The Battle of Britain (2)

Deep in the bowels of the RAF Museum at Hendon is the Battle of Britain section where the lighting is of a strange purple colour so that delicate ancient paint is not faded by direct sunlight. That’s an extra excuse for these rather weird photographs. First of all, the baddies, with that old favourite, the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, an aircraft used in the blitzkrieg to dive bomb defenceless refugees:

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Here’s a Heinkel He111 which was all right as a bomber but which didn’t carry a particularly significant bomb load. Even so, it performed well at Guernica, Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places as the Germans invented the much criticised concept of “area bombing”.

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The fighters were the Messerschmitt Bf110, a rather slow aircraft for daylight use which would eventually finish up having to be escorted by better performing fighters:

This is the Junkers Ju 88, a twin engined and very versatile aircraft which was arguably, a competent Bristol Blenheim or a poor man’s De Havilland Mosquito:

Last and certainly not least is the famous Messerschmitt Bf 109, a decent fighter, but an aging design which was prepared in response to a Reichsluftfahrtministerium specification of 1933. Bf 109s couldn’t carry enough fuel to fight for very long over Southern England. And a Spitfire, in theory, could always escape them by turning tightly inside them:

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The Bf 109 at Hendon does not really allow you to stand back and get a decent general photograph. Here is one I found on the Internet. It certainly is a stunning photograph:

The Hendon individual is a Bf 109E-3 and it may have been painted as a yellow nosed member of Jagdgeschwader JG26, “The Abbeville Boys”. There must have been a little plaque in front of it, but I can’t remember what it said. Its detailed history can be accessed here.

And in the blue corner…….the Supermarine Spitfire. Here’s my effort at a picture:

As one writer said,

“It was one of the most beautiful aircraft ever conceived with elegant, flowing lines that make it look perfect from every angle.”

And the most stunning Spitfire ever was the Mark I or Ia or the Mark IIa.

This gallery of photographs comes from the Internet. With a little bit of luck, you should be able to see what I mean about a beautiful aircraft:

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And there’s also a Hawker Hurricane, an aircraft which, as we all know, shot down more German aircraft in the Battle of Britain than the Spitfire. The scores were roughly 60% to 40%. The Hurricane was a design which looked backwards to its biplane ancestors, especially the Hawker Fury:

On the plus side the Hurricane was a lot easier to repair than its cooler cousin, the Spitfire. It was easier to make as well, 10,300 man hours rather than 15,200 for the Spitfire. And easier to make meant cheaper, of course. Here are my unworthy efforts:

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And now some proper photographs:

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And next time, the Old Nottinghamians make an appearance.



Filed under Aviation, History, Humour, Politics, The High School

35 responses to “The Battle of Britain (2)

  1. Great pictures despite the lighting difficulties.
    Why was the Hurricane easier to repair.
    Did you watch the Guy Martin programme on TV when he rebuilt a spitfire?

    • The Spitfire was made completely of large pieces of metal and so it was a complex welding type job, I presume, to repair it. The Hurricane was mostly made of struts like a 1930s biplane, covered with fabric. To repair it, you just cut off the fabric, replaced a few struts, and then patched the surface fabric. That wasn’t all of the aircraft, but it was most of the bit behind the pilot which is the section which gets hit a lot during the dog fights.
      I don’t think I watched the programme you mentioned but I will keep my eyes open for it.

  2. A favourite treasure trove!

  3. Nothing wrong with your pictures – I prefer their mood

    • You’re very kind, Derrick, but I must admit I was very disappointed when I saw the best ones I had produced. On the other hand, I always seem to be obsessed with having bright light everywhere, and I actually wanted a couple of neon strip lights when the lounge was redecorated recently. Needless to say, I didn’t get them.

  4. Jan

    The earlier Spitfires were entirely flush riveted to reduce drag; this greatly increased manufacturing costs.

    One bright spark came up with the idea of using split peas to mimic rivet heads and sticking them all over a Spitfire. This allowed them to evaluate where they could do-away with the flush riveting without affecting performance.

