We Shall Remember Gallant Few of Battle of Britain

“…the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization….”
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the House of Commons.
 18 June 1940
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One of the most haunting images from the Battle of Britain is that of Squadron Leader Brian Lane DFC (above middle) taken immediately after he landed from a combat sortie in September of 1940. (photo courtesy of IWM).

The strain and exhaustion on his face belie his young age (23) and make this one of the best-known and most powerful photographs to come from the era. (photo courtesy of IWM).This was taken during the Battle of Britain at Fowlmere, Duxford’s satellite station.

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“Sitting nearest to the Spitfire’s engine on the wing is Brian Lane, who had joined the RAF after escaping a dead-end job as a factory supervisor. He was appointed temporary commanding officer of 19 Squadron, part of the Duxford Wing, in September following the shooting down of its CO. In one logbook entry, he describes an encounter with the enemy in suitably Boys’ Ownish terms.
     “Party over London. Sighted big bunch of Huns south of the river and got in lovely head-on attack into leading He 111s. Broke them up and picked up a small batch of six with two Me 110s as escort. Found myself entirely alone with these lads so proceeded to have a bit of sport. Got one of Me 110s on fire whereupon the other left his charge and ran for home. Played with the He 111s for a bit and finally got one in both engines. Never had so much fun before!”
Lane was awarded a DFC for his bravery and survived the battle, but his luck was not to last. During a sweep over Holland in December 1942 his Spitfire was jumped by Me109s. No one saw his aircraft go down but it was assumed to have dived into the North Sea. Lane was 25.                                                 The men sitting next to Lane on the wing with German Shepherd Flash and spaniel Rangy are George “Grumpy” Unwin and Francis Brinsden, both of whom survived the war. So did the two men standing to the left, Bernard Jennings and Colin McFie – the latter after being shot down and captured during a sweep over France in July 1941.
       Howard Burton, the man in the dark jumper, and Philip Leckrone, the man on the far right, were not so fortunate. Burton went on to serve in the Middle East but died when in June 1943 when the Hudson bomber bringing him back to Britain disappeared over the Bay of Biscay. He was 26.
Leckrone was an American who had chosen to fight for Britain. Known to the boys as Uncle Sam, he went on to join 71 Squadron, an American volunteer unit flying Hurricanes. On 5 January 1941 his aircraft collided with another in the squadron during training and he was killed. He was 28.
      John Boulton (pictured on the left with two fellow pilots and a spaniel leaning on the tail of a Hurricane) was 20 when the battle claimed him. He was flying next to Gordon Sinclair (the man on the right by the tail) over Croydon on September 9 when their aircraft collided. Sinclair survived but Boulton’s aircraft careered into a Me 110 and plunged to earth.
The man in the middle with the moustache is Jerrard Jefferies, who changed his surname to Latimer later in the war to carry on an old family name. He joined the RAF in 1936 and fought in the battle with 310 (Free Czech) Squadron, as did Boulton and Sinclair. After the battle he transferred to Bomber Command and died over France when his Lancaster bomber was shot down. The spaniel in the picture, thought to be called Rex, died when he accidentally jumped into the propeller of Jefferies’ Hurricane as he tried to greet his master.
One of the two pilots pictured seated by a Nissen hut is the only man in the photographs still living. Wallace “Jock” Cunningham is 93 now, but in poor health. The officer next to him is Arthur Blake, a Fleet Air Arm pilot attached to the RAF and known in the wing as Sailor. the Battle of Britain was in its last days when it claimed him. Blake was ‘weaving’ behind his squadron – acting as lookout – when he was surprised by an Me109 and shot down. He was 23 when he met his death.

telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/

lest we forget
2353 British and 574 overseas aircrew fought in the battle of britain. 544 were killed between July and October 1940. Another 791 died later in the war, in combat and as a result of accidents.

 

 

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Brian Lane. The epitome of the gallant few who won the Battle of Britain. Lane was No. 19 Squadron’s fourth Commanding Officer in less than 12 months. Of his predecessors, one was posted away, one was shot down and made a prisoner of war, and one was killed. Lane was extremely well-liked by his men and was a very gifted fighter pilot. He wrote a book about his experiences in the battle, “Spitfire!” which was published in 1942.

Lane was killed in action 13 December 1942. He was 25 years old. (Imperial War Museum)

LEST WE FORGET

Brian John Edward Lane

Squadron Leader No. 19 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

born 18 June 1917–reported missing-in-action presumed dead– 13 December 1942, age 25.  

