WW2 RAF Battle of Britain fighter aircraft
From the British perspective the Battle of Britain was a defensive air-war and it was the RAF's fighter aircraft and their pilots that would decide the outcome. All the RAF fighters apart from the Gloster Gladiator biplane were modern single or twin engined monoplane Fighters.

 

 
The RAF "Battle of Britain" Gloster Gladiator fighter history
The Gloster Gladiator had been introduced into RAF service in 1937, when introduced it was a state of the art closed cockpit biplane fighter. Designed by Henry Phillip Folland in 1934 and built by Gloster Aircraft Company, the Gloster Gladiator was obsolete by the time the Battle of Britain started and nearly all of the 747 Gloster Gladiators built had been replaced in front line service by modern monoplane fighters like the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire. During the Battle of Britain from late September 1940 eight RAF 247 Squadron Gloster Gladiators  based at RAF Exeter and RAF Roborough were responsible for the defence of the south west of England including the ports of Plymouth and Falmouth in Devon. The Gloster Gladiator proved to slow to effectively intercept or engage the Luftwaffe formations and although no Gladiators had been lost in combat 247 Squadron was re-tasked with night defence duties where the Gladiators  lack of speed was less of a disadvantage.
 


RAF 247 Squadron was re-equipped with the Hawker Hurricane on Christmas eve 1940 and it's Gloster Gladiators re-allocated for non-combat duties. RAF 239 Squadron Gloster Gladiators were used for army cooperation which freed other Squadrons more modern fighters for more arduous roles. The RAF was not the only force to use the Gladiator during the Battle of Britain, the Royal Navy's 804 Navel Air Squadron operated some of it's Sea Gladiators, which had previously been defending the naval base at Scapa Flow, from the Fleet Air Arm shore base at Hatston in Scotland under RAF Fighter Command control between May and September 1940.

None of the RAF Gloster Gladiators operational in the Battle of Britain were lost but they proved to be ineffective against the modern German Luftwaffe aircraft they encountered.

Click here for specifications and pictures of the RAF's Gloster Gladiator fighter

 

The RAF "Battle of Britain" Boulton Paul Defiant fighter history
Boulton Paul Aircraft built the Boulton Paul Defiant as a "turret fighter" to John Dudley North's design, in had initial successes as Luftwaffe fighter pilots mistook it for a Hawker Hurricane and attacked it accordingly, the return fire from the unexpected turret came as an unpleasant surprise but soon the Luftwaffe fighter pilots learned to recognised the difference between the Defiant and Hurricane and the tables were quickly turned. The increased weight and drag of the Boulton Paul Defiant's turret reduced the fighters speed and agility to a point that it was at a major disadvantage against Luftwaffe fighters in dogfights whose pilots correctly identified it and attacked from below and behind or head on where the Defiant's gun turret could not be trained. Two Squadrons of Boulton Paul Defiants operated during the Battle of Britain,  264 Squadron RAF  and 141 Squadron .

RAF 264 Squadron operations began in March 1940 from RAF Martlesham Heath when the squadron started convoy patrols with their Boulton Paul Defiants, the squadron soon started to have heavy losses and at the end of May 1940 the squadron was withdrawn from day-fighter operations and assigned a night-fighter role. 264 Squadrons Boulton Paul Defiants returned to a day fighting role at the height of the Battle of Britain operating from RAF Northolt and RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey in Lincolnshire, but suffered heavy losses again and reverted to it's night-fighter role. During the Battle of Britain No. 264 Squadron RAF lost a total of 18 of it's Boulton Paul Defiants, the majority of these during daylight operations.

RAF 141 Squadrons first operational patrol was flown from RAF Turnhouse on 29 June 1940 before moving to RAF West Malling in early July with RAF Hawkinge being used as an advanced airfield. Following an unsuccessful encounter with the enemy a few days later, the the squadron was withdrawn to Prestwick. In September 1940 half a squadron of 141 Boulton Paul Defiants was sent to RAF Biggin Hill in a night fighter role, the rest of 141 Squadron followed in October 1940 and remained for the rest of the Battle of Britain. 141 Squadron RAF lost a total of 10 of it's Defiants during the Battle of Britain, six of these in it's single daylight operation.

