Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain which has been described my historians and veterans alike as a pivotal moment on World War Two. To mark the event 40 Spitfires and Hurricanes will take part in a commemorative flypast over Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex.
The Battle of Britain was a key turning point during World War Two. Britain had stood alone against seemingly unstoppable Nazis following their march across Europe. When France fell under Nazi control it became obvious that Hitler had his sight set on an invasion of the United Kingdom.
According to historian James Holland “before Hitler could conquer the country he needed to gain air superiority.” Therefore the German air force, known as the Luftwaffe, launched an attack on Britain. However, a few months before hand it would have seemed like Britain’s chances of victory were slim. The Royal Air Force had only 640 planes in its deployed fleet, compared to the 2,600 strong Luftwaffe.
In light of this production of RAF fighters dramatically rose and by October of 1940 the number of RAF fighters was higher than that of the Luftwaffe. Also increasing was the number of aircrew in the RAF. Nearly 3,000 aircrew served during the battle, with an average age of just 20. Most of the crew were from the UK, but up to 20% came from the British Dominions overseas, occupied European or neutral countries. The average salary of pilots in the RAF was £264 per year – what would be around £30,000 today.
The RAF lost 1,023 planes during the battle compared to the 1,887 planes lost by the Luftwaffe. A commemoration service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, attended by David Cameron and the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.