 

 

Londoners Shelter from Nazi Bombing During Blitz

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1576) Liverpool Street Underground Station Shelter: A man and woman asleep under blankets in the tube tunnel. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194646

 

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1580) Liverpool Street Underground Station Shelter: Londoners sleep under a row of sand buckets and fire extinguishers suspended from the underground tunnel wall. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194650
AIR RAID SHELTER UNDER THE RAILWAY ARCHES, SOUTH EAST LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1605) A small group of shelterers knit and read the evening newspaper in this small section of an air raid shelter under the railway arches, somewhere in South East London. Makeshift beds have been constructed from crates and planks of wood. This photograph was probably taken in November 1940. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197836

 

SANCTUARY: AIR RAID SHELTER IN JOHN KEBLE CHURCH, MILL HILL, LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1431) The curate of John Keble Church in Mill Hill in London tends to one of the many shelterers staying in the make-shift shelter in the nave of the church. Many homeless and orphaned children are sheltering here. The nurse adds details to the sick bay records. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197819

 

AIR RAID SHELTER IN THE BASEMENT OF DICKINS AND JONES, REGENT STREET, LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1658) A wide view of the public canteen of an air raid shelter in the basement of Dickins and Jones department store in London’s Regent Street, in November 1940. Shelterers can be seeing buying cups of tea and other refreshments from canteen staff. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197853

 

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1503) Southwest London Garage Shelter, Pimlico: Old lady asleep in a makeshift bed, her silver handled umbrella safely stowed away behind her. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194613

Underground Stations When Bombs Dropping

Taking shelter in the Underground stations wasn’t a great experience. Early in the Blitz there were few sanitary facilities and people who lived through the era often write about the stench of underground stations.

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1568) Elephant and Castle London Underground Station Shelter: People sleeping on the crowded platform of Elephant and Castle tube station while taking shelter from German air raids during the London Blitz. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194638

 

While no more than 3% of Londoners used the tube stations as bomb shelters, photographs such as these became iconic images showing the determination of Londoners not to let the Nazis break their will.

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1571) Elephant and Castle Underground Station Shelter: The station performs a dual wartime role: travellers enter a train while, in the foreground, other Londoners attempt to sleep. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194641

(The sign in the window to the right of the tube car door informs passengers that this is a non-smoking car. In 1940)

THE LONDON UNDERGROUND AS AIR RAID SHELTER, LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1677) One of London’s most popular shelters is that which is to be found in a section of the London underground system which has been converted by tearing up the tracks. The advertisements remain pasted on the wall. Hats and coats are hung on nails which have been driven in between the bricks on the wall. People sleep on the platform and on the space which was formerly the track, this part stretching fo… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205221918

This is probably a section of the Picadilly Line which was no longer in use when the war began.

THE LONDON UNDERGROUND AS AIR RAID SHELTER, LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1678) Shelterers sleep along the walls of the passageway leading from the lifts to the platform at a London Underground station, probably Aldwych, in November 1940. The shelterers lie on thin mattresses and suitcases have been used to partition off areas along the tunnel to provide some privacy for shelterers. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197856

RAF Fighter Command Battle of Britain Photos

 

captured German pilot

A captured German bomber crewman drinks from a British soldier’s water bottle after baling out of his aircraft, 30 August 1940. (Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum).

2 Polish pilots receiving instruction on aircraft controls 27 August 1940

Two airmen of the Polish Air Force Depot at RAF Blackpool receive instruction on the controls of an aircraft during ground training at Squires Gate aerodrome, 27 August 1940. (Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum).

SPitifres of 610 squadron in formation 24 July 1940

Supermarine Spitfires (Mark I) of No. 610 Squadron RAF fly in formation, 24 July 1940.

(Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum).

British fighter doctrine at the time specified that fighters were to fly in groups of three which the RAF named a “vic”. Unfortunately, this made the system of having a wing-man watching your back difficult to emulate and it was only later in the war that the British adopted the successful “finger four” formation of the Luftwaffe.

Peter Townsend

 Squadron Leader Peter Townsend chats with ground crew sitting on his Hawker Hurricane at Wick, Scotland.

(Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum).

German BF 109 crashed

Locals watch as troops and police inspect a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 which crash-landed in a field near Lewes, Sussex. The pilot, Unteroffizier Leo Zaunbrecher, was captured.

RAF airman examines captured Heinkel HE 111

An RAF airman examines the cockpit of a captured German Heinkel He 111, 2 October 1940.

(Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum).

Sgt Furst greeted by squadron mascot

Sergeant Bohumil Furst of No. 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron is greeted by the Squadron mascot on returning to RAF Duxford after a mission, 7 September 1940.

(Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum).

SUPERMARINE SPITFIRES OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE IN ITALY, JANUARY 1944

 

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Groundcrew refuelling Supermarine Spitfire Mark IIA, P7420, of No. 19 Squadron RAF from a tractor-drawn petrol bowser at Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire. This newly-arrived example was one of the few Spitfire Mark IIs to fly operationally with a front-line squadron before the end of the Battle of Britain.

 

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Royal Air Force Supermarine Spitfire pilot of No 241 Squadron, Flying Officer W R B McMurray looking at a map in Italy. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

 

 

 

 

Brave Polish Fighter Pilot Who Served in the British Royal Air Force

 

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Stanisław Skalski in his Hawker Hurricane during the Battle of Britain.

The smaller Iron Crosses* are for “assists.”

