This year, being the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, there is inevitably going to be considerable publicity about the Battle. What it meant to the British war effort, what it involved in national sacrifice and what the effect was on the outcome of the War. Considering all this and thinking about ways in which a useful contribution could be made to all this, I had the idea of creating a day by day blog which would follow the Battle over its whole length. This means a blog covering the day to day events starting on July 10th and ending 114 days later on October 31st. These are the dates of the official start and end of the Battle.
To do this, I have formed a small team, which includes Dr. Zoe Bagley, a professional researcher and historian who worked for several years at the RAF museum at Hendon. Under her guidance, we have used many published and unpublished sources to produce this daily blog. The blog itself has been created, and is updated and maintained, by my son-in-law James Dunford Wood, himself the son of a DFC winner and WW2 RAF veteran; and I have had the invaluable help of my able assistant, Harriet O’Grady.
My personal interest in the Battle of Britain started with joining the Air Force in 1942 and then becoming a navigator on a two seater Mosquito fighter bomber flying as part of the Second Tactical Air Force in the last year of the War.
The Battle of Britain has always fascinated me. The Battle itself was remarkable in that the RAF turned out to have the resources in men and material to fight on level terms with the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, which until then had seemed to be invincible. What the RAF did was to prevent Germany knocking us out of the War as they had France. This meant that Britain under Churchill emerged amongst the victors in 1945.
This was a case where those who had prepared for the Battle, which they thought one day inevitable, had correctly forecast what had needed to be done to win such a combat. It was their work over a five year period from 1935 that enabled us to be successful when it came to the crunch. It’s not often that we can look back on an event in recent history that reflects such credit on those involved who made it possible. Commemorating it with the day to day blog, will, it is hoped, bring back the memories of the amazing drama of that summer of 1940.
A Note on Sources.
With regard to figures of aircraft flown by the Luftwaffe and lost by both the Luftwaffe and the RAF, there are a number of sources available and they do not all agree. There is no definitive number but only a series of estimates. We have used those given in Patrick Bishop’s Battle of Britain (2009) and The Most Dangerous Enemy by Stephen Bungay (2000). These figures are fairly consistent with those given in The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster (1961) and The Battle of Britain by Richard Hough and Denis Richards (1989).
The Battle of Britain which, for historians, officially started on July 10th began with the German bombing of coastal shipping in the Channel. This phase which lasted for the rest of the month was called by the Germans the Kanalkampf or The Channel Battle. Any aircrew which flew from this date onwards till October 31st on operations against the Luftwaffe was entitled to wear the Battle of Britain clasp on his 1939-45 medal. The reason July 10th was chosen was because that was the day that a truly massive dogfight between fighter aircraft of the two sides took place over a convoy of small commercial coasters threading their way through the Straits of Dover. They were under continuous attack by the Luftwaffe.