Two Roads to War: The French and British Air Arms from Versailles to Dunkirk

Article excerpt

Two Roads to War: The French and British Air Arms from Versailles to Dunkirk. By Robin Higham. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2012. Map. Photographs, Tables, Appendices, Bibliography, Index. Pp. xxii, 411. $44.95 ISBN: 978-1-61251-058-3 and Unflinching Zeal: The Air Battles over France and Britain, May-October 1940. By Robin Higham. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2012. Map. Photographs, Tables, Appendices, Bibliography, Index. Pp. xix, 319. $39.95 ISBN: 978-1-65251-111-5

Readers of Air Power History hardly need an introduction to the name Robin Higham. Indeed, were it not for him, Air Power History would not exist; he established and well-edited its predecessor, Aerospace Historian, from which Air Power History sprang, at a time when aerospace history was at best only imperfectly examined.

It is good, therefore, to find that Higham--veteran Second World War RAF Dakota pilot in the Southeast Asian theater and, after the war, arguably the most influential aerospace historian (particularly military aerospace historian) of his time--is still at it. He certainly has not lost his touch. These two books, which are "stand alone" studies but are best read together, confirm that Higham's reputation for excellence is both well-deserved and enduring. Both works should be standard references for decades to come.

It is remarkable that, in the decades after World War II, no one undertook a comparative study of Anglo-French air power thinking and development until Higham began his own research. Certainly a number of very fine interwar accounts exist regarding both the British and French air arms, as well as some summary studies on what happened in 1940. The reader will profit most by reading Higham's books sequentially, for the second follows inevitably from the first and represents the last, sad denouement of two decades of miscast planning and thought: France was left horribly (and unnecessarily) vulnerable to the Wehrmacht in 1940, and Britain confronted the full weight of the Luftwaffe thereafter. …