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Duxford in the Battle of Britain

‘Patrolled base for some time but E/A did not return.’ This seems a fitting last entry for what is ...

31 October 1940, 19 Squadron

Another E/A passed over base and a section led by F/O. Brinsden took off after it but lost it in ...

31 October 1940, RAF Duxford

Hostile Aircraft crossed station at 6000′ approx. A.A. armament opened fire, but without apparent ...

31 October 1940, 19 Squadron

A Do.215 passed over base at 6,000 feet. F/Lt. Clouston took off after it but it disappeared into ...

30 October 1940, RAF Duxford

A meeting was held in the Station Institute to inaugarate a Club for L/Cpls of the army and ...

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Britain stood alone! But the Luftwaffe did not have the tools nor the doctrine to win...

Battle of Britain and ‘The Blitz’

 

A TURNING POINT? Battle of Britain

 

 

 

The Battle of Britain had important ramifications for the course of World War II. The most immediate of those that aided the Allied cause were the dividends that accrued from the fact that Germany had suffered its first major defeat in the war. The British triumph gave hope to the peoples of occupied countries in Europe and helped feed partisan resistance against German occupation forces. More important, this battle helped convince many in the neutral United States to favor offering greater assistance to Britain. Increasing popular support assisted President Franklin D. Roosevelt in securing passage of the March 1941 Lend-Lease Act, which provided vital war supplies to Britain and to other countries fighting the Axis powers.

 

In military terms, the Battle of Britain had a tremendous impact on Germany’s war effort. The Luftwaffe never fully recovered from its losses in the battle, as Britain then surpassed Germany in aircraft production. Also, because Britain remained in the war, Germany now had to spread its military resources even more thinly, including assisting Italy in combatting British forces in the Mediterranean. Rather than the quick conclusion of the war that German leader Adolf Hitler and commander of the Luftwaffe Reichsmarschall (Reich Marshal) Hermann Göring had believed was inevitable, the Germans faced a protracted conflict that placed great strain on their limited military resources.

 

This situation became far worse for Germany with the June 1941 commencement of Operation BARBAROSSA, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The Battle of Britain played a role even before the opening of hostilities between the Germans and the Soviets. Hitler’s decision to conquer the Soviet Union was based on his long-held belief in the need to secure Lebensraum (living space) for the German people, but he also expressed the opinion that a German defeat of the Soviet Union would in turn force Great Britain to surrender. Ultimately, BARBAROSSA resulted in a protracted two-front war in Europe. Following the entry of the United States into the conflict as an Allied power, U.S. military might, as well as substantial American material and military resources provided to Britain and the Soviet Union, presented the Germans with a war that they could not win, for Allied resources far surpassed those available to Germany. The June 1944 Allied landing in Normandy was the final proof of the importance of the Battle of Britain. This amphibious assault on Hitler’s Europe was made possible only because Britain remained a secure base for the assembly of the vast armada needed for the operation. In many respects, the 1940 struggle for mastery of the skies over Britain had changed the entire outcome of World War II in Europe.

 

THE BLITZ Redux

by Mitch on September 12, 2012 0 Comments

The Blitz began as the daylight Battle of Britain, for control of the air over the island, was reaching a climax. The Germans hoped at first to drive the Royal Air Force (RAF) from the skies, and then they sought to destroy the RAF by hitting factories and ground installations; finally, they turned to terrorizing the civilian population by bombing cities. This thrust was, in effect, triggered on the night of 24–25 August when German bombers, which were supposed to target an oil depot at Thameshaven, struck London instead. The German bombers had hardly retired when British Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill ordered a retaliatory strike on Berlin. On 5 September, German leader Adolf Hitler issued a directive calling for “disruptive attacks on the population and air defenses of major British cities, including London, by day and night.” Such bombing could not have significant military value and was ...

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Great Britain, Air Force

by Mitch on August 30, 2012 0 Comments

The future of the Royal Air Force (RAF) appeared bleak at the end of World War I. With extensive personnel and aircraft drawdowns, the RAF’s existence as an independent service remained in doubt until the appointment of General Sir Hugh Trenchard as chief of the Air Staff in January 1919. As dogged as he was visionary, Trenchard proved the viability of the third service, and by the mid-1920s he secured the RAF’s future. In search of a mission, the RAF turned to imperial policing, especially in Somaliland, Aden, Palestine, India, and Iraq, where it proved highly successful.

