World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

The Battle Of Britain 

From various unknown sources

Photo by Bill Ross

Above: The Battle of Britain Monument on Victoria Embankment in London is a superb monument to The Few - commemorating those people who took part in this vital battle of the Second World War.  

"The Battle of Britain pilots have earned a special place in this Nation's history and in its heart - and so, this magnificent monument will provide a lasting tribute to their bravery for very many generations to come."  Charles, Prince of Wales.

"NEVER IN THE FIELD OF HUMAN CONFLICT WAS SO MUCH OWED BY SO MANY TO SO FEW."
Winston Churchill, 20 August 1940

In June 1940 the forces of the Third Reich stood poised to invade the British Isles. Conquerors of France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Luxembourg, only Britain stood between Hitler and total domination of Western Europe.

Before an invasion could be launched it was necessary for the German Luftwaffe to gain control of the skies over the Channel, London and southern England. The Luftwaffe were combat hardened following bombing campaigns in Spain, France, Poland and the Low countries, compared with the allied pilots who lacked experience and were greatly out-numbered.

The pilots of the fledgling RAF Fighter Command fought bravely and tenaciously eventually overcoming the Luftwaffe and causing the Germans to postpone and eventually cancel their invasion plans.

Of the 2,936 British, European and Commonwealth airmen, 544 lost their lives during the battle and a further 795 did not live to see the final victory in 1945.

The Battle took place in the period between 10th July and 31st October 1940.

It is in honour of the spirit and sacrifice of "the Few" as they are immortalised that this monument will be erected.

See the Battle of Britain Historical Society site for more details on the Battle itself.

 

The following is a chilling testimony of the plans Hitler's Third Reich had for our future, had they won the Battle of Britain:

Speech by SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Richard Darre - 1940

Richard Darre's infamous speech made in 1940, detailed the fate of the British people, and makes chilling reading.

"As soon as we beat England we shall make an end of you Englishmen once and for all. Able- bodied men and women between the ages of 16 and 45 will be exported as slaves to the Continent. The old and weak will be exterminated.

All men remaining in Britain as slaves will be sterilised; a million or two of the young women of the Nordic type will be segregated in a number of stud farms where, with the assistance of picked German sires, during a period of 10 or 12 years, they will produce annually a series of Nordic infants to be brought up in every way as Germans.

These infants will form the future population of Britain. They will be partially educated in Germany and only those who fully satisfy the Nazi's requirements will be allowed to return to Britain and take up permanent residence. The rest will be sterilised and sent to join slave gangs in Germany.

Thus, in a generation or two, the British will disappear."

 

Richard Walter Darre (14 July 1895 - 5 September 1953)

SS-Obergruppenfuhrer and one of the Nazi leading ideologists. He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to a German father and half-Swedish, half-German mother. There exists nothing to indicate either of his parents were as fanatical about clinging to their ethnic heritage as the families of other top Nazis. This is not to say they were completely assimilative, but Darre's personality allowed him to learn and gain fluency in four languages: English, Spanish, German, and French. He moved to Germany in the 1920's and did not complete his PhD studies until 1929; at the comparatively old age of 34.

 

The Battle of Britain Memorial Window
Westminster Abbey

 

Westminster Abbey has strong connections to the Battle, not least being the holding of the annual Battle of Britain Thanksgiving Service there each September. This service was instigated in 1943 though the first was held in St Pauls Cathedral.

A Battle of Britain Memorial Window was unveiled in the Abbey in 1947 and the ashes of Lord Dowding were interred close by on his death in 1970.

The Chapel in which the Memorial Window has been situated is the easternmost of five small chapels that collectively make up the Lady Chapel instigated by Henry VII and built sometime between 1503 and 1519.

The original window in the east wall was shattered by a fragment of a German bomb that penetrated the wall itself in September 1940. The hole it made remains, covered by a piece of glass.

The window was unveiled by King George VI on 10th July 1947, the seventh anniversary of the first day of the Battle.

The window glass is both stained and painted and consists of 48 panels or ‘lights’ arranged over four rows of 12. Hugh Easton both designed and made the window.

For the purposes of this guide we can number the top row of panels 1 to 12 (left to right), the second row 13 to 24, the third row 25 to 36 and the fourth row 37 to 48 (see the images below).

Through all the panels flows a background of a Rose Tree, the badge of Henry VII, which binds together all components of the window.

The entire top row and panels 13, 14 and 23, 24 of the second row show the winged Heavenly Seraphim with their hands outstretched to Paradise.

In the second row, panel 17 bears, top to bottom, the Royal Arms, the badge of the Fleet Air Arm and the badge of 232 Squadron. Panel 18 depicts the flags of New Zealand, Canada, Australia and South Africa with the badge of 247 Squadron below. Panel 19 follows with the flags of Czechoslovakia (as was), Poland, Belgium and the USA with the badge of 263 Squadron below. Panel 20 shows the badge of the RAF with those of 3 and 245 Squadrons following.

In panels 15 and 16 a Squadron Leader kneels before the Christ Child who raises his hand in blessing. He is held by Our Lady who is depicted standing on the crescent moon. The panels below, 27 and 28, again depict Our Lady but this time with the dead Christ across her knees symbolizing the sorrow and sacrifice of the mothers and widows of those who lost their lives in the Battle. The kneeling figure is a Flying Officer.

A Sergeant pilot is shown in panels 33 and 34, kneeling before the crucified Christ and symbolizing the sacrifice of the pilots themselves. Above this in panels 21 and 22 the pilots’ Triumph is depicted by a Pilot Officer kneeling in front of the risen Christ who carries the banner of the Resurrection, similar to the cross of St.George.

Panels 42 and 43 have Shakespeare’s words “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” engraved across their lower section.

The remaining panels show the badges of the 63 squadrons that took part in the Battle (note 1) as follows:

 

Panel        Squadrons (top to bottom)

25            1/19/32
26            17/23/43
29            610/607/609
30            616/605/615
31            504/611/604
32            600/602/603
35            253/303/501
36            401/310/302
37            41/25/54
38            64/29/46
39            74/56/66
40            72/65/73
41            85/79/92
42            87/111
43            213/145
44            141/151/152
45            219/234/229
46            242/238/222
47            249/266/264
48            601/312/257

Note 1:


In 1947 the squadrons recognised as having participated in the Battle had been defined by an Air Ministry Order in 1946 that listed only 63 squadrons. This number was revised by a further Order (AMO) in 1960 that added 235, 236 and 248 squadrons plus the Fighter Interception Unit, 421 Flight and 422 Flight. A final AMO in 1961 added the Fleet Air Arm squadrons 804 and 808 giving the total of 71 squadrons and units that has been accepted since then as definitive.

 

Place to visit:

Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne, Kent

 

On 9th July 1993 Her Majesty the Queen Mother opened the Memorial, realising a long-term project instigated by Battle of Britain pilot and Guinea Pig Geoffrey Page.

The site is approached from either Dover or Folkestone on the B2011 at Capel le Ferne.

The Memorial is open throughout the year but the car park and visitors’ centre are only open between April and September inclusive.

For information telephone 01303 249292 or 01732 870809.

There is much more information on the memorial website:  www.battleofbritainmemorial.org