    • Yes, I knew that the rivets on a fighter aircraft of the day could make a difference of about 5-10 mph on the speed, but I didn’t know the story about the peas.
      Occasionally they show the programme where the workers at Blackpool construct a Vickers Wellington in less than 24 hours. That’s worth a look if you ever get the chance. Even the geodetic bits of the structure don’t hold them up too long.

  5. To me, this is the battle that defined Britain.

    • It certainly made it a lot easier for WW2 to be won one day. If Britain had been invaded and subdued, I don’t think that the Americans, thousands of miles away, would have found it physically possible to do anything about it, even if they wanted to. Hitler would then, with Franco’s help have taken Gibraltar and the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. Probably at the same time, he would have invaded the USSR who, without those Spitfires, Hurricanes, Bostons, Mitchells and Airacobras, would have been pushed back to the Urals by the winter of 1942-1943.
      Only the crazy Japs could have stopped him, by attacking the USA and dragging Germany into their bit of the war.

      • NOW, isn’t THAT an alternate historical story, eh?! Unfortunately, you’re probably quite right about it.
        Have a wonderful Holiday Season, John. Merry Christmas to you and yours. I’m looking forward to 2019 for your site!!

      • And the same to you and yours. In fact to everybody. What is it somebody said once? “Peace and goodwill toward men”

  6. atcDave

    Looks like an awesome collection!

    • Indeed, it is. RAF Cosford, Duxford and Hendon would be a brilliant holiday for any aircraft fan and his wife and children could go shopping in London for a week. That’s the weakness in the plan, but there are bound to be tiny problems at the planning stage.

  7. Hendon has a fabulous collection but the lighting is a bit of a pig for photography and it can be difficult to get a good while shot picture. I do love it though!

    • Yes, I do too. To be honest, Duxford is probably more cramped still for taking photographs and there is so much walking there if the weather is poor. At Hendon, the Lancaster is well positioned for some good shots, so I was happy enough!

  8. What a great lot you assembled here. It is such a shame that we need war to bring out so much great development.
    And it is a shame that Aircraft museums have so little space to allow for long shots of the plane.
    But the Mosquito is still my favourite.

    • Yes, it is a great tragedy that, as you so rightly say, it takes war to provoke real technological progress. 1914 had aircraft made of paper bags, bits of string and old bicycle parts, yet 1945 had a rocket fighter that could reach 30 or 40,000 feet in just a few minutes. As for the Mosquito, well, you won’t hear a great deal of argument from me. I think as a little boy, I was attracted to the Spitfire by the need to paint the model with “duck egg blue” coloured paint for the underside. It always seemed such an attractive name.
      Perhaps the solution would be to start looking at the ugliest aircraft ever. Just try googling the images for “french 1930s bombers” and that will get us off to a good start!

      • Chris Waller

        I’ve always had a particular affection for the Mossie. I would love to have been a fly on the wall during the conversation with the Air Chief Marshal in which de Havilland proposed a high-performance fighter-bomber … made of plywood. I often wondered how he got approval to use two Merlins per ‘plane but apparently the rate of loss of Mossies was a fraction of that of other aircraft so it paid for itself.

  9. The truth they did not dare face was that the Mosquito could carry a fairly substantial bombload and it would only have taken two Mosquitoes to replace the B-17s which had ten or twelve men on board rather than just four and a really high loss rate, certainly a lot higher than the Mosquito’s at 0.5%. Three Mosquitoes would have challenged a single Lancaster too, from the same point of view of 4,000lb of bombs and two men killed every 200 missions. (Not sure of the Maths on that one. I may have to stand corrected)

  10. I agree with Derrick. There is nothing wrong with your pictures, John! May you have a Merry Christmas and a very beautiful Happy New Year. Much Love and Peace, dear friend! 💝💝💝

  11. Great photos John and having been to this place I am grateful for the memories. As my father, brother and I walked past the plaques we were truly moved.

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