After the Battle

Once the Battle of Britain was over and it became part of history, the time came to reflect back and collate some of the facts and list them, thus giving us an overview as to what Fighter Command had to work with, what was the final cost in personnel and machines etc. Naturally there is always going to be a conflict over actual figures, as much of this depends as to the actual source. You may read one book and their figures may show quite different compared to another. Our figures are from official British and German documents and this is about as close as one can get to be authentic.

HOW MANY ALLIED PERSONNEL SERVED IN THE BATTLE?
Most came from Great Britain but many came from commonwealth countries. It is interesting to note that some pilots may have come from any of the commonwealth countries, but because they were holders of a British passport and not that of the country that they came from they were classified as being British. The Royal Air Force classified them according to the issuing country of the passport that they held.
The breakdown is as follows:

NATIONALITYSTRENGTH
British2342
Americans9
Australians32
Barbados1
Belgians28
Canadians112
Czechoslovakians88
Free French13
Irish10
Jamacians1
Newfoundland1
New Zealanders127
Polish145
South Africans25
Southern Rhodesians3
TOTALS2937

DID BATTLE OF BRITAIN PILOTS RECEIVE AN AWARD?
All pilots that served during this period was entitled to an award. This was in the form of a gilt clasp with the words BATTLE OF BRITAIN inscribed, and this clasp is worn on the ribbon of the 1939 - 45 Star that was awarded to all those that served on military service during the Second World War. The clasp was awarded to all those that had flown on at least one operational sortie with an accredited Battle of Britain combat squadron between July 10th - October 31st 1940. The award was NOT given to those pilots who were under training with a training squadron even if they did happen to shoot down an enemy aircraft.

WHO WERE THE COMMANDERS OF FIGHTER COMMAND?
Commander in Chief of RAF Fighter Command:
Air Chief Marshal Hugh Caswall Tremenheere Dowding

Commander in Chief of 10 Group Fighter Command:
Air Vice Marshal Christopher Joseph Quintin Brand

Commander in Chief of 11 Group Fighter Command:
Air Vice Marshal Keith Rodney Park

Commander in Chief of 12 Group Fighter Command:
Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory

Commander in Chief of 13 Group Fighter Command:
Air Vice Marshal Richard Ernest Saul

IS IT CORRECT THAT DOWDING AND PARK WERE UNFAIRLY TREATED?

In a way yes, but this was directly after the Battle of Britain. There are a few facts that we must be aware of first:

  1. Before the Battle of Britain Leigh-Mallory wanted command of 11 Group.
  2. It was a known fact that Park disliked Leigh-Mallory and Leigh-Mallory disliked Park.
  3. Dowding generally favoured Park over Leigh-Mallory.
  4. S/L Douglas Bader instituted the "Big Wing" theory with Leigh-Mallory's support.
  5. Park was against the "Big Wing" theory.
  6. On this issue Dowding supported Park.

Now these were the six main ingredients in the "Big Wing" pudding. All through the latter half of the Battle, Park constantly complained that Leigh-Mallory's "Big Wings" were late or not in the position that he wanted them in. At a meeting with the Air Ministry, Park put his case forward regarding the lateness of the "Big Wings" further adding that sometimes they were not even there. Leigh-Mallory replied that on more than two occasions the "Big Wing" had accounted for more than ten destroyed enemy aircraft to which Park commented that that may have been so, but only after they (the enemy) had almost destroyed his airfields and caused hundreds of civilian deaths. Leigh-Mallory then stated that he would rather destroy a hundred enemy aircraft after they hit their targets than six before they hit their targets. In an aggressive mood Park retaliated that his job was to defend the targets of the Luftwaffe and not let them destroy us first before we went after them, and sarcastically said that "we might as well give them an escort first."

When the Battle of Britain was over, Dowding was relieved of his duties by the Air Ministry as C-in-C of Fighter Command by being sent to America to give talks. Park was also relieved of his duties and sent overseas while Leigh-Mallory got the prime job of being made C-in-C of 11 Group. Park mentioned afterwards in an interview that when he called on 10 Group for assistance they sent the required squadrons to assist 11 Group quickly and efficiently, yet 12 Group which was often closer, sometimes did not even show up. You cannot win a war with tactics like that.

So, yes they did not deserve to be discarded after the Battle of Britain. Historians, enthusuasts of the Battle and even the pilots themselves agree that it was their experience, the way that Fighter Command was conducted and the final outcome of perseverence to successfully defend the country against the Luftwaffe that eventually won the Battle of Britain. Then they were dumped like a ton of bricks.

WAS THERE MUCH STRAIN PUT ON THE FIGHTER PILOTS?
In the early weeks of the Battle, no, but as the Battle progressed, especially during August and early September 1940 yes there was. As P/O George Barclay of 249 Squadron stated "...during the month of July it was more like a serious game of cat and mouse, but during August and the first weeks of September we were fighting for our lives." There was no intensity in the Battle during those first weeks so pilots were in a position to relax, go up on patrol or the odd 'scramble' then come back and relax again. If any such day could be called 'busy' then another squadron or flight could be called to execute the task at hand.

