RAF Ace ‘Sailor’ Malan’s Ten Rules for Air Combat

TEN OF MY RULES FOR AIR FIGHTING

Wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Fire short bursts of one to two seconds only when your sights are definitely “ON”.

Whilst shooting think of nothing else, brace the whole of your body: have both hands on the stick: concentrate on your ring sight.

Always keep a sharp lookout. “Keep your finger out”.

Still from gun camera film shot by Flight Lieutenant A G "Sailor" Malan, leader of 'A' Flight, No. 74 Squadron RAF, recording his first aerial victory, a Heinkel He 111 over Dunkirk. Although debris and billowing smoke issue from the Heinkel's starboard engine and the starboard undercarriage has dropped, Malan's claim was categorised as unconfirmed since he did not observe the aircraft's destruction. 'A' Flight was based at Hornchurch but was flying out of Rochford at this time in order to shorten the patrol range to France. By the end of July 1941, Malan had achieved a total of 27 and seven shared confirmed victories, and two and one shared unconfirmed victories to become the highest scoring pilot of the war in Fighter Command.
Still from gun camera film shot by Flight Lieutenant A G “Sailor” Malan, leader of ‘A’ Flight, No. 74 Squadron RAF, recording his first aerial victory, a Heinkel He 111 over Dunkirk. Although debris and billowing smoke issue from the Heinkel’s starboard engine and the starboard undercarriage has dropped, Malan’s claim was categorised as unconfirmed since he did not observe the aircraft’s destruction. ‘A’ Flight was based at Hornchurch but was flying out of Rochford at this time in order to shorten the patrol range to France. By the end of July 1941, Malan had achieved a total of 27 and seven shared confirmed victories, and two and one shared unconfirmed victories to become the highest scoring pilot of the war in Fighter Command.

The weather meant that there was some respite for RAF Fighter Command on the 27th. The Luftwaffe had made a number of bombing attacks overnight but the day was relatively quiet with only scattered attacks and a number of photographic reconnaissance flights – they were still trying to establish how much damage they were inflicting.

Throughout the battle there was some re-arrangement of the fighter squadrons, with those that had been in the thick of the battle being rested in more northerly airfields, while fresh Squadrons were rotated south to replace them. No 74 Squadron went to Lincolnshire in mid August. The War Artist Advisory Committee immediately took the opportunity to try to get a portrait of their Squadron Leader.

74 Squadron Operational Record Book – 27 August, Kirton Lindsey

Mr Mansbridge RA who has been appointed by the Air Ministry to paint portraits of famous fighter pilots arrived and painted portrait of S/L Malan DFC (bar).

Colour oil painting of Sailor Malan by Cuthbert Orde, 1940

‘Sailor’ Malan had already become an ‘Ace’ and his aggressive battle leadership, now that he was Squadron Leader, was to become renowned throughout the RAF. His famous ‘Ten Rules’ were soon to be seen displayed by many Fighter Squadrons, as well as in Training Schools:

TEN OF MY RULES FOR AIR FIGHTING

Wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Fire short bursts of one to two seconds only when your sights are definitely “ON”.

Whilst shooting think of nothing else, brace the whole of your body: have both hands on the stick: concentrate on your ring sight.

Always keep a sharp lookout. “Keep your finger out”.

Height gives you the initiative.

Always turn and face the attack.

Make your decisions promptly. It is better to act quickly even though your tactics are not the best.

Never fly straight and level for more than 30 seconds in the combat area.

When diving to attack always leave a proportion of your formation above to act as a top guard.

INITIATIVE, AGGRESSION, AIR DISCIPLINE, and TEAMWORK are words that MEAN something in Air Fighting.

Go in quickly – Punch hard – Get out!

Contemporary newsreel produced by Ministry of Information, seen by the public in cinemas during this period, ‘Fighter Pilot’ has a compilation of gun camera footage:

A portrait from 1943. Group Captain A G "Sailor" Malan, Officer Commanding No. 145 Wing based at Merston, climbing in to the cockpit of his Supermarine Spitfire before taking off from Appledram, Sussex.
A portrait from 1943. Group Captain A G “Sailor” Malan, Officer Commanding No. 145 Wing based at Merston, climbing in to the cockpit of his Supermarine Spitfire before taking off from Appledram, Sussex.
Also on this day: The controlled detonation of a German bomb, which fell on the parade ground at RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire, on 27 August 1940. The bomb did not explode, but buried itself deep in the ground where it was subsequently destroyed by the Station Armament Officer.

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