The Battle of Britain

#1
Now we all know that the RAF defied the odds to beat the Lufwaffe. But I have always wondered, what role, if any, did the Army & Royal Navy play in the Battle of Britain?

Did Fleet Air Arm squadrons scour the hun from the skys? Or were any pilots from the army?
 
#2
#3
Numerous individual pilots were detached to the RAF. Several transferred fully.
One of Baders boys I think.
 
#4
804 and 808 operated Sea Gladiators, Fulmars and latterly Martlets (Grumman Wildcats) during the battle and are credited with having done so on the excellent BoB Memorial on Embankment. However, they were based in the Isle of Man, North of Scotland and Orkneys and therefore saw no action.

Several dozen FAA pilots were transfered to RAF fighter sqns where the former Sea Gladiator, Skua and Fulmar aviators were probably more welcome than some of the very young RAF replacements coming straight from OTUs with only a handful of flying hrs. Other reinforcements came from RAF Army Coop and Bomber Commands (primarily from Lysander and Battle sqns decimated in France and the Low Countries).

No Army pilots flew in the Battle (indeed, I don't think the Army actually had any pilots until later in the war when the AOP sqns were formed). However, RA AAA gunners and RE bomb disposal personnel were obviously key to defensive ops as well as were barrage balloon units (although I think RAF Balloon Command owned the majority). There was an excellent short piece on BBC London yesterday when an Army EOD Blitz veteran met a modern Army counterpart who'd served in Iraq. Very moving.

Overall, although the RAF inevitably gets the credit, the BoB was like all 20th and 21st century military ops, a Joint effort.

Regards,
MM
 
#5
Overall, although the RAF inevitably gets the credit, the BoB was like all 20th and 21st century military ops, a Joint effort.
Well put. That also includes all the foreign and Commonwealth air and ground crews as well as the defenceless civillians like my grandparents who just had to put up with it and keep everything else rolling along.

D_B
 
#6
I think the foreign and Commonwealth aircrew are well acknowledged, although the way the UK abandoned Czech and Polish veterans (from all 3 services) post war in order to avoid offending Stalin was appalling.

However, your point about the groundcrews is valid.

Arguably the people most neglected from BoB national awareness are the Bomber Command crews who maintained a very high operational tempo against ports and invasion shipping. This caused significant friction between Raeder (probably the finest tactician the Nazis had at the strategic level) and Goring; the former accusing the fat bloke of neglecting the defence of his ships and facilities. Ultimately, it could also be argued that the bombers forced the diversion of Luftwaffe attention away from Fighter Command's airfields in favour of the Blitz.

Regards,
MM
 
#7
A quick check suggests that there were 23 FAA pilots transferred to RAF sqns during the BoB, 10 of whom were killed in action (including one PoW who died of wounds) during the same period. A further 7 were killed later in the war.

RIP.

Regards,
MM
 
#8
There was only one service that took care of Czech and Polish servicemen.
The Royal Airforce.
Though their hands were to some extent as tied as the Army and Navy they were able to keep on at least a squadron strength of Polish crews.
My father was one of the lucky ones. They were on their way to repatriation and housed in Wretham "B" in Thetford. (I was there myself 35 years later)
They were asked for volunteers to form a new Transport Command Squadron.
As I said my father was one of the lucky ones, he flew with the RAF until the early 50s
He loved the RAF.
 
#10
My own favourite book is 'Men of the Battle of Britain' which gives a short bio and in many cases a picture of every single aircrewman who qualified for the BoB clasp to the 1939-45 Star.

For a personal account, Geoffrey Wellum's book 'First Light' is also an exceptional read about life as one of the RAF's youngest Spitfire pilots during the Battle. His description of raw fear as he literally stared a bf109 pilot in the face as it hung on to him in a series of very tight turns, and his guilt at killing a Luftwaffe pilot who was completely unaware of Wellum's presence until the RAF pilot's shells hit his bf109 at low level over the channel is very moving.

