Australia's Few and the Battle of Britain


It's been a while since I sent out a newsletter but my writing life has been full! Most of this year has been taken up with editing my Battle of Britain manuscript and getting it in perfect shape for its appointment with the printer, and putting my two cents worth in to the cover designer. It finally left the capable hands of my editorial team a couple of weeks ago with the most brilliant (sorry, even this superlative is not superlative enough) cover. And now ...

I am thrilled to announce that, after six years of research and writing, Australia’s Few and the Battle of Britain will be released on 1 September 2014. The release date is significant: it is just before the 74th commemoration of the Battle of Britain. And Father’s Day.

The publishers are NewSouth Publishing, a division of the University of New South Wales.

Many books these days appear in paperback but Australia’s Few and the Battle of Britain is a fine hard cover, with a magnificent dust wrapper, over 30 photos, two maps, and 432 pages. As befits a history book, it includes index, endnotes and bibliography.

Even before its release, I have been most fortunate in receiving glowing endorsements from three men who know a lot about history, writing, and the Battle of Britain: 

‘A story we take for granted, here told afresh with insight and empathy.’

– Professor Peter Stanley, UNSW Canberra

 ‘In telling the stories of some of the Australians who flew in the Battle of Britain, Kristen Alexander has combined academic rigour with compelling personal detail. She has demonstrated that the ‘unknowns’ of the Battle are as fascinating as those who gained celebrity status. This is a book for those who know much about what happened in 1940 and those who don’t.’

– Geoff Simpson, Trustee, Battle of Britain Memorial Trust

 ‘The lives of eight Australian fighter pilots, from backyard to cockpit and beyond, lovingly and expertly told.’

– Andy Wright, Aircrew Book Review

I am so proud of Australia’s Few and the Battle of Britain. Let me tell you a little about it.

The Battle of Britain is one of the most significant battles of the war, and until now, the role of the Australian ‘Few’ has received little attention. I give a personal account of eight Australian participants, drawing heavily on primary source material (much of it from family archives). I follow these young men from childhood, through their education, training, personal relationships and flying careers, to death in combat (in the case of seven of the eight men), and beyond that to commemoration.

This is not a one chapter per pilot book. Their stories are woven into the general Battle narrative and chronology.

Eight Australian Spitfire and Hurricane pilots of the Battle of Britain. Only one survived. Who were these brave men, who contributed to victory in what became known as a turning point of the war:

Jack Kennedy (238 Squadron)—Sydney born and bred; Spitfire and Hurricane pilot, the first Australian to die in the Battle.

Stuart Walch (238 Squadron)—Hobart born and bred; Hurricane pilot, known as the father of his squadron.

Dick Glyde DFC (87 Squadron)—Perth born and bred; Australia’s first internee of the war; Hurricane pilot who flew in the Battle of France and died on Eagle Day.

Ken Holland (152 Squadron)—Sydney born and bred; Spitfire pilot and the youngest Australian to die.

Pat Hughes DFC (234 Squadron)—Monaro born and bred, memorialised in Cooma and Kiama, raised to adulthood in Sydney; Spitfire pilot and Australia’s highest scoring Battle ace who died defending London on the first day of the Blitz.

Bill Millington DFC (79 and 249 squadrons)—English-born but Adelaide raised; Hurricane pilot and exemplar of chivalry who avoided crashing into a village; died on the last day of fighting.

John Crossman (32 and 46 squadrons)—Queensland-born and Newcastle raised; Hurricane pilot who was determined to fly at all cost.

Desmond Sheen DFC and Bar (72 Squadron)—Sydney-born and Canberra raised; Spitfire pilot and first Australian to engage the enemy in combat. Baled out twice, and survived.

Australia’s Few and the Battle of Britain also tells the story of the women who loved these young men:

Feisty Kay Hughes who met her match in Pat Hughes and grieved a lifetime at his loss.

Christine Jourd, with whom Jack Kennedy fell in love, almost at first sight.

Seina Haydon, who agreed to marry Ken Holland for perhaps the wrong reasons but kept his photo close all her life.

Patricia Foley, who fell in love with John Crossman at 16 and  never got over his death.

Rusty Sheen, the only partner of the ‘eight’ to enjoy a lifelong marriage with her fighter pilot husband

Australia’s Few and the Battle of Britain has a recommended retail price of $A49.99.

It will be available from all good booksellers throughout Australia.

Naturally, Alexander Fax Booksellers will stock signed copies and will offer a 10% discount. Postage and packaging will be additional.

Alexander Fax Booksellers is now taking preorders for Australia’s Few and the Battle of Britain. We are not taking payments, now; we just need an expression of interest so we know how many to order from NewSouth!

If you haven’t already preordered (or want to confirm that yes, we have you on the list), you can follow the link at or email

If you prefer to order via your favourite local bookshop, here is what you need to tell them:

Title: Australia's Few and the Battle of Britain 

Author: Kristen Alexander

Publisher: NewSouth

ISBN: 9781742234151

I look forward to sharing with you what I have discovered about Jack Kennedy Stuart Walch, Dick Glyde, Ken Holland, Pat Hughes, Bill Millington, John Crossman and Des Sheen.

I will of course tell everyone I know about Australia’s Few and the Battle of Britain. Details are already on my website, and that of Alexander Fax Booksellers, and on our Facebook pages. Please help spread the news to your family and friends, and anyone interested in Australia’s aviation history, by word of mouth or social media, so that more people can learn of the bravery of these young men, and their part in the world’s greatest air war.

And please, if you have not already, join me in the cyber ether via one (or all!) of my facebook pages and/or twitter!   

Best wishes




Kristen Alexander

Twitter: Kristen Alexander @kristenauthor