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The Battle of Britain Air Show
 
Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk Vb - G-MKVB - Historic Aircraft Collection - United Kingdom   Hawker Hurricane IIb - G-HHII - Hangar 11 Collection - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IX - G-IXCC - Spitfire Ltd. - United Kingdom   United Kingdom
 
De Havilland Vampire T55 - LN-DHZ - Warbirds of Norway - Norway   ST42 - Belgian Defence - Air Component   North American TF-51D Mustang - NX251RJ - Fighter Collection, The - United Kingdom   Hawker Sea Fury T20 - NX20MD - Fighter Collection, The - United Kingdom
 
United Kingdom - Privately Owned - United Kingdom

Battle of Britain Air Show

Words and photography by Mike Freer with additional photographs by Stuart Freer

This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and what better location to honour those that perished during this epic conflict than Duxford airfield. RAF Duxford, along with the nearby satellite airfield at Fowlmere, played a pivotal role during the battle. Being part of 12 Group, the Duxford sector was responsible for the protection of airfields coming under attack in the adjacent 11 Group situated in South East England.

The story really starts during the summer of 1938 when the resident number 19 Squadron was the first RAF squadron to re-equip with the new, state of the art, Supermarine Spitfire. The first Spitfire was flown into RAF Duxford in August 1938 by Jeffery Quill, Supermarine’s test pilot.

By June 1940, with Belgium, Holland and France having fallen to the German forces and the conquest of Britain being their next objective, Duxford was placed in a high state of readiness. Hawker Hurricanes started to arrive at RAF Duxford during July 1940 for the newly formed number 310 Squadron made up of Czechoslovakian pilots who had escaped from France.

At the end of August 1940, Air-Vice Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory ordered the Hawker Hurricanes of number 242 Squadron, now commanded by Douglas Bader, down from RAF Coltishall, to join numbers 19 and 310 Squadrons on daily standby at Duxford. Douglas Bader became the most famous of a number of Fighter Command heroes who flew from Duxford and, indeed, is remembered for being the most famous British fighter ace of the Second World War.

As mentioned earlier, the role of the Duxford based fighter squadrons was the protection of the airfields within 12 Group. Air-Vice Marshall Leigh-Mallory, Commander of 12 Group, was frustrated by this supporting role. He thought that the Duxford based pilots would have greater success if they joined the battle in ‘Wings’ of three squadrons

Air Vice Marshall Park, Commander of 11 Group, was not convinced of this tactic due to the length of time it took to form up the squadrons. However, Leigh-Mallory won the argument and Douglas Bader was authorised to lead numbers 19, 242 and 310 squadrons operating together as a “Big Wing”.

 
United Kingdom   Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchón - G-BWUE - Spitfire Ltd. - United Kingdom   Gloster Gladiator Mk I - G-AMRK - Shuttleworth Collection - United Kingdom   Canadian Car Foundry Harvard lV - G-BGPB - Aircraft Restoration Co. - United Kingdom
 
Gloster Gladiator Mk II - G-GLAD - Fighter Collection, The - United Kingdom   De Havilland Dragon Rapide - G-AGJG - Unknown   United Kingdom - Privately Owned - United Kingdom   De Havilland Tiger Moth - G-ANRM - Unknown
 
Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXb - G-ASJV - Old Flying Machine Company, The - United Kingdom
 
Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IX - G-PMNF - United Kingdom - Privately Owned - United Kingdom   Canadian Car Foundry Harvard lV - G-BGPB - Aircraft Restoration Co. - United Kingdom   North American TF-51D Mustang - NX251RJ - Fighter Collection, The - United Kingdom   Boeing B-17G-105-VE  Flying Fortress - G-BEDF - B-17 Preservation Limited - United Kingdom
 
Hawker Hurricane I - G-HUPW - Minnmere Farm Partnership - United Kingdom   North American TF-51D Mustang - NX251RJ - Fighter Collection, The - United Kingdom   Grumman F-8F-2P Bearcat - G-RUMM - Fighter Collection, The - United Kingdom   Boeing B-17G-105-VE  Flying Fortress - G-BEDF - B-17 Preservation Limited - United Kingdom
 

On 9th September 1940, the Duxford Squadrons successfully intercepted  a large force of German bombers before they reached their target. On the strength of this, two more squadrons were added to the Wing. Number 302 (Polish) Squadron with Hurricanes and Spitfires of 611 Auxiliary Squadron.

