Crowds enjoy displays from Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancaster bombers at Duxford Air Show

Thousands of people have enjoyed a day in the sunshine and marveled at airplanes including a Spitfire and Flying Fortress at the Duxford airshow today.

Some of those at the event in Cambridgeshire donned their best 1940s outfits to really embrace the spirit of the annual event, which this year commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain film. 

The event will culminate in the mass flyover of 18 Spitfires, with the display ending with a poignant solo from Spitfire MH434, in tribute to display pilot Mark Hanna. 

Duxford was an important wartime fighter station, built in 1917 as the First World War raged on and played a key role in the D-Day landings during the Second World War. 

Thousands of people, crowds pictured, have enjoyed a day at the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show in Cambridgeshire today which has several aerial displays and dozens of visitors dressed up in 1940s costume

Thousands of people, crowds pictured, have enjoyed a day at the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show in Cambridgeshire today which has several aerial displays and dozens of visitors dressed up in 1940s costume

Thousands of people, crowds pictured, have enjoyed a day at the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show in Cambridgeshire today which has several aerial displays and dozens of visitors dressed up in 1940s costume

Some members of living history group the Spirit of Britain, pictured, dressed up as RAF pilots for the annual event today

Some members of living history group the Spirit of Britain, pictured, dressed up as RAF pilots for the annual event today

Some members of living history group the Spirit of Britain, pictured, dressed up as RAF pilots for the annual event today

Two people donned their best 1940s inspired clothing, complete with sophisticated hats, for the day out at Duxford today

Two people donned their best 1940s inspired clothing, complete with sophisticated hats, for the day out at Duxford today

Two people donned their best 1940s inspired clothing, complete with sophisticated hats, for the day out at Duxford today

In between flying displays, those involved with the event and dressed up as RAF pilots stopped for a rest near their planes

In between flying displays, those involved with the event and dressed up as RAF pilots stopped for a rest near their planes

In between flying displays, those involved with the event and dressed up as RAF pilots stopped for a rest near their planes

Also during the event, visitors can watch rare film from the IWM archive including amateur footage taken by Prince William of Gloucester at the Battle of Britain film set a RAF Duxford in 1969, reports Cambridge Network.

Another main flying event of the weekend is a display which will recreate the airfield attack scene from the 1969 film Battle of Britain.

The movie, which was filmed at Duxford 50 years ago, will remake film history in the sky to celebrate the golden anniversary of the British film.

The popular film starred actors including Michael Caine as Squadron leader Canfield, Michael Redgrave as Air Vice Marshal Evill and Laurence Olivier as Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. 

A two seater Spitfire takes off for a practice flight today

A two seater Spitfire takes off for a practice flight today

The 1969 film Battle of Britain, poster pictured, was filmed at Duxford

The 1969 film Battle of Britain, poster pictured, was filmed at Duxford

This year’s event marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain film, poster right. Also pictured is a spitfire, left, which was seen practicing before the main flying event of the weekend show this morning

Pilots will recreate the airfield attack scene from the 1969 film Battle of Britain, pictured, to mark the 50th anniversary of the hit movie which stared Michael Caine, Michael Redgrave and Laurence Olivier

Pilots will recreate the airfield attack scene from the 1969 film Battle of Britain, pictured, to mark the 50th anniversary of the hit movie which stared Michael Caine, Michael Redgrave and Laurence Olivier

Pilots will recreate the airfield attack scene from the 1969 film Battle of Britain, pictured, to mark the 50th anniversary of the hit movie which stared Michael Caine, Michael Redgrave and Laurence Olivier

Film Battle of Britain, a scene pictured, was filmed at Duxford and rare footage filmed by Prince William of Gloucester will be shown during the festivities

Film Battle of Britain, a scene pictured, was filmed at Duxford and rare footage filmed by Prince William of Gloucester will be shown during the festivities

Film Battle of Britain, a scene pictured, was filmed at Duxford and rare footage filmed by Prince William of Gloucester will be shown during the festivities

Dozens of planes are on display including Spitfires and Flying Fortress'. The event will end with a flyover from 18 spitfires. Pictured are six men on the airfield