 

Still, growth in force size was slow due to economic difficulties and an ever-shrinking defense budget. Of the 52 squadrons approved in 1923, only 42 had been established by 1934. In 1935, the transition to monoplane designs began, a process resulting in the most successful British fighter aircraft of the early ...

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Political Bombing

by Mitch on August 15, 2012 0 Comments

Coventry bomb damage 1940.

The Cambridge University by-election of 1940 was the fourth contested by-election of the war. Unusually, the electoral truce effectively broke down, for the Conservatives and Labour parties both fielded proxy candidates. The Conservatives proposed A. V. Hill but he stood as an Independent Conservative. In response Labour supporters put up an ‘independent progressive’, the Regius Professor of Physic at Cambridge, John Ryle, who despite his archaic title was a pioneer of social medicine. Ryle stood on a platform close to that of Stokes and his peace aims campaign. Hill won two thirds of the vote, on a turnout of 42 per cent of the electorate of around 36,000. The voters in university elections were the graduates of the relevant universities, and they thus give us an indication of the politics of this group. Graduates voted overwhelmingly for Conservatives and independents.

 

Hill, Professor of Biophysics at ...

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Morrison shelter

by Mitch on August 15, 2012 0 Comments

The Blitz hit Britain in the autumn and winter nights of 1940–41. This was not the time to be in a trench or an Anderson shelter in one’s garden. There was a demand for indoor shelters. The choice of a new shelter was made in No. 10 Downing Street, not in a committee meeting, but at a demonstration. On New Year’s Day 1941 two prototypes were on show there: one, with a flat top, was by Professor John Baker; the other, with a curved top, by a Dr Merriman. The scene was rendered as follows in an official account: ‘The PM entering the room found a convenient seat on the flat-topped shelter and hailed “curvedtop” as “just the thing”. Professor Baker suggested that the convenience of “flat-top” as an article of furniture was perhaps causing its qualities as a shelter to be hidden.’ The upshot was that ...

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The Merlin: The engine that saved the free world?

by Mitch on August 10, 2012 0 Comments

 

For most people, an engine just gets us from A to B - and drinks expensive petrol.

But one, the Rolls-Royce Merlin, may have been the difference between freedom and tyranny.

Such is its lasting impact, it was celebrated on Sunday with the first ever Spitfires, Merlins and Motors event at Duxford - the Imperial War Museum's aviation centre in Cambridgeshire.

Mike Evans, who founded the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, believes the engine turned the tide of war.

"Without the Merlin, we would not have won the Battle of Britain and Hitler may have crossed the channel," he said.

Designed in Derby, it powered a series of planes which between 1940 and 1945 halted, hammered and then crippled the forces of Nazi Germany.

The Merlin had a rich heritage, developed from engines designed and used during World War I and the peacetime air speed competition, the Schneider ...

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No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron

by Mitch on August 6, 2012 0 Comments

No. 303 ("Kościuszko") Polish Fighter Squadron (Polish: 303 Dywizjon Myśliwski "Warszawski im. Tadeusza Kos'ciuszki") was one of 16 Polish squadrons in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War. It was the highest scoring RAF squadron of the Battle of Britain.

 

The squadron was named after the Polish and American Revolution hero General Tadeusz Kos'ciuszko, and the eponymous Polish 7th Air Escadrille founded by Merian C. Cooper, that served Poland in the 1919-1921 Polish-Soviet War. No. 303 was formed in Britain as part of an agreement between the Polish Government in Exile and the United Kingdom. It had a distinguished combat record and was disbanded in December 1946.

 

No. 303 (Polish) Squadron was formed on 2 August 1940 at RAF Northolt, and became operational on 31 August. Its initial cadre was 13 Officer and 8 NCO pilots and 135 Polish ground staff. At the outset, serving ...

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Experiencing the Blitz

by Mitch on August 3, 2012 0 Comments

Another failure: Blitz

by Mitch on July 30, 2012 0 Comments

Starfish decoy control bunker

A Second World War bombing decoy site at Stockwood. It was built in 1940 as a 'Permanent Starfish' site to deflect enemy bombing from the city of Bristol. In 1942 a 'QL' decoy was added to the site as part of the 'C-series' of civil decoys to protect the Lysaght steelworks in Bristol. The 'Starfish' decoy operated by lighting a series of controlled fires during an air raid to replicate an urban area targeted by bombs. The 'QL' decoy featured a display of lights to simulate an active factory site. The site is referenced as being in use up until 1943, but could have been in use throughout the duration of the war. Stockwood was one of eight civil bombing decoys for Bristol, and one of six 'Starfish' sites.

