The first chapter begins at Luftwaffe headquarters at the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris. In the style of a fast paced war novel, Mortimer describes Hugo Speerle, head of Luftflotte 3, plotting his attack against the British capital.
The book features ‘forces sweetheart’ Vera Lynn, then a young woman of twenty-three, en route to the London Palladium in her Austin 10, her a tin hat at the ready. She will perform on stage that night.American journalist, Clare Booth Luce, was with her newspaper friends. She was playing chess at London’s Savoy hotel when the air raid siren sounded. Guy Gibson, later of Dambuster fame, was piloting his Blenheim nightfighter. He was over London, searching for his prey.
Clare Boothe Luce and her companions left the Savoy at the height of the raid, running through the streets as high explosive and incendiary bombs fell all around them. One of the famed Christopher Wren churches, St Clement Danes, had caught fire. Much of Fleet Street was ablaze. The Commons chamber in the Houses of Parliament had been completely wrecked.Vera Lynn made it safely home from the Palladium, but many were not so lucky. Mortimer records the human tally: over 1,400 Londoners killed, somewhat more were seriously wounded, 12,000 were rendered homeless.
Guy Gibson did not shoot down any of the German planes on the night of 10/11 May. Remarkably, that same night saw the most famed intruder of the war. Rudolf Hess, Deputy Fuehrer of the Third Reich, piloted his Messerschmitt 110 across the British coastline and parachuted into Scotland.