The Battle of Britain

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by blonde_guy, Sep 8, 2010.

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  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. Numerous individual pilots were detached to the RAF. Several transferred fully.
    One of Baders boys I think.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.


  7. 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.
  8. davidflies

    davidflies War Hero Book Reviewer

  9. 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.

  10. Would any of the pilots in the BOB have been veterans of the RFC & dogfights over the Western Front, or would they have been too old?
  11. 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...

  12. What an absolute hero!
  13. That chap is a legend.....flying in solitary defence of the airfields he commanded sometimes!