Late 1940 and early 1941 saw a second British failure. London and many other port and industrial ...

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Battle of Britain 1940

by Mitch on July 30, 2012 0 Comments

Spitfires Over the Needles by Philip West.

 

Battle of Britain, July 1940. Spitfires of 609 Squadron returning to their satellite station airfield at Warmwell to re-arm and re-fuel, following an intercept mission against enemy aircraft trying to disrupt shipping along the South Coast of England. Like many other RAF Squadrons, No 609 the (West Riding) Auxiliary Squadron distinguished itself in many great air battles with honour and courage.

 

The very visible French failure on the Western Front was followed by the glories of the Battle of Britain. From the summer into the early autumn, RAF fighters based in southern England destroyed 50 per cent more enemy bombers and fighters than they lost. The resulting defeat of the Luftwaffe by the RAF in the summer of 1940 was in many respects the culmination of steady planning in air defence over many years. One crucial aspect was completely unexpected and unprepared for ...

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Spitfire Paddy, the Battle of Britain's youngest air ace

by Mitch on July 26, 2012 0 Comments

"This is it, chaps", the final words of Wing-Commander Brendan "Paddy" Finucane, the Dublin-born RAF fighter ace, were remembered this month on the 70th anniversary of his death. The much-decorated Finucane, who at 21 was the youngest wing-commander in the Royal Air Force's history at the time of his death, became a much-written about hero in the first years of the Second World War and was one of nine Irish pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain.

Last Wednesday the Daily Telegraph devoted its Britain at War column, which prints contemporaneous accounts of the hostilities, to the final flight of Finucane. He was born on October 16, 1920 in Rathmines attending Synge Street and O'Connell Schools until 1936 when he moved with his family to London. Among his classmates in O'Connell's were two famous sports commentators, Micheal O'Hehir and Philip Greene. Thomas Finucane, his ...

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Imperial War Museum in the UK - the 70th anniversary of 1940

by Mitch on June 6, 2010 0 Comments

A dedicated microsite, 1940: Britain’s Finest Hour (www.iwm.org.uk/1940), outlines the key events of 1940, featuring archive photographs and film to tell the story of this momentous year, and includes up-to-date information on the events and exhibitions that are happening to mark the anniversary as well as newly commissioned films and interactive features.

Key events at the Museums this year include:

- The breathtaking Battle of Britain Air Show at IWM Duxford (4 & 5 September 2010)
- A re-enactment of Winston Churchill's famous ‘The Few’ speech, followed by a fly-past (20 August 2010)

There’s also a chance to explore the personal histories of the men and women who were involved in the events of 1940. The new Explore History Centre at IWM London gives unprecedented access to the Museum’s Collections, allowing visitors of all ages to delve into the digitised archives and find films, photos ...
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Battle of Britain – An Overview

by Mitch on April 14, 2010 0 Comments

 

Date: From July 10, 1940, to October 31, 1940

Definition: A series of aerial bombings made by the Germans over British cities during World War II.

Significance: The Battle of Britain, designed to completely demoralize the British by destroying the nation’s industrial and military infrastructure, was the first major battle to be fought almost entirely in the air.
 
Background

By the end of June, 1940, the German army had conquered almost every country that had opposed it. Only Great Britain, protected by the English Channel, remained in the fight, even though it had lost much of its army on the Continent in fruitless support of its allies. Thus, when German chancellor Adolf Hitler offered peace to Britain, much of the world thought his offer would be accepted. When Britain refused, Hitler issued orders for an invasion, a vital preliminary to which would be the elimination of the British Royal ...

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Who Won the Battle of Britain

by Mitch on February 1, 2010 1 Comment

By Jon Lake

Everyone 'knows' that the Battle of Britain marked a historic victory for the RAF, and a humiliating defeat for the Luftwaffe. This is, however, a dangerously simplistic conclusion. Long after the end of the Battle, German aircraft were able to operate over Britain, attacking targets with virtual impunity. The Luftwaffe had been unable to achieve the air supremacy required for an invasion, and admittedly failed to crush its enemy. But at the same time the RAF had similarly failed to destroy the Luftwaffe, and was unable to win complete control of its own airspace.

In the end, Fighter Command achieved its stated (and relatively modest) aim by surviving intact long enough to keep Britain in the war and to deny Hitler any chance of invading, while the Luftwaffe failed to achieve its more ambitious aims. In that sense, at least, the RAF 'won' the Battle. An official ...

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Battle of Britain Airshow, Duxford, 2010. Sixteen Spitfires