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Battle of Britain

-Key Ingredients to Battle-
Home
-The London Blitz-
-Tactics on Both Sides-
-Key Ingredients to Battle-
-The Dowding System-
-The Battle of the Beams-
-Phases of Battle-
-Canada Contributes-
-End Results-
-Bibliography-

Airfields

A huge element to the support and more or less victory of the Battle of Britain could be said to be the always operational airfields. It could have been a main sector or a forward landing strip, but which ever it was, the fact that they were operational helped the Hurricanes or Spitfires be where they had to be at the right times.

 

In a simple matter of luck on the British side, the Luftwaffe commanders didn’t realize the importance of the airfields much like they didn’t realize the importance of radar. If the Luftwaffe had clued in the Battle of Britain could have been much more difficult for the British, forcing Dowding and Fighter Command to stretch their resources. 

 

Fighter Command was divided up in sections known as groups (see map). These four groups were then divided into Sectors, with control from one main “sector station”. The sector station would receive the imformation relating to German attcks and control daily operations and scrambles. Two well known sector stations were Biggin Hill in 11 Group and Duxford in 12 Group.

click here to see the map of Britain's airfields

Aircraft

British Planes

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Spitfire in flight

Supermarine Spitfire

 

The Supermarine Spitfire was a single seat fighter used by the RAF and many Allied countries in World War II.

 

Reginald Mitchell designed the Spitfire with his team at the Supermarine factory. He was famous for making high speed racing floatplanes. His creation won new World Air Sped record 407 mph which was a nice accomplishment.

 

Dowding found out that a need for a new fighter plane for the RAF that would fill the gap between the relatively slow biplane fighters and the Schneider Trophy racers. He was the one who issued the specifications for a new aircraft manufacturer. Mitchell submitted his plans for the Supermarine Type 224, but they didn’t pull through and turned out to be a disaster. The prototype could only reach a top speed of 228mph (367kph) and its rate of climb was slow which was determined by a complicated cooling system

 

A plan called the Gladiator won the competition with a max speed of 242 mph (390kpm) and a rate of climb exceedingly better then to Type 224. Mitchell, not giving up on designing a fighter plane for battle went back to the beginning and designed a “smaller, more streamlined fighter". This new 1,000 horse power V12 Rolls-Royce engine was selected, only to be named the Merlin later on.

 

The design details for the new Supermarine fighter were given to Dowding whom was so impressed with them issued funding from the RAF to the prototype of the plane. The plane was renamed Spitfire.

 

The fighter reached a max speed of 349mph (562 kph). When put through trials at Martlesham Heath the plane did well and an order for 310 Spitfires was made.

 

At the end of 1939 there were 2,160 planes on order and 20,531 Spitfires and 2,594 Seafires (the naval version of the fighter) in total had already been made. Spitfires played different parts in the war one which was photo reconnaissance. The last Spitfire was made in 1947 staying in service with different air forces around the world until 1955. Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force was the last unit to fly Spitfires.

 

Hawker Hurricane

Hawker Hurricanes played a major part in the Battle of Britain in the face of the Nazi’s Blitzkrieg. These planes flew on many different fronts throughout and up until the end of the war.

The hurricane was designed by Sydney Camm and team to reach the Air Ministry specifications. Hawker signed the contract for the prototype to be made and flown on 21 February 1935. It first flew on 6 November 1935 at Brooklands, four months before the Spitfire. The max spend was 300 mph (483kph)

When the war began in September 12939 497 Hurricanes had been mad and 18 squadrons equipped. Initially the Hurricane was to have the Rolls-Royce Goshawk steam-cooled engine but when Camm got wind of the new, more powerful PV-12 engine he redesigned the Hurricane to include the new engine.

The Hurricane was unlike the Spitfire because it used the traditional tubular metal construction with fabric covering. With this the plane was able to take a more damage from the enemy and still get its pilot home safely. The Hurricane was viewed as the lesser version compared to the Spitfire but in reality the Hurricane had 70% if the kills. A major contributor to this stat was due to the fact that Hurricanes were 2/3 of the fighter numbers.


Over 15,000 Hurricanes were built and did something in air forces around the world. The last Hurricane produced was in September 1944 staying in service until 1955.

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Me109 taking off

Messerschmitt
Me109 (Bf109)

NOTE: The 109 is called by both Me109 and Bf109.

The plane first got a saw any sign of being produced in 1934 as the Bf109. The prototype flew in 1935 and oddly enough was powered by a British 695 hp Rolls Royce Kestrel engine. Bf109B, the first production model, saw action in the Spanish civil war. The first models experienced many problems. Some of these problems being more serious like wing flutter and tail buffeting. Several models later the problems were completely eliminated.

The Bf109B had a 20mm cannon firing through the propeller . This cannon was not dependable often seized up. In the Bf109C model the cannon was replaced with 2 machine guns placed in the wings but this only caused the wing flutter to worsen. The problem was ultimately solved by balancing the ailerons and stiffening the leading edge of the wing.

When the change of the name to Messerschmitt AG and a change of model for the plane it was renamed Me109. The first plane to be produced the Me109E which went to war in September 1939.

The Me109 was endlessly developed throughout the war from E to F and G series, with many sub variations.

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Me110

Messerschmitt Me110 (Bf110)


The Me110 was designed by Willy Messerschmitt, in 1936. In 1938 the first prototype flew. It first saw action in Poland on 1 September 1939.
The plane had twice the range of the Me 109 because of being twin engined. The Me110 didn’t have the same high status as its well-known constant companion. Göring stated that the Me110s would be combined into "destroyer units" or "Zerstörer" and announced that they would become "the strategic fighter elite of the Luftwaffe". Because of their large size, slower speed and poorer performance meant they became “sitting ducks for the faster Spitfires".

For more information about the aircraft types used in the Battle of Britain visit http://www.battle-of-britain.com

Maggie Smith (June 2006)
History Summative