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Episodes & Studies Volume 2



WITH THE END of October the Battle of Britain as a day battle was over. The night attacks on London were continued by large numbers of enemy aircraft on every night in October, but for the day-fighter pilot the emphasis was on preparing for a renewal of the battle in the spring, for it was obvious that the Germans had lost their chance of invasion and could not think of it again until the winter was over.

The Battle of Britain was a turning point. The Germans had intended to invade Britain and as a prerequisite needed supremacy in the air above the beaches where their troops must land. The destruction of Fighter Command was therefore imperative. It is fairly certain that the Germans used all that they could for this battle, yet failed to win it. Flushed with their victories over Poland, Norway, Denmark, France, and the Low Countries they launched an assault which they thought would result in the conquest of England. Against them Air Chief Marshal Dowding pitted his wits and the fifty-two RAF fighter squadrons. Over the main area of battle the small fighter force was directed by Air Vice-Marshal Park against the waves of German bombers and fighters. Undaunted by almost overwhelming odds, the fighter pilots flew into the skies over the Southern and Home Counties and with skill and courage broke the attack and turned the Luftwaffe before them time and again.

On 7 September Goering's pride and joy—his Luftwaffe—retired almost completely from the day battle. It had had enough. For the time being the threat of a Nazi occupation of the quiet villages of England, from being almost a certainty had become only a remote possibility. The pilots from England, Occupied Europe, and the Dominions had vanquished a foe vastly superior to themselves in numbers, and the Battle for Britain was won. Altogether during the period of the battle the German Air Force lost 1733 aircraft destroyed. Fighter Command losses were 915 aircraft.

For the first time the German Air Force was defeated. Until then it had been looked upon as invincible, and the pride of the German people in the Luftwaffe received a shattering blow. The German Air Force never fully recovered its lost prestige. It undoubtedly lost the best of its pilots and aircrews and this materially affected its efficiency and thrust. The Battle of Britain may therefore be regarded as the beginning of the end of the German Air Force.

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During the battle nearly 100 New Zealanders served with Fighter Command. Many of them had joined the Royal Air Force in the days of peace, but even at the start of the battle a few members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force had reached fighter squadrons. By 31 October, of the seventy-eight New Zealand pilots actually serving with Fighter Command squadrons, no fewer than thirty were members of the RNZAF. During the battle fifteen New Zealanders were killed on operations. They never knew that their efforts had helped to turn the tide, nor could they imagine the Typhoons and Tempests and Mosquitoes that their successors were later to fly in their hundreds over Occupied France and Europe—no longer on the defensive but openly seeking the enemy above his home ground. All these things that were to come as Fighter Command grew in strength were the direct result of the high example and devotion to duty of ‘The Few’, who by their deeds delivered Britain from an indescribable tyranny and opened the way to the final and irrevocable defeat of Nazi Germany.

39957 Pilot Officer J. H. L. Allen 151
41552 Pilot Officer D. G. Cobden 74
41924 Pilot Officer C. H. Hight 234
41847 Pilot Officer H. P. Hill 92
41850 Pilot Officer J. R. Kemp 141
41297 Pilot Officer R. Kidson 141
29244 Squadron Leader T. G. Lovell-Gregg 87
36272 Pilot Officer E. Orgias 23
36193 Flight Lieutenant J. A. Paterson, MBE 92
41481 Flying Officer G. M. Simpson 229
40651 Flying Officer K. V. Wendel 504
42173 Pilot Officer W. S. Williams 266
40920 Sergeant D. E. Hughes 600
391868 Sergeant L. A. W. Rasmussen 264
40197 Sergeant R. B. M. Young 264