Click here for specifications and pictures of the RAF's  Boulton Paul Defiant fighter

 

The RAF "Battle of Britain" Bristol Beaufighter history
The Bristol Beaufighter was a modification of the Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber design, the intention was to produce a long range heavy fighter. The Beaufighter was introduced into RAF service in late July 1940 initially as a night fighter, a role which the plane was particularly suitable for as it's roomy fuselage could accept the RAF's new, but rather bulky, airborne AI radar equipment. The Beaufighter proved an effective adversary to the Luftwaffe night-time Blitz bomber raids and served in this role until it began to be replaced by the faster, and more agile, de Havilland Mosquito in mid 1942, it was completely superseded in this role by the de Havilland Mosquito in mid 1943.

During the last weeks of the Battle of Britain Bristol Beaufighters operated with the following RAF Squadrons and units as night fighters, for the majority of the Battle of Britain these Squadrons had been operating Bristol Blenheims.

No. 23 Squadron RAF
No. 25 Squadron RAF
No. 29 Squadron RAF
No. 219 Squadron RAF
No. 600 Squadron RAF
No. 604 Squadron RAF
Fighter Interception Unit

Click here for specifications and pictures of the RAF's Bristol Beaufighter fighter

 

The RAF "Battle of Britain" Bristol Blenheim history
Frank Barnwell designed the Bristol Blenheim for the Bristol Aeroplane Company as a light bomber for the RAF in mid 1935. The Bristol Blenheim entered into RAF service in 1937, but by the time WW2 started was already effectively obsolete. Throughout the Battle of Britain Bristol Blenheim squadrons bombed Luftwaffe airfields in German occupied Europe by day and by night, Blenheim losses were heavy but there were no better bombers available at this desperate time. Some Bristol Blenheims were retro-fitted with AI Mk III airborne radar and served with the Fighter Interception Units where it proved a valuable stop-gap night fighter in the Battle of Britain until the introduction of the superior Bristol Beaufighter.

The following RAF units and Squadrons all operated the Bristol Blenheim in a night fighter role during the Battle of Britain

Fighter Interception Unit
No. 23 Squadron RAF
No. 25 Squadron RAF
No. 29 Squadron RAF
No. 219 Squadron RAF
No. 600 Squadron RAF
No. 604 Squadron RAF

The following RAF Coastal Command Squadrons all operated the Bristol Blenheim in a fighter role during the Battle of Britain

No. 235 Squadron RAF
No. 236 Squadron RAF
No. 248 Squadron RAF

Click here for specifications and pictures of the RAF's Bristol Blenheim fighter

 

The RAF "Battle of Britain" Hawker Hurricane history
While their are still disagreements as to whether the Hawker Hurricane or the Supermarine Spitfire was the best Battle of Britain there can be no doubt that the Hawker Hurricane was the most important, due to the Hurricanes excellent steady gun platform qualities and it's greater numbers it destroyed far more German Luftwaffe aircraft than any other RAF fighter in the Battle of Britain. Could Great Britain have won the Battle of Britain without the Spitfire? No! Could the Battle of Britain been won without the Hawker Hurricane? No! - A much overlooked point, although not by the German forces, was that the real piece of military hardware that won they Battle of Britain, and infact the war was the Rolls Royce Merlin engine!

The Hawker Hurricane was designed by Sydney Camm for Hawker Aircraft in 1934, it first flew in November 1935 and entered RAF service in 1937, gradually replacing the RAF's biplane fighters, it was the first production fighter to be powered by the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin and the Hurricanes performance gain over older RAF fighters was enormous although the fabric covered design was already obsolete due to the new "stressed skin" methods of construction being developed. The older doped linen design of the Hurricane made it easier to make, maintain and repair than stressed skin designs and often a cannon shell that would explode on impact on a stressed skin metal covered aircraft would pass right through a Hurricane without enough resistance to make it explode, these were all desirable qualities during the Battle of Britain.

The most active part of the Battle of Britain occurred between the 8th of August and the 21st of September 1940, during this period 1,593 kills were attributed to the Hurricane out of the 2739 in total for all RAF aircraft types. Although the Hurricane was slower than it's main rival, the Supermarine Spitfire, and it's main adversary, the Messerschmitt Bf 109e, it had a tighter turning circle than either fighter, a very desirable capability in a dog-fight. The main fear for an RAF Hawker Hurricane pilot was fire, the wood and fabric caught alight too easily, this was partially rectified in later variants by the use of improved fire walls and fire resistant coverings over the wing and fuselage fuel tanks, this at least increased the time a pilot had to safely bail out if the worst happened.

