Some comics were humorous, others devoted to adventure and war. Some weeklies reached audiences of 2 million; Commando, which still appears, managed , annually in the s One of the most successful weeklies, and the most dominated by World War 2 stories, was the Victor, which ran from till until All raids target precise objectives, not whole cities.
Every crew appears able and willing to fly a Lancaster into flak at 1, feet. Braddock and the other fictional flyers are aces who break rules and challenge authority; being grounded for indiscipline appears as great a danger as being shot down. And German civilians are invisible as, it is true, they were to the aircrews From reading the Victor , war-minded boys could turn to models of the aircraft. The first Airfix kit aeroplane — unsurprisingly, a Spitfire — appeared in ; it would be followed, by the s, by the full range of British and American medium and heavy bombers Airfix kits could be bought for pocket-money and at least the smaller ones could be assembled by a 7-year-old; young teenagers could graduate to carefully-painted, realistic models.
And the tactile contact that a kit offered enhanced the fascination of the Lancasters and Fortresses, which — although obsolete by — were central to the attraction of flying stories for boys. However much British governments might prefer to forget Bomber Command, then, a generation of post-war boys was invited to celebrate an idealised version of its achievements on paper and in plastic. Although competition from electronic entertainment had closed down most weekly comics by and damaged Airfix sales, both still appeal to a nostalgic older audience.
The Commando picture library has survived, with two-thirds of its readers aged over 15 The Victor brought out a 50th anniversary commemorative volume in , including six Braddock stories and an introduction by famous special forces veteran Andy McNab The Airfix catalogue, meanwhile, offers a choice of five different Lancaster kits, including a Bomber Command set sold in aid of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund The historical studies were rapidly marked by two opposed viewpoints. The report was clear that the British area offensive had failed both to break German morale and to stem the rise in arms production But the report also underestimated the importance of oil, a second crucial American target set in Skewed though it was, the BBSU also established findings that would serve later generations of historians.
It suggested that bombing had cost a modest 7 per cent of the total British war effort, rising to 12 per cent in It stressed the importance for the combined offensive of the arrival of long-range fighter escorts in early and noted, though with little detail, that the diversion of resources away from battlefronts to the defence of the Reich was a significant result of the offensive Harris, unsurprisingly, took the opposite view, both in his Despatch on War Operations , published only in , and in his memoirs While Harris ascribes many achievements to Bomber Command 32 , the heart of his Bomber Offensive is a robust defence of area bombing.
The Americans, Harris suggested, had wasted their time on precision bombing; when they finally saw the benefits of area attacks, in , they defeated Japan without a costly land campaign Bomber Offensive remains more polemical than reliable. His claim that the area bombing policy was decided at the highest political level, and implemented by him 35 , was disingenuous. Harris not only executed the policy but advocated it relentlessly against growing opposition within the Air Staff, until Churchill disowned it in March By the British had not one, but two official histories.
The assessment of the bombing offensive, though not quite in the Harris mould it does not claim that bombing could have won the war alone; it concedes the limitations of the area offensive; it considers the death and destruction wreaked on ordinary Germans 36 , is nevertheless highly favourable. Richards and Saunders introduce many themes common to later accounts, including the need to do something to attack the German heartland in , the early numerical and technological inadequacy of Bomber Command and the remedies that were progressively applied Gee , and later Oboe and H2S — from , and the contribution to final victory through the diversion of German military resources to the West and to defence rather than attack, the defeat of the Luftwaffe in German skies, and the disabling of the transport network and oil industry The larger official history, by the diplomatic historian Sir Charles Webster and the younger air power historian, Noble Frankland was entirely devoted to the bombing offensive The authors successfully insisted, against resistance from the RAF establishment, on full authorial independence as well as access to closed sources.
In that context, Webster and Frankland identify a turning-point at the spring of , when American air forces won partial air superiority over Germany thanks to long-range fighter escorts with disposable extra fuel tanks. Bomber Command could penetrate the German defences with losses that were just sustainable, but at night, and at the cost of accuracy.
The US Eighth Air Force could in theory achieve selective precision bombing, but could not reach its targets without incurring unacceptable losses. Only when the long-range fighters achieved air superiority could the offensive proceed with some success Detailed and conceptually sophisticated, the official history remains an indispensable reference. These covered individual raids and drew substantially on interviews with survivors, chiefly from the RAF but also from the Luftwaffe and the civilian population.
Though drawing on Webster and Frankland, Hastings is much more severe than the official historians. Area bombing had been a failure, and Harris should have been sacked for sticking to it. By the s, however, this growth was being placed in new contexts. For Richard Overy, whose first book on the subject appeared in , the achievements of bombing should be measured not against actual German production but against what had been planned for a war expected to start in It made the supply of components slower and less predictable, obliging firms to hold bigger stocks; it forced the dispersal of industry into smaller, less well-located plants.
