Some of the pilots who fought during the Battle of Britain… Douglas Bader Harold Bird-Wilson Robert Stanford Tuck Frederick Rosier James ‘Ginger’ Lacey Cedric Watcyn Williams Alan Deere Adolf Galland Adolph ‘Sailor’ Malan Werner Moelders Many thanks to Bill Bond – Battle of Britain Historical Society - for providing information for this section.
Douglas Bader British (English) 257 Squadron Went to Cranwell RAF College in 1928Posted to 23 Squadron in 1930Invalided out of the RAF in 1933 after a flying accident that occurred in 1931 when both of his legs had to be amputated. Readmitted to flying duties in 1939 In February 1940 he joined 19 Squadron which flew Spitfires. Transferred to 222 Squadron as a Flight Commander. During July 1940 he was promoted and given 242 Squadron to command. Back
Douglas Bader in action - 1940 On June 1st Bader shot down a Bf 109.On July 11th he shot down a Do 17. On the 21st August he shot down another Do 17.On the 30th August he destroyed two Bf 110’s.On the 7th September he shot down a Bf 110 and a Bf 109.On the 9th September he shot down a Do 17.On the 15th September he destroyed a Do 17 and a Ju 88. On the 18th September he destroyed a Do 17. On the 27th September he was credited with one Bf 109 destroyed and one probably destroyed. Number of enemy aircraft destroyed = June – September September Total for 1940
Douglas Bader was awarded the a DSO (1940) and a DFC (1941). He was made a Wing Commander in 1941 and led the famous Tamgmere Wing which was made up of three Spitfire squadrons. Bader went on to shoot down eleven more Bf 109’s (and two more shared) during sweeps over France. Douglas Bader collided with a Bf 109 on August 9th. He baled out and was taken prisoner. By this time the total number of aircraft that he had shot down stood at 23. One year after his capture Bader was sent to Colditz – a supposedly inescapable prison. Troublesome prisoners were sent here to try and prevent them from escaping. DSO DFC
Do you think that this report is successful in illustrating the confusion, danger and chaos associated with aerial combat? “Attacked a climbing formation of about twenty Me. 109F’s. I told 610 Squadron to stay put, and dived with my section on to the leading four Me’s. I nearly collided with the first one at whom I was firing, and had to go behind and under his tail. Continued downwards where I saw some more Me 109’s. I arrived among these who were evidently not on the look-out, as I expect they imagined the first formation we attacked were covering them. I got a very easy shot at one of these who flew quite straight until he went on fire from behind the cockpit….I collided with an Me 109 which took my tail off….The collision was my fault. I baled out and landed alright, and became a prisoner of war.” Douglas Bader’s description of being shot down – Combat Report 1945.
Douglas Bader was so highly thought of that a special operation was launched ten days after he was shot down. The operation involved Blenheim Bombers and The Tangmere Wing who were returning from a bombing run. “The Luftwaffe had offered a ‘safe conduct’ to an aeroplane carrying a replacement for the artificial leg Bader had damaged bailing out…The Air Ministry coldly declined. (Instead) His leg was dropped…by no.82 Squadron’s Blenheims. The Tangmere Wing flew close escort. Wing Commander Woodhouse announced the delivery, in English, to the Germans over the radio. The Germans collected the leg and presented it to Bader. He made good use of it; now he could walk again, he could escape…The Germans had a lot to learn about their prisoner.” Taken from: Bader. The Man And His Men, by Michael G. Burns, Cassell, 1990
Robert Stanford Tuck British (English) 257 Squadron Joined the RAF in 1935Served with 65 SquadronJoined 92 Squadron on May 1st, 1936 On 23rd May, 1940, he shot down a Bf 109 and two Bf 110’s over DunkirkOn June 2nd he shot down a Heinkel 111 and Bf 109 for which he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)Between August 13th - 14th he destroyed four JU 88’s (one at night) Promoted to command 257 Squadron in August 1940 Tuck shot down five more aircraft during the Battle of Britain Back
In December 1940 Stanford-Tuck was awarded a DSO and added a second bar to his DFC in March 1941.Tuck was shot down over France and captured in 1942. He managed to escape in 1945. Robert Stanford-Tuck was credited with 29 confirmed kills. For a while, from June 1940, Tuck and 92 Squadron flying Hurricanes were based at Pembrey in Wales. Tuck was at first disappointed to be taken away from the front line along the English Channel. He soon saw however, that the move to Carmarthenshire ‘wasn’t so daft after all’. Single raiders and reconnaissance planes often flew up the Bristol Channel, prowling around the ports of Cardiff and Swansea.
