Battle of Britain Day 75th Anniversary

September 14, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

(Source material - Wikipedia)

The Battle of Britain Day is the name given to the large-scale aerial battle that took place on 15 September 1940, during the Battle of Britain.

In June 1940, Nazi Germany had conquered most of Western Europe and Scandinavia. At that time, the only major power standing in the way of a German-dominated Europe was the British Empire and the Commonwealth. After having several peace offers rejected by the British, Adolf Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF) in order to gain air superiority or air supremacy as a prelude to launching Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious assault by the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) onto the British mainland.

In July 1940, the Luftwaffe started by closing the English Channel to merchant shipping. In August, Operation Adlerangriff (Eagle Attack) was launched against RAF airfields in southern England. By the first week of September, the Luftwaffe had not gained the results desired by Hitler. Frustrated, the Germans turned towards the strategic bombing of cities, an offensive which was aimed at British military and civil industries, but also civilian morale. The attacks began on 7 September 1940, but were to reach their daylight climax on 15 September.

On Sunday, 15 September 1940, the Luftwaffe launched its largest and most concentrated attack against London in the hope of drawing out the RAF into a battle of annihilation. Around 1,500 aircraft took part in the air battles which lasted until dusk. The action was the climax of the Battle of Britain.

RAF Fighter Command defeated the German raids. The Luftwaffe formations were dispersed by a large cloud base and failed to inflict severe damage on the city of London. In the aftermath of the raid, Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion. Having been defeated in daylight, the Luftwaffe turned its attention to The Blitz night campaign which lasted until May 1941.

The most famous fighter aircraft used in the Battle of Britain were the British Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire Mk I and the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 E variant (Emil) single-engined fighters.

Hawker Hurricane

Hawker Hurricane Mark I, R4118The Victory Show 2015 - Cosby, Leicestershire

Although slower than the Spitfire it was the "workhorse" Hurricane that scored the higher number of RAF victories during this period, accounting for 55 percent of the 2,739 German losses, according to Fighter Command, compared with 42 per cent by Spitfires. 

Generally the Spitfire would intercept the German fighters, leaving Hurricanes to concentrate on the bombers although the Hurricanes were perfectly able to hold their own in a dogfight as it was able to out-turn both the Spitfire and the BF109.

But, whilst it was sturdy and stable, the Hurricane's construction made it dangerous in the event of the aircraft catching fire; the wood frames and fabric covering of the rear fuselage meant that fire could spread through the rear fuselage structure quite easily.

 

Supermarine Spitfire (Grace Spitfire ML407 Shown)

Carolyn Grace Spitfire ML407The Victory Show 2015 - Cosby, Leicestershire The Supermarine Spitfire is by far the best known WWII fighter and easily recognisable with its distinctive elliptical wings and Merlin engine roar.

The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works (which operated as a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong from 1928). In accordance with its role as an interceptor, Mitchell supported the development of the Spitfire's distinctive elliptical wing (designed by B.Shenstone) to have the thinnest possible cross-section; this thin wing enabled the Spitfire to have a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters.

The wings were fitted with eight .303 caliber Browning machine guns, with 300 rounds per gun

After the Battle of Britain the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s. The Seafire was a carrier-based adaptation of the Spitfire which served in the Fleet Air Arm from 1942 through to the mid-1950s. Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp(768 kW), it was strong enough and adaptable enough to use increasingly powerful Merlin and, in later marks, Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,340 hp (1,745 kW); as a consequence of this the Spitfire's performance and capabilities improved over the course of its life.

 

Messerschmitt Bf 109

The Victory Show 2015The Victory Show 2015 - Cosby, Leicestershire The Messerschmitt Bf 109, commonly called the Me 109 (most often by Allied aircrew and even amongst the German aces themselves,even though this was not the official German designation), is a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid-1930s.The "Bf 109" designation was issued by the German ministry of aviation and represents the developing company Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (at which the engineer Messerschmitt led the development of the plane) and a rather arbitrary figure. It was one of the first truly modern fighters of the era, including such features as all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear. It was powered by a liquid-cooled, inverted-V12 aero engine.

Its main armament depended on the subtype. The E-1 was armed with four MG 17 7.92mm machine guns; two cowl guns above the engine with 1,000 rounds per gun, and two in the wings with 500 rounds per gun. The E-3, E-4 and E-7s retained the fuselage armament of the E-1 but replaced the MG 17 wing guns with two MG FFs (E-3) or improved MG FF/M (E-4 and E-7) 20 mm cannons, one in each wing with 60 rpg. Although the explosive cannon shells had great destructive power, the MG FF's low muzzle velocity and the limited ammunition capacity of its drum magazines meant the armament was not markedly superior to the RAF fighter's eight machine guns.

Because of the similarities between the Spitfire and BF109 a lot of the victories came down to pilot skill

 


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