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

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.


“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.


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.




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)


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.  



Spitfires and Hurricanes Fighters Battle of Britain


captured German pilot

Shot down by British fighters. 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).

Bandits! Beware of the Hun in the Sun


Me 109


A Deadly Foe in the Battle of Britain and Throughout the War

 with the same flaw at the Spitfire: Landing Gear Collapse



A crashed Messerschmitt Bf 109B, circa 1940. Scanned from the original German 18x13cm glass negative.

(Photo courtesy of Shorpy.com. Posted on Shorpy by D. Chadwick)

This photo illustrates the weakness of the undercarriage of the ME-109 which I wrote a post about a few weeks ago. The RAF Spitfire had the same problem. Since the fuselages of both aircraft were so narrow their landing gear had to fold outboard instead of inboard. Part of the problem was the wing already had lots of stuff built into like machine guns, fuel tanks, control surfaces et al so there wasn’t a lot of room. Designers were well aware of the lack of robustness of the landing gear in both types of aircraft but there wasn’t much they could do. Landing gear had to be restricted in size and weight and the end result was often what you see above.


Posted by writer Charles McCain, author of the World War Two naval epic: An Honorable German.  

SAYS NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR NELSON DeMILLE : A truly epic and stirring tale of war, love, and the sea. An Honorable German is a remarkable novel by a writer who…  seems he was an eyewitness to the history he portrays in such vivid detail. An original and surprising look at World War II from the other side.  

To purchase copies including Kindle and Nook click here: http://charlesmccain.com/an-honorable-german/



Me 109s of JG2, the famous “Richthofen Jagdgeschwader”


Flugzeug Messerschmitt Me 109

Luftwaffe ground-crew positioning a Me 109 G-6 

Luftwaffe ground crew positioning a Messerschmitt Me 109 G-6 of Jagdgeschwader 2 (Fighter Wing 2) on airfield somewhere in France, September 1943. The aircraft above is equipped with the Rüstsatz VI underwing gondola cannon kit which consisted of two 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 underwing gunpods with 135 rpg.

(photo courtesy of the German Federal Archive)

In the photo above the aircraft is painted in a combination of grayish colors which became the standard camouflage pattern for these aircraft from approximately 1941 through 1944. The camouflage scheme isn’t haphazard. Lots of research was undertaken to find the best scheme to disguise the planes when they were in the air.

Aircraft were supposed to be painted in the same pattern with the exact colors as specified by the Reichs Luftfahrt Ministerium. However, different Wings favored slightly different patterns and under the pressure of combat it was impossible to keep the same exact camouflage on each plane since tails, rudders et al where taken from non-operational of crashed aircraft and used to repair operational aircraft which resulted in patterns which did not match perfectly.

The specific colors used to paint the aircraft are known as the RLM colors.  The aircraft above is painted in three colors as specified by Reichs Luftfahrt Ministerium: RLM colors 74, 75 and 76. Only when researching this blog post did I discover what these colors were called and how much information there is on RLM colors.  There is a huge group of people around the world, I also discovered, who build models of German (and other aircraft) and great attention is paid to these RLM designations. More info on these at the end of this post.

The Me 109 G ‘Gustav’ model comprised the vast majority of Me 109s built for the Luftwaffe.  Luftwaffe ground crewmen were known as “the black men” because of the color of their working uniforms. (photo courtesy of the German Federal Archive via wikipedia).

According to the original German caption, this aircraft belonged to Jagdgeschwader 2, abbreviated to JG2, better known as the famous  “Richthofen Jagdgeschwader,”  named for World War One ace, Manfred von Richthofen, “the Red Baron.”

Germany_JG2Emblem of Jagdgeschwader 2.  

(photo of emblem courtesy of www.clavework-graphics.co.uk) 

However, I can’t see this JG 2 emblem in the photo of the plane above even after enlarging it. And these emblems were quite large as you will see. Take a look at the photograph below and see how large the emblem is and its positioning which was standard. Perhaps this plane had suffered battle damage and after repairs they didn’t paint the emblem back on. Who knows.


A German Messerschmitt Me 109E of 9/JG 2 Richthofen at Jever, Germany, in 1941. The emblem of the 9th Squadron is visible on the cowling, the emblem of the 2nd Fighter Wing is visible below the cockpit. JG 2 was based in France on the Channel coast at that time.

(photograph courtesy of the Australian War Memorial )


Info on RLM colors for modellers:


A detailed article on RLM colors can be found here:

 http://www.armorama.com/modules.php? p=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=186


What seem the most exacting details can be found here:





You can see the incredible detail modelers put into their work in this photograph below of an Me 109 model built by Klaus Herold. However, this isn’t just a generic Me 109. It is a model of the specific Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6, flown by Hauptmann Anton Hackl, 1944. (Hauptmann means “Captain”)

photo and information courtesy of  www.rlm.at/cont/gal03_e.htm