Robert Stanford Tuck recalls being in action over Cardiff in 1940 “By now I suppose we must have been right over Cardiff. As they came at us we throttled back hard and put our props in fine pitch to break us – to give us the lowest possible closing speed…I got the dot of my sight resting neatly above the leader’s canopy. Then we just waited for them…I held the dot a shade high for a second or so, and then at the last instant dropped it full on to his canopy…Afterwards we learned that he’d crashed on the outskirts of Cardiff. They got a couple out of the wreckage alive. We tore ahead of the remaining two, and repeated the same performance exactly, out over the Bristol Channel.” Taken from: Fly for your Life, by Larry Forrester, 1956
Robert Stanford Tuck also recalls being in action near Swansea. “An unidentified aircraft had been reported off Swansea. A day or two earlier the big oil storage vats at Pembroke Dock had been hit, and they were still burning fiercely. The great pall of smoke reminded him (Tuck) of fighting over Dunkerque….Control told them that a small coaster coming up the Bristol Channel was being bombed by a Do. 17, and gave them a course to steer...The Dornier saw the Spit (Spitfire) curving in at him, and quickly pulled up, into cloud. Tuck followed him in, overtaking very fast….Then his port wing lifted joltingly and, glancing out, he noticed a couple of holes in it.” Tuck carried on chasing and firing at the German plane until he… “..saw the Dornier plunge into the water, less than a mile away from the little ship it had failed to hit.”
Frederick Ernest Rosier British (Welsh) 229 Squadron Born on October 13 1915 at WrexhamEducated at Grove Park School in Wrexham. Joined the RAF on a short service commission in August 1935Posted to Wittering on November 2 1935Joined 43 Squadron at Tangmere on May 11 1936Joined 229 Squadron on October 6, 1939 as a Flight CommanderOn May 16 1940 he led a 229 Squadron detachment to France. Two days later he was shot down and baled out, badly burned, near Vitry. Rosier was sent back to England on the 23rd via Dieppe. On October 19th 1940 he took command of 229 squadron after the Commanding Officer (CO) was shot down. Back
Harold ‘Birdie’ Bird-Wilson British (Welsh) 17 Squadron Born at Prestatyn on November 20 1919. Educated at Liverpool College.Joined the RAF on a short service commission in September 1937.Joined 17 Squadron at Kenley during August 1938. On September 19th, 1938 he ran into a storm and made for Cranwell. In bad weather he crashed and his pilot passenger was killed. Bird-Wilson had severe facial injuries and was operated on four times by Archie Mclndoe, the last time in October 1939, making him one of the first ‘Guinea Pigs’. Arrived at 12 Group on December 28 and began to fly Hurricanes.Rejoined 17 Squadron on February 24, 1940. Back
Went to France with a squadron detachment on May 17 and on the 18th he shared in the destruction of a Do 17. On the 19th he damaged a Bf 109 and on the 21st shared a Hs 126 destroyed. 23rd May 17 Squadron Hurricanes were withdrawn to England. Bird-Wilson damaged a Ju 87 on the 25th of May and shared a Ju 88 destroyed on the 26th when patrolling the Dunkirk area. Bird-Wilson shared in destroying a He III and damaging a Bf 110 on July 29 1940 and shared a Ju 88 on August 21. He shot down a Bf 109 on the 25th, destroyed another and probably a second on the 31st, shared a Do 17 on September 3 and probably destroyed another on the 15th and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on the 24th September 1940. He was shot down by Adolf Galland on September 24. He baled out, burned, and was rescued from the sea. He rejoined 17 Squadron on October 1.