(While eclipsed by the glamour of the Spitfire, Hurricanes actually comprised 60% of the front-line strength of RAF Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain.)

Stanisław Skalski DSO, DFC, and two Bars* (27 November 1915 – 12 November 2004) was a Polish fighter ace of the Polish Air Force in World War II, later rising to the rank of Generał. He was either the t]first or the second Polish fighter ace of WW II and the first Allied fighter ace of the war, credited, according to the official list, with 18 11/12 victories and two probable. Some sources, including Skalski himself, give a number of 22+ victories.(Colorised by Tomek Iwanowski from Poland).

(photo and caption courtesy of Carlos L Martinez via David Criser onPinterest)

From his biography on World War Two awards:

“Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1 1939, Skalski and his squadron were in action immediately. He claimed his first victory on the opening day, and by the fifth day he had destroyed four German bombers, to become the only Polish ace of the short campaign. As Polish resistance collapsed, the remnants of his squadron escaped to Romania. He eventually made his way to the Mediterranean, where he boarded a boat for England, arriving in January 1940 and was commissioned in the RAF….he joined No 501 Squadron at the height of the Battle of Britain in August 1940. Flying Hurricanes.”

He shot down 22 Luftwaffe aircraft during World War Two, including the German planes he shot down in Poland, and was the second highest scoring Polish ace. The London Daily Mail says he was the “Poland’s most successful fighter pilot” so sources conflict.

He was decorated for gallantry four times by the British,  three times by the Free French and six times by the Polish government in exile, according to the Daily Mail. Once again sources conflict. The site with his full biography shows he was decorated as many as ten times by the Polish government in exile.

In 1947 he returned to Poland, was arrested in 1949 on trumped up charges of espionage orchestra by the Soviets. He was beaten frequently and sentenced to death. In 1956 he was released, returned to England and resumed his career in the Royal Air Force, rising to the rank of General.

He was decorated for gallantry four times by the British, six times by the Polish government in exile and three times by the Free French.

 

His entire biography with citations is here: World War Two biography of Stanislaw Skalski

 

** two bars means he was twice more awarded the medal

Many Polish Air Force pilots made their way to Great Britain after the German’s overran Poland. In spite of their antiquated aircraft, the Polish Air Force had put up a credible defense. AOC-in-C Dowding of Fighter Command was wary of these pilots at first. Few spoke English and he thought they might be too undisciplined. As it turned out, they learned English quickly and since they had been professional airmen and flying for a number of years they were some of the most experienced fighter pilots the RAF had.

Better, given what the Nazis were doing to their homeland, the Poles had a visceral hatred of the Germans. If they ran out of ammunition and were over England, Polish pilots often rammed German planes then baled out.

Massive Bomb Dropped On London Found 75 Years Later

 

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Emergency vehicles on site where bomb found. 

Pizza, potato wedges, and soft drinks are little consolation for being kicked out of your East London flat due to a live World War II bomb being found underneath the floorboards. However, that’s exactly what happened to over 150 people who spent the night in an emergency shelter after being booted from their apartments; the 500-pound bomb was unearthed yesterday while builders were working to convert a former factory into luxury flats.

“The bomb is 10 feet from my flat on the other side of a wall and I’ve had so many parties here…if it was going to blow up, it would have done so by now,” one evacuee, Pauline Carter, 26, told The London Evening Standard.

“I didn’t know anything about it until I went outside ….,” said Oers Sardi, 28, another resident who was told to leave immediately.

The bomb was evidently dropped during the Blitz of 1940-1941, making it about 75 years old. Photographs released by the Ministry of Defense show the dangerous artifact to be a rusting shell resting about two feet underground. The Ministry of Defense has been delicately attempting to remove the bomb, as it is reportedly in a “tricky location.” There is not yet a timetable for it to be defused and extracted. Jeva Lange

Courtesy of “The Week”

http://theweemassive-world-war-ii-bomb-found-under-floorboards-london-apartment

 

From the London Evening Standard

Bethnal Green bomb: Army explosives experts prepare to defuse and detonate 500lb WW2 bomb dug up under flats

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British Army bomb disposal experts moving bomb away from buildings after digging it up. Not a job I would want.

 

Army bomb disposal experts were today battling to defuse a Second World War bomb as hundreds of evacuated residents feared they could be forced to spend a second night away from home.

Teams worked overnight after a 500lb bomb was unearthed at lunchtime yesterday by builders converting a former factory in Bethnal Green into luxury flats.

Ministry of Defence sources admitted the 70-year-old device was in a “tricky location” and this morning were unable to give a precise timetable for its removal.

3pm Update: Army defuse bomb and families return home
Adam Atkinson, vicar of St Peter’s church in Bethnal Green, said residents were “definitely fearing” that they may be unable to return home today. “What is being talked about by the uniformed services is more in hope than expectation that it will be resolved today,” he told the Standard.

The remainder of the story is here

British Army Bomb Disposal Experts Prepare to Defuse Bomb