In 1940, Britain was in grave danger of being invaded by Hitler’s Germany. Over 16 weeks of high drama that summer and autumn, aerial supremacy over southern England - essential to a seaborne invasion - was bitterly contested by RAF Fighter Command and the Luftwaffe.
Ultimately, Germany failed to win control of the skies, suffering its first reversal of the Second World War and keeping the UK safe as the launch pad for the liberation of Europe – and the Allies’ ultimate victory – in June 1944.
The men of the RAF who defeated the Luftwaffe were fewer than 3,000 in number. Those who qualified for the immediate award of the Battle of Britain Clasp to the 1939/45 Star had to have flown at least one operational sortie with a recognised squadron or unit of Fighter Command between 10 July and 31 October.
The then British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, immortalised the young and multi-national RAF aircrew involved as ‘The Few’ in perhaps his most famous speech: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
They are commemorated today by various memorials and monuments, including the all-important Battle of Britain Memorial, maintained by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust on the white cliffs overlooking Folkestone in Kent.
Battle of Britain: The People’s Project is a partnership between the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and the publisher, Pen & Sword.