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Battle of Britain: Act III, Critical times
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Hawker Hurricane from Polish 303 Squadron attacking HE-111, skin made by DarkSoul79 | Download here

The mad maelstrom raged leagues above, fire spitting dragons rending metal, the land below a victim of the havoc, masses trembling in sunless holes willing their heroes to stop the thunder. The men held against the relentless charges but one by one falter, fall, beaten, bloodied, dead. From the king’s heart words of praise to those stout few fighting in an alien realm. Exhaustion was ready to claim the rest when men of many tongues filled the gaps, renewed strength and newfound spirit energized all to fight on. The enemy splashed themselves against the impenetrable wall, broken. Was it over? Never mind, they cheered in the universal language of joy and fellowship “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!”

He-111’s in formation over the channel in 1940.

Despite poor weather, impeding missions and some disastrous days, the Luftwaffe pressed on day after day attacking RAF assets, but the frustration by the Nazi leadership at the lack of progress was becoming palatable, especially since the RAF was intercepting most attacks. Where the Luftwaffe was well trained in close support with the Heer (army), the strategic campaign was somewhat new; travelling deep into enemy territory with incomplete intel, limited weather prediction, and difficulty in coordinating and merging large formations made worse by limited coverage of short range Bf-109 and the ineffectiveness of the Bf-110 and Ju-87.

The indomitable Sir Winston Churchill

On August 24th everything changed, the weather would be clear for an extended period of time. This is exactly what the Luftwaffe needed and daily and some nightly missions were launched around the clock, with the RAF itself being the target. It was during this ramping up of raids when a flight of bombers, accidentally or intentionally, bombed southern London, an incidental event with a significant outcome days later. Another seemingly insignificant change in objectives with major repercussions was ending attacks on radar installations as Luftwaffe leadership believed it was not conducive to the objective.

Even before the clearing weather, the losses to the RAF was straining its ability and it was anticipated from the approaching better weather (moves from west to east) that it would be overloaded. While the repairs and replacements were managing to keeping up with losses thanks to heroic efforts of ground crews working tirelessly day and night with bombs falling all around, the conditions of the pilots were most alarming. It took months to train a pilot the basics of flying and operations, but just knowing how to fly an aircraft did not mean they could succeed in the unique 3D world of air combat. The natural instincts learned on the 2D surface of land are little value in the realm of birds.

Dowding with a number of “The Few”. Women worked in many support rolls, from telephone operators to map tables and even radar operators, a few giving their lives to the cause.

Salvation was in the wings, the hundreds of foreign pilots chomping at the bit to join the fray, especially the Polish, Czechoslovak, Belgian, and French with bloodlust for revenge. Vowing to keep the fight going despite defeat of their homeland they had the determination and skill the RAF desperately needed so when RAF Air Chief Marshal Dowding finally approved them for combat they tore into the bombers like wolves going after sheep. The nations of the Commonwealth also rallied to the aid of the Crown and so did others whose powerful sense of justice energized them to cast in despite the odds.

Although Sir Winston Churchill spoke his famous tribute to “The Few” days before this period, it served a the theme and the rally cry of those who again and again went up to challenge the attackers. His speech echoed louder amongst the Britons with each victory: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.

Joe “Pony51” Kudrna

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