Dozens of planes are on display including Spitfires and Flying Fortress'. The event will end with a flyover from 18 spitfires. Pictured are six men on the airfield

Dozens of planes are on display including Spitfires and Flying Fortress’. The event will end with a flyover from 18 spitfires. Pictured are six men on the airfield

This year the event, pictured are the crowds looking at planes on display, is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Battle of Britain film which was filmed at Duxford

This year the event, pictured are the crowds looking at planes on display, is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Battle of Britain film which was filmed at Duxford

This year the event, pictured are the crowds looking at planes on display, is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Battle of Britain film which was filmed at Duxford

A Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina flying boat is moved into position for the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show this morning

A Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina flying boat is moved into position for the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show this morning

A Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina flying boat is moved into position for the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show this morning

A man holds a young boy as he moves a large machine gun on the Royal Anglians stand

A man holds a young boy as he moves a large machine gun on the Royal Anglians stand

Members of a home guard re-enactor group are seen riding their bicycles on a  patrol

Members of a home guard re-enactor group are seen riding their bicycles on a  patrol

As well as several types of planes, visitors can visit stalls with model machine guns, left, and see members of a home guard re-enactor group, right,  riding their bicycles on a patrol of the event

A pilot checks the fuel tanks on a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress before the festivities and flying shows started at Duxford today

A pilot checks the fuel tanks on a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress before the festivities and flying shows started at Duxford today

A pilot checks the fuel tanks on a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress before the festivities and flying shows started at Duxford today

Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes are brought on to the flight line as the sun rises today and before thousands of people arrive at the airbase, ready for a day of themed entertainment

Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes are brought on to the flight line as the sun rises today and before thousands of people arrive at the airbase, ready for a day of themed entertainment

Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes are brought on to the flight line as the sun rises today and before thousands of people arrive at the airbase, ready for a day of themed entertainment

Jane Fish, senior film curator at IWM, told Royston Crow: ‘The footage has rarely been seen outside of the family of Prince William of Gloucester, and so it’s wonderful to have been able to digitise it and make it accessible.

‘It’s a really evocative glimpse into the making of Battle of Britain film, and you can even see the production team preparing special effects, including a small explosion on a bomber aircraft.’

The Prince of Gloucester, who was the Queen’s cousin and the grandson of George V, died in a plane crash in 1972 near Wolverhampton.

Four Buchon fighter jets with Luftwaffe markings, which starred in the 1969 film, will also take flight. In another display a Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane will entertain the crowds.

Last year 18 Spitfires flew above IWM Duxford to mark the craft’s 80th anniversary. Pilots battled against rain and clouds to entertain the thousands of people watching.

The air show saw several aircraft from both World Wars, Cold War jets, and 1930s biplanes take to the skies, along with the RAF’s new £120m F-35 stealth fighter jet.

As well as airplanes to look at, visitors can take part in dances, pictured, and have a 1940s makeover at the festival site

As well as airplanes to look at, visitors can take part in dances, pictured, and have a 1940s makeover at the festival site

As well as airplanes to look at, visitors can take part in dances, pictured, and have a 1940s makeover at the festival site

Reenactors in period RAF costume walk pass WW1 bi-planes at Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show today

Reenactors in period RAF costume walk pass WW1 bi-planes at Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show today

Reenactors in period RAF costume walk pass WW1 bi-planes at Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show today

A member of the Spirit of Britain is seen dressed up as a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force in Duxford today

A member of the Spirit of Britain is seen dressed up as a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force in Duxford today

Two people donned their best 1940s outfits for the weekend event

Two people donned their best 1940s outfits for the weekend event

Living history group the Spirit of Britain, left, and visitors, right, wore 1940s-themed outfits at the event at IWM Duxford

The event runs today and tomorrow with several planes set to take to the skies and impress the thousands of visitors watching

The event runs today and tomorrow with several planes set to take to the skies and impress the thousands of visitors watching

The event runs today and tomorrow with several planes set to take to the skies and impress the thousands of visitors watching

A man takes a closer look at a North American Aviation P51 Mustang before the flying started this morning. This plane is a single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II

A man takes a closer look at a North American Aviation P51 Mustang before the flying started this morning. This plane is a single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II

A man takes a closer look at a North American Aviation P51 Mustang before the flying started this morning. This plane is a single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II

A man sits in a deck chair while wearing World War Two dress including a gas mask at the two-day event today

A man sits in a deck chair while wearing World War Two dress including a gas mask at the two-day event today

A man sits in a deck chair while wearing World War Two dress including a gas mask at the two-day event today

RAF Duxford was built during the First World War and when fighting ended it was kept open as a training school and then, from 1924, a fighter station, a role it was to carry out for 37 years. 