But when August came, it was a far different story as the Luftwaffe had made no progress during July, so with the German invasion planned for August, and time running out the Luftwaffe threw everything at Fighter Command as the attacks moved inland to the aircraft factories, aerodromes as well as anything that contributed to Britain's war effort. Fighter pilots were generally up at 0400 - 0430hrs. Preparations had to be made for the day ahead. breakfast, checking out their aircraft and consultation with their squadron commanders for the usual morning pep talk on the latest movements or information. By first light they were off to dispersal and there they sat, and waited for the dreaded telephone to ring with the order to "Scramble".

Once in the air they had to keep a sharp lookout for the enemy, and once found there were two tasks at hand, both to be done at the same time. Concentrate on the enemy that you are attacking while also keeping your eyes peeled for any of the enemy that would be attacking you. There was no time to relax, momentarily pondering in rejoicing at your claim of shooting down an enemy aircraft would more often than not result in you being shot down by an eagle eyed attacker.

After the Battle, many pilots stated that even after returning back to base you could not relax. Often you had seen a 'mate' that had 'bought it', or three or four of the squadron who did not return. It had been a bad day, you do not celebrate on days like these. The first "Scramble" could be between 0800 and 0900 hours, you come back, rearm and refuel and you are off again within the hour where it is all repeated again. At the height of the Battle pilots often done four or five of these sorties a day. Kath Preston, who ran the "White Hart" at Brasted said that pilots came down from Biggin Hill and you would often see one or two sitting quietly on their own not wanting to join in the merriment of others. Speak to them and they would often storm out of the pub. It was obvious that they had lost a dear 'mate'. Enjoying a beer was the last thing on their minds. This happened time and time again.

Many pilots went straight to bed after dinner, tired and knowing that they would have to be up before first light, many have been found to be sound asleep at the controls after touching down and stopping in the middle of the aerodrome, so tired and exhausted they would put their heads back and sleep would come automatically. Yes, stress and exhaustion set in to most of the pilots at some stage. The body can take so much and they prayed for the day when they would be transferred north.

WAS THE BOMBING VERY EXTENSIVE DURING THE BATTLE?
It was quite extensive. In fact the first bombs to fall on British soil was in the Shetlands in October 1939 and the first civilian casualties to be killed during the war was at Clacton, Essex on April 30th, 1940. In the very early part of the war the chief targets were in Scotland, the enemy obviously attacking the naval bases of Scapa Flow and the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh. Afterwards bombing occurred all along the East Coast, in the Midlands, South Wales and the southern towns of Portland, Weymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton. These bombing raids both by day and by night was to continue right through the Battle of Britain period. Considerable damage was done and claimed many casualties.

Looking at the tables below, you can see the difference in which areas received the highest concentration and how this increased or decreased as the months followed. If we look at the bombing of RAF airfields, we will see that the tonnage of bombs was far greater during August than it was during September or October 1940. But if we take a look at London, we see exactly the opposite, as the months progresssed, the greater the tonnage of bombs that was dropped. The figures of bombs dropped (in tonnage) are shown below:

MONTHAREAS
BOMBED
HIGH
EXPLOSIVE
INCENDIARY
BOMBS
AugustLondon12 tons12 tons
AugustBirmingham94 tons204 tons
AugustLiverpool454 tons1029 tons
AugustManchester6 tons-
AugustRAF Airfields1004 tons321 tons
AugustSecondary Targets*397 tons2492 tons
AugustHarrasing**406 tons261 tons
AugustShipping86 tons-
AugustTotals2548 tons4596 tons
SeptemberLondon6501 tons9540 tons
SeptemberBirmingham14 tons7 tons
SeptemberBristol110 tons68 tons
SeptemberCoventry19 tons18 tons
SeptemberLiverpool326 tons787 tons
SeptemberManchester12 tons10 tons
SeptemberPlymouth49 tons12 tons
SeptemberSouthampton117 tons77 tons
SeptemberRAF Airfields333 tons122 tons
SeptemberSecondary Targets*1112 tons1202 tons
SeptemberHarassing**292 tons83 tons
SeptemberShipping24 tons-
SeptemberTotals8909 tons11,926 tons
OctoberLondon7242 tons4869 tons
OctoberBirmingham339 tons864 tons
OctoberBristol25 tons58 tons
OctoberCoventry163 tons536 tons
OctoberLiverpool210 tons300 tons
OctoberPlymouth14 tons62 tons
OctoberSouthampton6 tons-
OctoberRAF Airfields182 tons56 tons
OctoberSecondary*769 tons188 tons
OctoberHarassing**77 tons88 tons
OctoberShipping30 tons-
OctoberTotals9057 tons7021 tons
* Secondary = Railways, Railway yards, communications, power stations, docks etc.
**  Harassing = Areo engine works, aircraft factories, shipyards etc