Cedric Watcyn Williams British (Welsh) 17 Squadron Born in South Wales and educated at Maesyddywen County School.Joined the RAF in September 1926 as an aircraft apprentice and passed out (qualified) as a Fitter in 1929. Watcyn Williams was awarded a cadetship at RAF Cranwell and entered the college in September 1929. He graduated in 1931 and joined 32 Squadron at Kenley. He was posted to 84 Squadron at Shaihah, Iraq, in February 1933 and returned to the U.K. in 1935 to join the staff at 3 Armament Training Camp at Sutton Bridge. By 1938 Watcyn Williams had become a member of the Deputy Directorate of Intelligence at the Air Ministry. In 1940 he went on a refresher before being moved on to fly Hurricanes with 17 Squadron who he was soon to command. Back
Cedric Watcyn Williams British (Welsh) 17 Squadron On the 18th August 1940 Watcyn Williams shot down and destroyed a Do 17. On the 21st August he shared two JU 88s. On the 24th he shared in the destruction of a He111 On the 25th he destroyed a Bf 110. It was during this attack that Watcyn Williams lost his life. The attack on the Bf 110 was made head-on and the 110 managed to critically damage his Hurricane. His Hurricane – number R 4199 – crashed into the sea.Cedric Watcyn Williams was 30 years old when he died.
James ‘Ginger’ Lacey British (English) 257 Squadron Joined the Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) in 1937. Ginger was posted to 501 Squadron when war broke out and was sent to fight in France in May 1940. On the 13th May during his first sortie he shot down a Bf109 and He111. During his second sortie he shot down an Bf110. The French awarded Ginger the Croix de Guerre medal for bravery for this action. On the 27th May he shot down two more He111’s. 501 Squadron left France on 18th June and returned to England. On 20th July Ginger destroyed a Bf 109 and was awarded a DFM. During August he destroyed a Ju 87, Ju 88, two Bf 109’s and a Ju 87 and Bf 110 probably destroyed. He damaged three other aircraft. Back
During September 1940 Ginger Lacey four Bf 109’s a Heinkel 111 (which had bombed Buckingham Palace) and a Do 215. By the end of October 1940 James ‘Ginger’ Lacey had 18 confirmed victories. At this point he was the highest scoring Battle of Britain Pilot. He won a bar to his DFM and went on to command his own squadron. Ginger amassed a total score of 28 victories before the war ended. “So October closed and the Battle of Britain ended, and Sergeant Lacey’s eighteen enemy aircraft destroyed in that battle was the highest score among all the pilots of Fighter Command. To add to these were four probables and six damaged, and, in France, five more destroyed.” Taken from: Ginger Lacey: Fighter Pilot, by Richard Townsend Bickers, 1964
Read the extract below. Describe life as experienced by an average fighter pilot of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. “The pattern of the times is inexorable and appears to be never-ending. Rise at an early hour: 4:00 a.m., perhaps, certainly never later than 6:30. Fly a standing patrol somewhere around “Hell’s Corner”, the south-east angle of England. Land at Hawkinge. Scramble…scramble…and scramble again. One more standing patrol, waiting for an enemy who might or might not come. Back to Gravesend. Maybe, a night stand-by. If not, a hurried visit to some place where there are ordinary people to mix with and take one’s mind off revs. And boost and deflection shots. Finally, a flop into bed and instant sleep, with always the semi-conscious appreciation that tomorrow might be ones last day of life.” Taken from: Ginger Lacey: Fighter Pilot, by Richard Townsend Bickers, 1964
Alan ‘Al’ Deere New Zealander 54 Squadron Joined the Royal Airforce in 1937 and originally posted to 74 Squadron, then 54 Squadron in 1938 which was to be re-equipped with Spitfires in 1939. Deere’s first sortie over France took place on May 15th. His Squadron joined with 74 Squadron (The Tiger Squadrons) to help cover the withdrawal of Allied troops at Dunkirk on May 23rd, 1940. Alan was involved at this time in a daring rescue mission which involved covering a Flight Lieutenant’s attempt to rescue a Squadron Leader who had been forced to land on a French Aerodrome. The R.A.F. planes were attacked and Deere shot down two Bf109’s. Back
In late May 1940, Alan Deere had to force land his Spitfire on a beach in Belgium after a dogfight. He made his way to Dunkirk and joined the French and British troops who were in the process of being evacuated. He arrived back in England and rejoined his squadron just 19 hours after taking off . On 12th June 1940 he was presented with the DFC. In July Deere shot down a Bf109, but had to force land after colliding with a separate Bf109 which had made a head-on attack. On August 11th he shot down a Bf109, on the 12th two Bf109’s and an Bf110. On the 15th he destroyed a further Bf109 before being chased by several Bf109’s who forced him to bail out of his aircraft. On the 30th he claimed a probable Do17 destroyed.