All the German officials interviewed by post-war Allied researchers ascribed the economic collapse from January to bombing. Absenteeism in the Reich reached Indeed, Sebastian Cox has argued that it was the dispersal forced in , mostly by area bombing, that made German production more dependent on transport links, multiplying the impact of attacks on the German transport system in It also examines the ways in which states and societies and the new relationships that developed between peoples and government as a result.
Most works cited hitherto question the morality of the bombing offensive. Dresden occupies a distinctive place in this category, for several reasons. Grayling bases most of his case on just war theory: however just a war may be in itself, the just waging of war requires each act to be necessary and proportionate, and alternative, and less damaging, means towards the intended purpose to have been exhausted.
British aircrews were brave men doing something wrong who should therefore have refused to obey orders. Grayling also exaggerates the effective precision of precision bombing: several American raids on France, carried out in clear skies against weak air defences, killed over 1, French civilians; the record of blind bombing through the cloud cover of the Ruhr was worse.
To have abandoned the only weapon of direct attack which we had at our disposal would have been a long step in that direction. But the link is not absolute. Frankland has defended the morality of the offensive while dismissing its effectiveness before March The supporters of the offensive, the military historians Patrick Bishop and Antony Beevor, won, with votes against the motion and in favour. This result suggests that no consensus on the subject exists. Yet the worst part of it was that I felt no guilt, no sense of repulsion at the enormity of my deed.
What monsters we had become! Film and television have complemented the multiplication of written accounts, despite the obvious difficulties of massing Lancaster bombers for the screen.
The film of The Dam Busters , blessed with an instantly memorable theme tune, topped the British box-office in and was no. It inspired one imitation in Squadron , a fictional account of a daring raid by a squadron flying twin-engined Mosquitoes, which reflected commonly-experienced realities even less.
But neither the scripts nor the acting caught the public imagination as The Dam Busters had. The fictionalised accounts have been matched by documentaries. But Episode 12 ends at April , a point at which the offensive appeared as largely unsuccessful. As the only coverage in subsequent episodes was of Dresden, the overall balance of The World at War was decidedly negative. I first met the author, Kristen Alexander, at the unveiling of a plaque at Hutchins School to commemorate an old school boy, Stuart Crosby Walch.
Stuart was the only Tasmanian to be killed in the Battle of Britain. With the annual ceremonies looming for that historic event mid September, the release of Australian Eagles is timely. The Battle was fought over the skies of England in the summer and autumn of Out of the who fought, 36 were Australians. Of Fighter Command, airmen were killed, among them were thirteen Australians. The chapter on Stuart Crosby Walch is number two of six.
He was of the prominent business family of the city.
Beyond the Battle: fascinating facts
Outstanding at sport he was a well known figure around town in the mid s and joined the RAAF early in and sailed to England to further his flying career. Stuart would never see Tasmania again. Later he was posted to Squadron based at Tangmeere as Flight Commander. It was in July that Stuart saw his first action. Flying a Hurricane fighter he began to get credited with kills downing of enemy craft. On the 11 August with Stuart leading the squadron, he encountered an enemy force of more than aircraft.
Undaunted by the overwhelming numbers they met the onslaught, but he and his section leader plummeted into the waters five or so miles south of Swanage. He had accounted for two destroyed enemy aircraft, two shared destroyed, one unconfirmed shared destroyed and one damaged. The lost of the young Tasmanian, naturally, was devastating for his family.
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Like all airmen his name is recorded on the Air Force memorial at Runnymede England. This was the first and to date, the only School Plaque presented in Australia. Kristen has produced a wonderful read. It is an important book in that those six who served and died are now to be remembered more fully. Tasmanians will be proud to know that one of our own paid the supreme sacrifice over the skies of Great Britain. Her research is good and her style is easily read. Comes fully recommended.
These men had joined the air force during peacetime so their stories immediately differ from the typical WWII pilot biography. Some trained at Point Cook but then joined the RAF in short service commissions—so there was a cadre of Australian fighter pilots flying years before the first fighter squadron would be formed in Australia. This book is about the less celebrated pilots. Four of these pilots were killed in , although there were still another five hard years of war ahead—five years of significant events that would further obscure this period.
It is touching to see how these men are remembered today—particularly by their school communities, but also by others. Only the most passionate of researchers would explore these relatively brief stories to find something about the nature and character of these men—and Alexander does just that. Alexander has her own style as an aviation writer.
