Battle of Britain: RAF Squadrons May 1940

v.1.0 September 9, 2001

Please keep in mind that the sector, not the base, of the fighter squadron is given.

The Battle of Britain is too well known to require a summary recounting. It was not the largest air campaign ever fought, but it is likely the most important. During the period July 10 - October 31, 1940, RAF Fighter Command strength was generally around a thousand aircraft committed through this period, a figure hardly worth mention in the aviation history of the war. Approximately 1100 British and somewhat more German aircraft were lost; a loss rate approaching 400% in a year. That was high, but again, hardly worth mention in an era when bomber attacks costing 20% and more of the attacking strength - per mission - were quite ordinary.

Nonetheless, had Germany won the battle, world history might have taken a different course. The way would have been clear for the German amphibious invasion of the British Isles. We may debate if Hitler was really serious about invading Britain, but had the RAF lost the Battle of Britain, the Royal Navy could not have prevented Operation Sea Lion. The rag-tag defenders could not for long have withstood the conquerers of Poland, France, the Low Countries, Denmark and Norway. The British, not having witnessed a foreign occupation in nine centuries, unlike the French would presumably have valiently fought a guerilla war. But without a sanctuary for rest, resupply, and training, a guerilla resistance would not have lasted long. The Germans were efficient at containing insurgency. With British slave labor and raw materials, the German war machine would have grown stronger; the difficulties of an American intervention greater - if at all the Americans would have intervened had Britain fallen. Three great tyrannies, the Japanese, the Russian, and the German, would have ruled the world, with the United States confined to on part of the globe. It would have been a quite different place.

That all this did not happen is thanks to the "few". The Germans were on the verge of bringing Fighter Command to its knees when they broke off counter-base/counter aircraft factories strategy to begin bombing cities, thanks to chance and Hitler's anger. Had a German bomber not dropped its bombs over London while trying to escape a British fighter, had Churchill not begun the counter-city war, had Hitler not lost his temper, and had the German leadership possessed a deeper understanding of air power, the British would have been defeated in the air. Freed of the relentless attacks on its sinews, the RAF continued to function, if not to prosper - it was able to add only six fighter squadrons to its net strength during the Battle of Britian, despite the huge (by European standards) production of aircraft - 1601 in August, of which 476 were fighters. The RAF's strength on August 1, 1940, a date selected at random, was represnetative of the available aircraft at that time, 664 available from 54 squadrons with a UE of 996 aircraft plus 446 in reserve. This was not a large figure, but the British were defending, and the Germans attacking. The Luftwaffe's aircraft were designed for close cooperation with the ground troops; they lacked both range and payload to take the war to British air space; and they were hampered by an incompetent higher command. That they nonetheless came so close to winning, is a tribute to the tenacity of their air crews.

Of the 2945 British and allied pilots who fought in the Battle of Britian, 507 were killed, and about 500 wounded in action, odds of 1 to 3 against surviving without injury. Many of the survivors of the Battle were killed in later actions, for the war had five more years to run.

The squadron list below, taken from Alex Mchirnside's website www.geocities.com/Broadway/Alley/5443/fcob8.htm , is not entirely complete. For example, 302 Polish, 310 Czech, and 312 Czech Squadrons are not listed, though the official RAF website

[ www.raf.mod.uk/bob1940/bobhome.html ] says they participated; and at least two Royal Navy squadrons also, 804 and 808 Squadrons. Nonetheless, please visit the website for more details like base and commander.

An important website for those interested in air power in World War II is www.stable.demon.co.uk for aircraft codes. The British used a two letter code for the squadron, though some had a number and a letter, and then one letter for each aircraft in the squadron. Thus, the first squadron was 5A, No. 329 on Spitfires; and the last was ZZ, No. 220 on the B-24.

 

Squadron

Sector

Aircraft

Group

1 Canadian

Kenley

Hurricane

11

1

Northolt

Hurricane

11

3

Wick

Hurricane

13

17

Debden

Hurricane

11

19

Duxford

Spitfire

12

23

Wittering

Blenheim

12

25

North Weald

Blenheim

11

29

Digby

Blenheim

12

32

Biggin Hill

Hurricane

11

41

Catterick

Spitfire

13

43

Tangmere

Hurricane

11

46

Digby

Hurricane

12

54

Hornchurch

Spitfire

11

56

North Weald

Hurricane

11

64

Kenley

Spitfire

11

65

Hornchurch

Spitfire

11

66

Coltishall

Spitfire

12

72

Usworth

Spitfire

13

73

Church Fenton

Hurricane

12

74

Hornchurch

Spitfire

11

79

Usworth

Hurricane

13

85

North Weald

Hurricane

11

85

Debden

Hurricane

11

87

Filton

Hurricane

10

92

Pembrey

Spitfire

10

111

Kenley

Hurricane

11

141

Turnhouse

Defiant

13

145

Tangmere

Hurricane

11

151

North Weald

Hurricane

11

152

Middle Wallop

Spitfire

10

213

Filton

Hurricane

10

219

Catterick

Blenheim

13

222

Kirton-in-Lindsey

Spitfire

12

229

Wittering

Hurricane

12

232

Wick

Hurricane

13

234

St. Eval

Spitfire

10

238

Middle Wallop

Hurricane

10

242

Coltishall

Hurricane

12

245

Aldergrove

Hurricane

13

247

St. Eval

Gladiator

10

249

Church Fenton

Hurricane

12

253

Turnhouse

Hurricane

13

257

Northolt

Hurricane

11

263

Dyce

Hurricane

13

264

Kirton-in-Lindsey

Defiant

12

266

Hornchurch

Spitfire

11

303 Polish

Northolt

Hurricane

11

310

Duxford

Hurricane

12

501

Biggin Hill

Hurricane

11

504

Wick

Hurricane

13

600

Biggin Hill

Blenheim

11

601

Tangmere

Hurricane

11

602

Turnhouse

Spitfire

13

603

Dyce

Spitfire

13

604

Middle Wallop

Blenheim

10

605

Turnhouse

Hurricane

13

607

Usworth

Hurricane

13

609

Middle Wallop

Spitfire

10

610

Biggin Hill

Spitfire

11

611

Digby

Spitfire

12

615

Kenley

Hurricane

11

616

Church Fenton

Spitfire

12

 

 

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