From July 1 to October 31, 1940, the German Luftwaffe swept down upon England’s shores, causing substantial damage to air fields, radar stations, towns and cities, taking a terrible toll in human life. On August 13, Adolf Hitler commanded a full-scale attack under the codeword “Adlertag” (Eagle Day). Inclement weather hindered his plans until August 15, when the Luftwaffe flew an astounding 1,786 sorties against the south and east coast of England. The German ME 109s and 110s sent to protect the Heinkel HE 111s and Junkers Ju 88s seemed invincible.
On this day, however, the men and the machines of the Royal Air Force, Allied pilots in their swift Spitfires and sturdy Hurricanes, proved their match. The Allied pilots who fought the battle came not only from Britain and her Common-wealth countries but also from the United States, Poland and Czechoslovakia. During the battle, these pilots were directed toward the bombers by the Sector Operations rooms working from Radar plots. When night fell, Germany had lost 76 aircraft to the British 34. It was a costly victory for the defenders but it demonstrated to the Luftwaffe that the RAF would not be a easy to defeat as they had always been led to believe. The British were willing to endure the long months remaining in the Battle of Britain, hopeful that they had survived the Third Reich’s mightiest blow.
“Adlertag, 15 August 1940” focuses on Hurricanes as they scramble from a frontline airfield for their fourth “sortie” of the day. Yellow flags mark the bomb craters that the pilots had to avoid on take off. A German pilot, his Me 109 crashed in the foreground, is being questioned.
Each print has been countersigned by six of the foremost pilots of the day who later rose to a senior rank and were handsomely decorated for their wartime achievements:
Wing Commander CHRISTOPHER F. CURRANT DSO DFC
Wing Commander ROBERT F.T. DOE DSO DFC
Wing Commander GEORGE C. UNWIN DSO DFM
Group Captain FRANK R. CAREY CBE DFC AFC DFM
Group Captain JOHN CUNNINGHAM CBE DSO DFC
Group Captain W. DENNIS DAVID CBE DFC AFC