She does not try and put the reader in the cockpit, nor are actions embellished with detail that can only have been assumed. This is a difficulty for aviation writers: often complex events are accounted for very tersely in squadron records or logbooks. It is easy, then, to borrow from the experiences of others and in doing so overshadow the primary character concerned. Alexander does not go down that path. In fact by focusing on some relatively brief careers she gives her subjects a certain humility—and as a result treats them with due reverence. For this reason the book is in many ways a refreshing angle on this subject.
It reminds us that there is more to fighter pilots than just their tally count. In particular, all of those who lost their lives leave behind a rich legacy in their communities and family which lives on to the present day. Especially when it seems too dramatic, too tragic, too surreally heroic to be true. The Battle of Britain of remains one of the most famous battles in history, to this day a perfect model of resistance of good against evil and victory against that evil despite staggeringly overwhelming odds.
In that dark year the air force of Nazi Germany, having just rolled up Western Europe, sought to knock out the by comparison tiny British Royal Air Force as a prelude to Nazi invasion of Britain. The Germans thought they had won before they started. The iconic battle that ensued proved them wrong.
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Kristen Alexander portrays six shining young men. Four of whom lost their young lives in the battle, a fifth losing a leg though continuing to fly until something, the sixth remaining unscathed despite bailing out of his Spitfire in hot air combat no less than three times. Shining young men? By portraying them as such and quite simply as they were, Kristen Alexander encourages us to feel their loss just as profoundly as it deserves to be.
To marvel at their selflessness, their courage, their dog-fighting brilliance and their contribution towards victory against one of the worst evils the world has ever known. To remember them. The Battle of Britain is where it all started for me. At the age of nine I borrowed a book on this most famous of aerial battles from the school library. The title and author are now forgotten but I do remember it was a large format book with good-sized colour profiles of some of the aircraft involved.
I lapped up everything in what was my first detailed foray into WW2 aviation. Over the years, as I read widely, I became additionally enamoured with the American experience before concentrating on the RAF and Commonwealth air forces. Always preferring to discover and learn about the more obscure and forgotten, my reading gravitated to feeding a fascination for North Africa, the Mediterranean and Burma. It was almost like I had cut my teeth on the BoB, learned the true meaning of courage and moved on.
Indeed, some of the men involved — Bader, Dowding, Park — are still almost household names. Such was the impact of their struggle against the odds that their achievements still resonate with astounding clarity. Practically all angles have been considered but still new analyses, insight and material comes to light and, in all honesty, it sells. There have been memoirs and biographies of course and several authors have concentrated on groups of pilots and their involvement in the battle.
In many cases these men survived and were able to tell their story or, at least, left behind some sort of record beyond their entries in the Squadron Ops Book. What, then, of those lost? Are they to be consigned to a list of names on memorials, a headstone in a churchyard or a small plaque in a corner of the field in which they crashed?
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Of course not. Happily, someone always remembers and that name on the memorial will shine from having been touched reverently, the headstone will sit in a well-manicured lawn and that plaque will regularly receive visitors with fresh flowers and the time to reflect. What was he like? Why did he fly? Was he married? Who and what did he love? Where did he come from? Jack Kennedy. Stuart Walch.
Battle of Britain Day - Wikipedia
Dick Glyde. John Crossman. Desmond Sheen. James Coward. Battle of Britain pilots. I may have come across the others in one of the myriad of photos from the period — photos that give a little detail, list off the names of those identifiable and leave it at that. They were just names. Names remembered by some but collectively honoured whenever The Few were commemorated. However, we would not be talking about them at all if it were not for another common theme. The Few, as a collective group, will never be forgotten. A few of The Few were Australians who grew up half a world away.
The Australian BoB veterans are a bit of an enigma. With Australian Eagles this is no longer the case … and it is a portent of things to come. The author had not set out to research the Battle of Britain and the Australians who fought in it but reading an HE Bates classic got her thinking — were there Australians involved and how could she honour them?
The resulting collection of magazine articles — the first results of in-depth research — has led to a major project still very much a work in process. It is these articles, though, suitably edited and enhanced, that form the basis of Australian Eagles. Previous works by the author have revealed a particularly detailed eye for the personal and this is very much evident in AE, especially so for those featured who did not survive the Battle.
This balance is of course not seen with Sheen or Coward as both survived the Battle and the war. The result of such in-depth research and analysis, lovingly so in some respects, is an understanding beyond anything official records and most books will ever provide. The reader is introduced to each of the men and develops an affinity with them — so much so that one can suddenly see behind the cocky grin and rakishly angled service cap.
The grey tones of the photographs are noticed less and less as you see the colour of their lives. In the case of Dick Glyde, no other treatment could suffice.