August 1941

Attack on a Ju 88 over the Irish Sea

The moment of action came. He was to port of me. A rapid turn in that direction, followed by a steep diving turn to starboard and I found myself in a dead straight vertical dive upon the Boche. The speed became incredible. The swastikas grew bigger and bigger in my sights. I opened fire. I just had time to avoid a collision.



August 1941

Night fighter interception over the North Sea

Bristol Beaufighter in flight

As we came out of the turn, the pressure eased, and I could see that we had the other aircraft cold. John’s handling of the Beaufighter had clinched that.Oosing head-on at nearly seven miles a minute on a dark, hazy night with no moon and no horizon, he had started to wheel a heavy and rather unstable aircraft around when only a mile away, and yet he had pulled out of that turn little more than that distance behind.



May 1941

Low level air attack in Iraq

In any case, a really low cross-country flight is a wonderful experience. It is the only time one can get the feeling of an aeroplane’s terrific speed. The ground streaks past under the wings unbelievably fast. Different coloured patches of sand flow by; it’s like running your hand across a patchwork quilt. You lift your machine gently upwards to clear hummocks, and then ease her down again the other side to stay low, low, low. As one approaches the target, the adrenalin starts to pump, giving a tingling sensation between the shoulder-blades, and maybe some sweat trickles down.



May 1941

Second ‘Eagle Squadron’ formed

By day, the usual enemy reconnaissances were flown, and defensive fighter patrols were maintained over the Dover Straits and over coastal areas. A number of small-scale offensive daylight sweeps covered Kent and South and South-West Coastal regions; our fighters destroyed eighteen Me. 109’s, and probably destroyed six others. We lost six aircraft, but four of the pilots were saved. Ten Me. 109’s dived from 29,000 feet to 100 feet to attack Rochford aerodrome, and destroyed the control office.



February 1941

RAF fighters go on offensive

Our fighter patrols operated over Northern France on five days. Few enemy aircraft were encountered, but A.A. fire was generally heavy and accurate. On the 25th and 26th, an escort and screen was provided for a small bomber force which attacked shipping targets at Dunkirk and Calais. About 100 fighters were employed on each occasion.



December 1940

RAF and RAAF control the skies over Libya

Our fighters have continued to maintain their ascendancy over the Italian Air Force. On the 26th Gladiators of the Royal Australian Air Force shot down without loss two, and probably six, of a number of C.R. 42 fighters “which were escorting a bomber formation, and on the 28th Hurricanes shot down three bombers and a fighter, again without loss.



November 1940

Hugh Dowding is retired from the RAF

Hugh Dowding, official portrait

Yet the reserved uncharismatic, Dowding, nicknamed “Stuffy”, was not popular amongst the higher echelons of the RAF. Some argued that he was not a sufficiently personable leader and should be spending more time visiting the front line Squadrons. There was no evidence that any fighter Squadron needed any form of inspiration – but this was just an alternative view of military leadership.



October 1940

Spitfire versus six Messerschmitt 109s

Solo Spitfire in flight

One Messerschmitt did a barrel roll to the left. I fired at him as he did so, and he dropped back. I was then engaged from astern, and lost a bit of ground. By the time we got to Hastings I had caught up the rest of them again, and knocked bits off one. Another was half a mile or more below and behind the others as they crossed the coast. He was dropping back rapidly, and I was hoping to finish him off when six more Messerschmitt 109’s came down at me from over the Channel in line abreast.



October 1940

A multi-national Royal Air Force

Indian air force pilots arrive in Britain 8th October 1940

During the German invasion of Poland he flew reconnaissance missions in an unarmed trainer aircraft but managed to take the fight to the enemy by throwing hand grenades out of his aircraft at columns of troops. He survived being shot down and was ordered to Rumania when Poland collapsed. Here he was interned but managed to escape and made his way, via North Africa, to France where he again served with a Polish unit. It is believed that he shot down as many as 11 aircraft during the German invasion of France.



September 1940

Top fighter pilot reflects on ‘Big Wing’ tactic

All too frequently, when returning to North Weald in a semi-exhausted condition, all we saw of 12 Group’s contribution to the engagement, was a vast formation of Hurricanes in neat vics of three, steaming comfortably over our heads in pursuit of an enemy who had long since disappeared in the direction of France. Our reactions on such occasions, though mostly of resigned amusement at first, grew to be more harshly critical later on.