving no Whitehall paper or airman's letter unturned in his search for the truth, and he never forgets the human dimension behind the losses.
Simon Humphreys, Mail on Sunday
Defiant is both a stirring testament to the courage of the men who flew them and a welcome new examination of one of the Second World War's most famous conflicts.
Alexander Larman, Observer