Of note, I believe that 'First Light' is being dramatised on BBC next Tuesday evening.

Regards,
MM
 
#12
Blondie,

According to my copy of 'Men of the Battle of Britain' a tiny minority of BoB aircrew were Great War veterans.

However, I seem to recall that these were mostly senior officers such as station commanders (some of whom did fly operationally) or non-pilots such as Defiant gunners or Blenheim (which operated as night fighters) observers. I shall check and report back...

Regards,
MM
 
#14
What an absolute hero!
 
#16
There was only one service that took care of Czech and Polish servicemen.
The Royal Airforce....
Not quite true.

Rear Admiral Joe Bartosik
Wikipedia said:
Józef Czeslaw Bartosik (July 20, 1917 – January 14, 2008 was a Polish Naval officer, born in Kraków, who served on Polish destroyers during World War II, under British naval command. Shortly after WWII he joined the British Royal Navy where he advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, before his retirement in 1969. He died in England in January 2008...
The Polish Navy
Wikipedia said:
...The outbreak of World War II caught the Polish Navy off guard and in a state of expansion. Lacking numerical superiority, Polish Naval commanders decided to withdraw main surface ships to Great Britain to join the Allied war effort and prevent them from being destroyed in a closed Baltic (Operation Peking). On August 30, 1939, 3 destroyers (ORP Błyskawica, Grom, and Burza) sailed to the British naval base at Leith in Scotland. They then operated in combination with Royal Navy vessels against Germany. Also two submarines managed to flee from Baltic through the Danish straits to Great Britain during the Polish September Campaign (one of them, ORP Orzeł, made a daring escape from internment in Tallinn, Estonia, and traveled without maps)...


Oddly enough, the Czechs didn't have much of a Navy unless you count this: Czech Navy
 
#17
There was only one service that took care of Czech and Polish servicemen.
The Royal Airforce.
Though their hands were to some extent as tied as the Army and Navy they were able to keep on at least a squadron strength of Polish crews.
My father was one of the lucky ones. They were on their way to repatriation and housed in Wretham "B" in Thetford. (I was there myself 35 years later)
They were asked for volunteers to form a new Transport Command Squadron.
As I said my father was one of the lucky ones, he flew with the RAF until the early 50s
He loved the RAF.
what about the polish airbourne brigade the survivours/veteren that live around south lincolnshire may disagree with you there were/are lots living in and around stamford not so many now when i went to school polish surnames were quite common
 
#19
My own favourite book is 'Men of the Battle of Britain' which gives a short bio and in many cases a picture of every single aircrewman who qualified for the BoB clasp to the 1939-45 Star.

For a personal account, Geoffrey Wellum's book 'First Light' is also an exceptional read about life as one of the RAF's youngest Spitfire pilots during the Battle. His description of raw fear as he literally stared a bf109 pilot in the face as it hung on to him in a series of very tight turns, and his guilt at killing a Luftwaffe pilot who was completely unaware of Wellum's presence until the RAF pilot's shells hit his bf109 at low level over the channel is very moving.

Of note, I believe that 'First Light' is being dramatised on BBC next Tuesday evening.

Regards,
MM
Watched "First Light" a very down to earth, moving story of life in the RAF. Somehow I think the programme only told half the story and will definitely read Geoffrey Wellum's book for a more indepth insight.
 
#20
Back to the OP's question ref Navy. Don't forget the senior service got a bit of a kicking at Dunkirk & then the following months during the BoB on convoy escort runs up the channel. It was a convoy attack by Stukas that got filmed from the cliffs & the resultant audio was broadcast around the globe. Circa June/July 40 if memory serves.
When the boxheads decided to have a pop at london the Navy moved a couple of boats into the Thames estuary as AA pickets.
Also the forts on stilts that were built in the estuary...........didn't they have Navy crews on board?
 

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