On 15 September 1940, ‘Battle of Britain Day’, its squadrons twice took to the air to defend from Luftwaffe attacks aimed at London.

Test and trial units then flew from the station, providing the RAF with vital insights into how its new aircraft would perform in combat, before it was handed over to the United States Army Air Forces. 

In April 1943, RAF Duxford became home of the 78th Fighter Group, whose primary job was to escort the fleets of US Eighth Air Force bombers on their daylight raids against Germany. 

After the Second World War Duxford was equipped with jet fighters such as the Gloster Meteor, Hawker Hunter and Gloster Javelin and its pilots were ready to shoot down Soviet bombers if needed during the Cold War. 

All of the weekend flying is subject to weather and serviceability, but today the skies have been clear and temperatures warm

All of the weekend flying is subject to weather and serviceability, but today the skies have been clear and temperatures warm

All of the weekend flying is subject to weather and serviceability, but today the skies have been clear and temperatures warm

Period make up and hair is offered to visitors so they can really embrace the atmosphere of the annual period event

Period make up and hair is offered to visitors so they can really embrace the atmosphere of the annual period event

Period make up and hair is offered to visitors so they can really embrace the atmosphere of the annual period event

Several people could be seen wearing their 1940s-inspired outfits as they walked around the site and enjoyed the sunshine

Several people could be seen wearing their 1940s-inspired outfits as they walked around the site and enjoyed the sunshine

Several people could be seen wearing their 1940s-inspired outfits as they walked around the site and enjoyed the sunshine

The Battle of Britain: Hitler’s failed attempt to crush the RAF

In the summer of 1940, as the Nazi war machine marched its way across Europe and set its sights on Britain, the RAF braced for the worst. 

Young men, in their late teens or early twenties, were trained to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes for the coming Battle for Britain, with others flying Blenheims, Beaufighters and Defiants, becoming the ‘aces’ who would secure the country’s freedom from Hitler’s grasp. 

But Britain’s defiance came at a cost. From an estimated crew of 3,000 pilots, roughly half survived the four-month battle, with 544 Fighter Command pilots and crew among the dead, more than 700 from Bomber Command and almost 300 from Coastal Command falling to secure Britain’s skies. 

The losses were heavy, but the Germans, who thought they could eradicate the RAF in a matter of weeks, lost more. 

2,500 Luftwaffe aircrew were killed in the battle, forcing German Air Command to reconsider how easily Britain would fall to an invading Nazi occupation force. 

The pilots who gave everything in the aerial fight for British freedom were named ‘The Few’, after a speech from Sir Winston Churchill, who said: ‘The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion.

‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ 

'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few' (pictured: An aerial photograph of Spitfires)

'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few' (pictured: An aerial photograph of Spitfires)

‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’ (pictured: An aerial photograph of Spitfires) 

After the fall of France to the Axis in May 1940, German High Command considered how best to push the fight across the English Channel to take Britain out of the fight.

Up until mid-July the German campaign consisted of relatively small-scale day and night air raids, targeting towns, aerodromes, ports and the aircraft industry.

But the Luftwaffe was at full readiness, ready to ramp up attacks on ships and ports and eliminate the RAF in the air and on the ground.

After the Allies were defeated in western mainland Europe, the German Air Force set up bases near the Channel to more readily take on Britain, hurriedly establishing the infrastructure needed to co-ordinate an aerial conflict with the UK.

As the Battle of Britain begun, the Royal Air Force consistently downed more Axis aircraft than they lost, but British fighters were often overwhelmed by the greater number of enemy aircraft.

