The Day of a Battle of Britain Pilot

From dawn until dusk every day for 16 weeks, Fighter Command’s young pilots had to be ready to meet the Nazi threat in the skies.

71 Squadron pilots run to their planes. These are members of the RAF’s first “Eagle” squadron.
Running to their planes (L to R) Pete Provenzano, Eugene Tobin, Sam Maurillo, and Luke Allen.

04.00am Woken at Dawn – All fighter pilots started at dawn with a cup of tea bought to them by a junior rank. They wash and dress before being driven to the dispersal area. Here by the runway, they eat breakfast if they have time – and wait.

10.00am SCRAMBLE – By mid-morning, the radar stations start picking up incoming enemy. The dispersal area phone rings. The duty officer answers, nods his head, then turns on the tannoy and shouts ‘Scramble’ into the receiver and across the airfield.

10.07am Into the Air – Having raced to their planes, clambered into their parachutes and climbed in to their aircraft, which fitters will already have started for them, pilots begin to then taxi doen the runway and take to the skies.

10.10am Mission Briefing – Now airborne, through their headphones they hear ‘vector two five zero, bandits 200 plus, angles three zero’, which is code for them to steer a course for 250 degrees, where more than 200 enemy aircraft are incoming at 30,000 feet.

10.15am Bandits Dead Ahead – Enemy planes are spotted heading in from the east with the sun behind them. A dogfight begins, as planes begin one-on-one duels with the German fighters, or go after the slow moving bombers that are bristling with guns.

10.40am The Fight Ends – German fighters can only fight over English airspace before their fuel starts running out. The RAF pilots then either chase them back over the channel or pick off any remaining bombers.

11.00am Return to Base – Those pilots that haven’t been shot down return to base. Upon landing they are interviewed by an intelligence officer who compiles a combat report detailing any enemy and RAF planes that have been shot down or damaged.

15.00pm Second Del of the Day – Pilots are scrambled again. At the height of the campaign, pilots flew combat missions two or three times a day.

20.00pm Dismissed at Dusk – As dusk approaches, after 16 long hours of suspense punctured by minutes of extreme violence in the skies, the pilots are stood down. Those who have survived end their day with a pint in the local.

Pilots scrambled for the Battle of Britain

Ben Davidson

Hello, I have been studying all aspects of history for about 25 years. I have a BA History from the University of Bedfordshire. My historical areas of interest are anything really, but I specialise in 19th - 20th century Britain, America and Ireland. I am also strongly aligned with most military history, really enjoying WW2 and the US Civil War. Chuck in the king or queen and Bob's your uncle.

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