This year marks the 76th anniversary of The Battle of Britain, one of the most pivotal and momentous moments in our nation’s history and today, the 15th September, marks the anniversary of Battle of Britain Day. This extraordinary event is significant for many reasons, and may well be the last time the 21 surviving veterans are able to commemorate. As a result the occasion is being marked up and down the country, with air shows, documentaries, commemorative coins and more. How much do we really know about ‘the Few’ that risked their lives for us all?
Seventy six years ago British and American airmen fought the first ever battle entirely in the air; requiring great bravery and skill from RAF pilots. On the 15th September 1940 the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited RAF Uxbridge, home to the No. 11 Fighter Command, a group led by New Zealander Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, responsible for protecting and defending London and the South East of England.
During that day and into the night, there were two waves of bombs from German10Luftwaffe planes. Despite being under attack from around 250 bombers during each raid, the pilots made a decisive defeat on the Luftwaffe, foiling Hitler’s plan to destroy our air defenses and invade Britain. It is without a doubt certain that this single event changed the course of the war and thus brought an end to World War Two.
- The average age of RAF pilots of The Battle of Britain was a mere 20 years old
- In 1940 the average wage of a pilot officer was £264, which equates to roughly £30,000 today (pretty low given the risk to life to protect the public)
- The pilots came from a range of 16 nations including Australia, Jamaica and Belgium
- Whilst being outnumbered five to one by both machine and men during the battle, they had the advantage of radar and defending their homeland over the Germans
Battle of Britain Day Anniversary Fly Past
- Last year on the 75th anniversary, an estimated 40 Spitfires and Hurricanes from across the UK, USA and Europe came together at the Boultbee Flight Academy to take part in a historic flypast over the South of England.
- The event brought together the most amount of Spitfires and Hurricanes in one place since World War Two.
- The roar of the 40 engines transported the airfield (or RAF Westhampnett as it was known) back to the time of the Battle of Britain.
- The dramatic look and sound of the event evoked an emotional nostalgia, both with the surviving war veterans and the public.
Join the Royal Air Forces Association, the RAF charity that provides welfare support to ex RAF service men and women and their families, tomorrow in extending their gratitude to ‘the Few’ and keep track of the abundance of days, events and talks at the RAF museum.
In his famous speech on August 20th 1940, Churchill spoke of the sacrifices made during this period by these pilots. He said “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” This poignant tribute to the pilots by the ASP sums up that very sentiment.
Images and Video via: Wikipedia, YOUTUBE, Boutlbee Flight Academy, wikipedia and RAF Museum.