Pictured: One of the most iconic images of the summer of 1940 and the fight above Dunkirk, with Squadron 610's F/Lt Ellis pictured at the head of his section in DW-O, Sgt Arnfield in DW-K and F/O Warner in DW-Q

Pictured: One of the most iconic images of the summer of 1940 and the fight above Dunkirk, with Squadron 610's F/Lt Ellis pictured at the head of his section in DW-O, Sgt Arnfield in DW-K and F/O Warner in DW-Q

Pictured: One of the most iconic images of the summer of 1940 and the fight above Dunkirk, with Squadron 610’s F/Lt Ellis pictured at the head of his section in DW-O, Sgt Arnfield in DW-K and F/O Warner in DW-Q

Fighting in France and Norway had left British squadrons weakened as the time now came to defend the homeland from Nazi occupation, but as the year went on, the RAF’s fighting force increased in strength, with more pilots, aircraft and operational squadrons being made available.

The Luftwaffe started a mounting campaign of daylight bombing raids, targeting strategic targets such as shipping convoys, ports, and airfields – and probing inland to force RAF squadrons to engage in an attempt to exhaust them.

German air units also stepped up night raids across the West, Midlands and East Coast, targeting the aircraft industry with the objective of weakening Britain’s Home Defence system, especially that of Fighter Command, in order to prepare for a full-scale aerial assault in August.

Heavy losses were sustained on both sides.

The main Luftwaffe assault against the RAF, named ‘Adler Tag’ (Eagle Day), was postponed from August 10 to three days later due to poor weather.

Hawker Hurricane planes from No 111 Squadron RAF based at Northolt in flight formation, circa 1940

Hawker Hurricane planes from No 111 Squadron RAF based at Northolt in flight formation, circa 1940

Hawker Hurricane planes from No 111 Squadron RAF based at Northolt in flight formation, circa 1940

Pictured: Squadron 610's fighter pilots, a unit which witnessed some of the most intensive aerial combat in the Second World War (taken at RAF Acklington, in Northumberland, between 17-19 September 1940)

Pictured: Squadron 610's fighter pilots, a unit which witnessed some of the most intensive aerial combat in the Second World War (taken at RAF Acklington, in Northumberland, between 17-19 September 1940)

Pictured: Squadron 610’s fighter pilots, a unit which witnessed some of the most intensive aerial combat in the Second World War (taken at RAF Acklington, in Northumberland, between 17-19 September 1940)

The Germans’ plan was to make RAF Fighter Command abandon south east  England within four days and defeat British aerial forces completely in four weeks.

The Luftwaffe battled ruthlessly in an attempt to exhaust Fighter Command through ceaseless attacks on ground installations, which were moved further inland, with airfields in southern England facing intensive daylight raids while night attacks targeted ports, shipping targets and the aircraft industry.

But despite sustaining heavy damage across the south, Fighter Command continued to push back against the Germans in a series of air battles, which inflicted critical losses upon the enemy, who thought the RAF would have been exhausted by this point.

Both sides feared becoming exhausted through the constant engagements.

Pictured: German plans to invade Britain, if naval and air superiority was achieved

Pictured: German plans to invade Britain, if naval and air superiority was achieved

Pictured: German plans to invade Britain, if naval and air superiority was achieved

Focus of the German attacks then shifted to London, where the RAF would lose 248 and the Luftwaffe would lose 322 between August 26 and September 6.

By September London had become the primary target of Luftwaffe aggression, with large-scale round-the-clock attacks carried out by large bomber formations with fighter escorts.

German Air Command had still not exhausted the RAF as it had hoped to, and British forces continued to face off against their German counterparts, with Fighter Command pushing back Hitler’s forces, forcing German invasion plans to be postponed.

By October, it had become apparent to the Germans that the RAF was still very much intact, and the Luftwaffe struck against Britain with single-engined modified fighter-bombers, which were hard to catch upon entry and still dangerous on their way out.

By the middle of the month German strategy had pivoted from exhausting the RAF to a ruthless bombing campaign targeting the Government, civilian population and the war economy – with London still the primary target.

But as of November, London became less of a target, with the Battle of Britain morphing into a new conflict – the Blitz.

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