Every day, some sixty Spitfires and Hurricanes were dispersed around Duxford and Fowlmere. By the 15th September 1940, which became known as ‘Battle of Britain Day’, Bader’s ‘Big Wing’ was ready for action and twice took off to engage the Luftwaffe formations in their attempts to bomb London.

The ‘Big Wing’ concept was always controversial , but the threat of invasion passed and Duxford’s squadrons had played a vital role in the victory.

To celebrate Duxford’s outstanding contribution to the Battle of Britain, the air show hosted a large number of Spitfire and Hurricane fighters. Sixteen Spitfires of various marques and five Hurricanes formed a very impressive line-up.

The flying display was opened by the Red Arrows displaying with their usual gusto. Other RAF fast jet displays were provided by a Typhoon of 29(F) Squadron  and a formation of five Hawk T1 trainers of 19(F) Squadron. An F-16 of 349 Squadron of the Belgium Air Component was also a very welcome visitor along with the French Air Force display team Patrouille de France which had the honour of closing the show.

The resident Fighter Collection provided some fine flying displays with their Bearcat, Sea Fury and Mustang and provided a Harvard to display alongside a similar type from the Aircraft Restoration Company. B-17 Preservation displayed their immaculate ‘Sally B’ in, this, its 65th Birthday year

The inter-war years were represented with a number of bi-planes. The Gloster Gladiator displayed from the, nearby, Shuttleworth Collection and a number of privately owned bi-planes in the form of a Leopard Moth, Hornet Moth, Rapide, Jungman and Jungmeister also provided some sedate flying routines.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane were a nice lead into the four ship Hurricane scramble to ward off an attacking Luftwaffe Bouchon. However, the mass scramble of fifteen Spitfires and a Seafire and the formation flypast left a lump in the throat. Truly, an outstanding tribute to the memory of the Battle of Britain.

United Kingdom
 
Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXb - PH-OUQ - Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight - Netherlands   Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib - G-BKTH - Shuttleworth Collection - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk Ia - G-AIST - Sheringham Aviation - United Kingdom   Hawker Hurricane XIIa - G-HURI - Historic Aircraft Collection - United Kingdom
 
United Kingdom - Privately Owned - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXb - G-ASJV - Old Flying Machine Company, The - United Kingdom   Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchón - G-BWUE - Spitfire Ltd. - United Kingdom   Hawker Hurricane IIc - PZ865 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 
United Kingdom - Privately Owned - United Kingdom
 
F-16AM Fighting Falcon - FA110 - 10 Wing - Belgian Defence - Air Component   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk Ia - G-AIST - Sheringham Aviation - United Kingdom   Hawk T1 - XX317/317 - 19 (Reserve) Squadron - Royal Air Force   Grumman F-8F-2P Bearcat - G-RUMM - Fighter Collection, The - United Kingdom
 
Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IX - G-IXCC - Spitfire Ltd. - United Kingdom   Supermarine Seafire F Mk XVII - G-KASX - Kennet Aviation - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXb - PH-OUQ - Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight - Netherlands   Noorduyn AT-16 Harvard III - G-BTXI - Fighter Collection, The - United Kingdom
 
United Kingdom
 
Touchdown Conclusion
 

The Battle of Britain Air Show was one of the largest events ever staged at Duxford in recent years attracting a crowd of over 40,000 visitors over the weekend of 4th and 5th of September. So popular was the show that the car parks reached capacity on Saturday and the airfield had to be closed to further vehicles.

Once again, the organisers at Duxford presented another outstanding air show and a fine celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

The author wishes to thank Esther Blaine and Gabriela Obluda of the Imperial War Museum for their kind hospitality during the author’s visit.

 
Touchdown Rating - 4 out of 5
 
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