On August 31st Deere was leading out his section of Spitfire’s during a scramble when an enemy bomb fell amongst the aircraft as they taxied on the airfield. His Spitfire was blown onto its back, but Deere suffered only minor injuries. In May 1941 he joined No. 601 Squadron. He was given command of the squadron on August 1st, the same day that he shot down a Bf109. In 1942 he was sent to lecture upon battle tactics in America, but by early 1943 he had returned to active duty and went on to shoot down an Fw190. Deere became the Wing Leader at Biggin Hill and was awarded the DSO on July 15th, 1943. He led a wing of aircraft over the Allied bridgehead on D-Day and towards the end of the war commanded a Polish Mustang Wing in Essex.
Adolph ‘Sailor’ Malan South African 74 Squadron Accepted by the R.A.F. on a short service commission in 1935, Adolph began his flight training in 1936. He was posted to 74 Squadron at Hornchurch and became a Flight Commander in 1937. ‘Sailor’ went into action against the Luftwaffe above the beaches of Dunkirk and scored his first victory on May 21st, 1940, when he shot down a Ju88, damaging another and a shooting down a He111. On May 22nd, 1940, he shot down a He111 and shared in the destruction of a Ju88 and Do17. On the 27th he shot down a Bf109, shared in the destruction of a Do17 and damaged two more Do17s. For his bravery over Dunkirk Adolph Malan was awarded the DFC during June, 1940. Back
Seven days after receiving his DFC, Adolph Malan shot down two He111s during a night time interception. As the Battle of Britain go underway Sailor opened his score with the destruction of a He111 on July 12th. He claimed a Bf109 probably destroyed on July 19th and damaged a Bf109 on July 25th. A Bf109 was shot down and another damaged on July 28th. Malan now had the experience to challenge some of the tactics that the R.A.F. were using against the Luftwaffe. He realised that British fighters had to get closer to German aircraft in order to inflict greater damage. He had his guns reconfigured to a shooting distance of 250 yards instead of the standard 400 yards. He also thought that the three aircraft ‘Vic’ (flying in a ‘V’ shape) meant that pilots had to concentrate far too much upon keeping in formation and not colliding – rather than on the enemy. This made British aircraft vulnerable to attack. He abandoned the ‘Vic’ for a formation of four aircraft that flew in-line. Sailor was given the command of 74 Squadron during August 1940.
On the 8th August Sailor Malan shot down two Bf109s and on the 11th he damaged a third. On the 13th he shot down two Do17’s. During September he shot down a Ju88 and damaged another.During November he shot down two Bf109s and shared in the destruction of another.During December he shot down a Bf109. He was awarded the DSO on Christmas Eve, 1940. Sailor Malan went on to shoot down another 13 BF109’s, probably shot down one other and damaged 9. He also shared in the destruction of 2 Bf109s and a Do17. After a period as a Flight Instructor and Station Commander, Sailor Malan went on to command 145 Wing and to lead a section of 340 Squadron who were escorting Horsa Gliders during D-Day. Adolph ‘Sailor’ Malan left the R.A.F. in 1946.