Click here for specifications and pictures of the RAF's Hawker Hurricane fighter

 

The RAF "Battle of Britain" Supermarine Spitfire history
R.J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine, designed the Spitfire as a private venture, when it first flew on the 5th of Mach 1936 it was one of the most advanced fighter designs in the world, the Spitfire used a thin wing combined with metal stressed skin construction, this was coupled to a Rolls Royce Merlin, one of the best piston aircraft engines ever designed. Engineers have often said that if it looks right it probably is right, RAF Squadrons began to receive their new aircraft in August 1938, RAF pilots said the aircraft looked right on the ground but in the air it became part of you, you did not sit in it like most other fighters, but "strapped it on". Numerically speaking the Supermarine Spitfire was heavily out numbered by the Hawker Hurricane at the start of WW2 but Hurricane losses in the Battle of France and the frantic production of the Spitfire up to the Battle of Britain resulted in the Spitfire RAF squadrons increasing dramatically. In the Middle of the Battle of Britain the Spitfire MkII was introduced, this was powered by the new more powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk XII, a popular improvement from a pilot's perspective and like the Spitfire MkI, a joy to fly.

A total of 19 RAF Supermarine Spitfire Squadrons took part in the battle of Britain and they are credited with shooting down 282 fighters and 247 bombers during battle, the Hurricane is credited with shooting down 222 fighters and 434 bombers. The tactics employed by the British Fighter Command was to use the more numerous Hawker Hurricanes to attack the German bombers and engage their fighter escort with the faster Supermarine Spitfire. Although the RAF's Hurricanes shot-down the most enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain this was a direct result of their numerical superiority over the Spitfire, if we look at the average combat performance of a Spitfire it had in fact a 27% greater kill rate than the Hurricane and this was predominantly against fighters, the Hurricane's kills were 65% bombers. From these figures it can be seen that against similar targets the Spitfire could be expected to achieve a 50% higher kill rate than the Hurricane. It is clear that RAF Fighter command's decision to use the Hawker Hurricane against enemy bombers while the Supermarine Spitfire engaged their fighter escorts was the correct way to use these two excellent WW2 Battle of Britain fighters to their best advantage.

Click here for specifications and pictures of the RAF's Supermarine Spitfire fighter

 
 
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  • When was the Battle of Britain and how long did it last for?
  • What was "Chain Home" and why did it help win the Battle of Britain?
  • What RAF fighters fought in The Battle of Britain and how good were they?
  • What Luftwaffe fighters and bombers took part in the Battle of Britain?
  • Who were the famous fighter aces of the battle of Britain?
  • What did a fighter pilot wear into battle in WW2 and the battle of Britain?
  • How many aircraft were lost in the Battle of Britain by the RAF?
  • How many Luftwaffe Fighters and Bombers were lost in the Battle of Britain?
  • How many RAF pilots and aircrew lost there lives in the Battle of Britain?
  • How many Luftwaffe aircrew and pilots were lost in the Battle of Britain?
  • Which cities were specifically targeted in the Blitz in the the Battle of Britain?

RAF Battle of Britain Fighter

"The Battle of Britain"

 Battle of Britain Spitfire Fighter

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Timeline of the WW2 Battle of Britain - German Battle of Britain WW2 Air-force - Battle of Britain Luftwaffe fighters and Battle of Britain Luftwaffe bombers including the Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter bomber, Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter, Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber, Heinkel He 111 bomber, Junkers Ju 88 bomber and the Dornier Do 17 bomber of WWII - Battle of Britain World War Two RAF fighters like the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane - Famous WWII RAF Battle of Britain fighter pilot aces - Famous WW2 Battle of Britain German Luftwaffe fighter aces - Famous WW2 Battle of Britain leaders like Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Führer Adolf Hitler - Battle of Britain Military air commanders like Field Marshal Herman Goring, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Air Vice-Marshal Leigh-Mallory and Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park - The Wold War Two Battle of Britain Blitz terror bombing of British cities - WW2 Battle of Britain Chain Home Radar stations - WW2 Battle of Britain Air Raid Wardens and Fire Watchers - WW2 Battle of Britain air raid shelters and the Anderson shelter - Evacuation of children from British cities during WW2 and the Battle of Britain - The issue of gas masks to the British civilian population in prereration for the WW2 Battle of Britain.

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