Adolf Galland German Jagdgeschwader-26 Trained as a glider pilot in 1932, but after the Nazis came to power within Germany he was placed within an Infantry Regiment (1934). In 1935 Adolf was transferred to the 1st Fighter Wing in Doberitz. By May 1937 he was commanding a squadron of fighters within Spain (The Condor Legion) during German involvement in The Spanish Civil War (1936-39). On June 6th, 1939 he was awarded the Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds for his contribution to the Spanish Nationalist victory. In October 1939, after war had broken out within Europe, Galland was promoted to the rank of captain. He was transferred during June 1940 to JG-26 where he took command of III Group. Back
Adolf Galland German JG-26 On July 18th, 1940, Galland was promoted to the rank of Major. He became one of the Luftwaffe’s top-scoring Aces during the Battle of Britain shooting down twelve enemy aircraft, including the Hurricane flown by Welsh Ace Harold ‘Birdie’ Bird-Wilson on September 24th, 1940. Galland was awarded the Knight’s Cross in August 1940, and Oak Leaves to add to it during September. He was made Kommodore of JG-26 and achieved his 50th victory on November 1st. Galland was promoted to the rank of colonel in December 1940. Galland achieved his 70th victory (shooting down a British Blenheim bomber) during 1941 and was shot down by a Spitfire on the same day. Discussion with Goring, 1940
Hermann Goring (Reichsmarschall in charge of the German Airforce) convened a meeting of his top pilots and commanders in late 1940. Adolf Galland in his book, The First and the Last, tells us about that meeting: “Finally, Goring asked us what were the requirements for our squadrons. (Werner) Molders asked for…more powerful engines. The request was granted. ‘And you?’ Goring turned to me. I did not hesitate long. ‘I should like an outfit of Spitfires for my group, Herr Reichmarschall.’ …Such brazen-faced impudence made even Goring speechless. He stamped off, growling as he went.”
Adolf Galland German JG-26 Galland was awarded Swords and Diamonds during 1941 to add to the Oak Leaves that he had already added to his Knight’s Cross. When General Werner Molders died towards the end of 1941, he was promoted to General in charge of fighters. In 1942, at the age of thirty, he was promoted to General Lieutant, the youngest general of that rank within either the Allied or Axis forces. Galland went on to fly one of the world’s first jet-engined fighters (Me-262) in 1943. This aeroplane could fly 100 m.p.h. faster than the fastest Allied fighter. Galland developed a crack team of Me-262 pilots in 1945. This was made up of German Fighter Aces. But, by this time the war was all but over as the Allies marched towards Berlin.
Adolf Galland German JG-26 Galland became quite friendly with the British Fighter Ace Douglas Bader who had shot down 23 German aircraft, while Bader was locked up in Colditz prison. Their friendship lasted after the war was over. Galland also became friendly with Robert Stanford-Tuck, another famous British fighter ace that had been shot down over France in 1942.
Werner Moelders German Jagdgeschwader-53 Moelders attempted to join the Luftwaffe (German Airforce) as a fighter pilot in 1935 but was considered too unfit for flying duties. He was appointed as a flying instructor instead. In 1938 Moelders was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and joined the Condor Legion who were fighting in Spain. He took over from Adolf Galland as the leader of a squadron in J-88. Moelders became famous amongst pilots in Spain for helping to develop the “finger four”. This technique enabled fighters to spread out like fingers on a hand, which gave pilots better all round vision and manoeuvrability when going into battle. Within five months during 1938 he shot down 14 aircraft. Back
In October Moelders was sent to command III Group of JG-53. On 27th May 1940 he was given the rank of captain and was awarded the Knight’s Iron Cross. By this date he had shot down 20 aircraft. During June, 1940, he was shot down over France and taken prisoner, but released after only two weeks when the Germans signed an armistice (agreement to stop hostilities) with France. Moelders was now promoted to the rank of Major and took over command of JG-51. On 28th of July Moelders was wounded during a dogfight with Adolph ‘Sailor’ Malan (South African) who was an R.A.F. Ace, but managed to crash land in France.
By 1941 Moelders was fighting the Russians on the Eastern Front. In July 1941 he achieved his 100th air victory. No other pilot had ever achieved such a high percentage of victories. He was now awarded Diamonds to go with the Oak Leaves with Swords on his Iron Cross. Moelders was promoted to the rank of General in 1941. Werner Moelders died in a plane crash during a storm on 22nd November, 1941. He had been a passenger on a He-111 that had been flying him to the funeral of his friend Ernst Udet. Moelders was credited with 115 aerial victories, 101 of these being won during World War Two. JG51 named themselves ‘Moelders’ in his honour on 20th December 1941.