The Battle of Britain was one of the most important battles of World War II. Thanks to its success, the Allies were able to maintain a front in Western Europe. If somehow Great Britain had lost back then – the result of the war could have been quite different.
It’s known that the Battle of Britain was mainly an aerial battle fought between the RAF and the Luftwaffe. And as Britsh Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, once said –
‘Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few.’
However, behind those ‘Few’ were ‘Many’ that supported them and the whole of Britain from the ground. The kids that kept smiling, the unknown firefighters, the women in the weapons factories and many others. Every citizen of Britain participated in this event, in some way, and everyone was a hero. After all, the German plan of ‘crushing the spirit of the British’ failed.
In this article, we will show you the ground perspective, the face of the less-known defenders of Battle of Britain!
An Air Observer during Battle of Britain. 1940. Observer Corps operating the recording instrument. [© IWM (CH 1273)]
An Observer Corps post in action during the Battle of Britain, 1940. [© IWM (CH 2477)] Balloon Command
Kite balloons and balloon winches of No. 1 Balloon Training Unit are prepared for handling practice at Cardington, Bedfordshire. [© IWM (CH 1521)] The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF): Aircraftwomen learning how to handle a barrage balloon at the training station at Cardington. [© IWM (CH 7346)]
Barrage balloons over London during World War II. Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial can be seen in the middle ground. Anti-Aircraft Command and Searchlight Operators
Gunners of 177 Heavy Battery, Royal Artillery, man an anti-aircraft Lewis gun at Fort Crosby near Liverpool, England, 1 August 1940. This operation formed part of British preparations to repel the threatened German invasion of 1940. [© IWM (H 2695)]
British anti-aircraft gunners were firing QF 3.7-inch AA. An anti-aircraft gun battery. The 4.5-inch was one of two medium anti-aircraft guns used by the Royal Artillery during the Battle. An anti-aircraft searchlight and crew at the Royal Hospital at Chelsea in London, 17 April 1940. [© IWM (H 1291)]
Interior of the Sector ‘G’ Operations Room at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. The callsigns of fighter squadrons controlled by this Sector can be seen on the wall behind the operator sitting third from left. The Controller is sitting fifth from the left, and on the extreme right, behind the Army Liaison Officer, are the R/T operators in direct touch with the aircraft. [© IWM (CH 1401)] This illustration shows the Dowding reporting chain for a highlighted Sector. ROC reports flow back through the Sector controls to FCHQ; it does not show the radars. Information flows back from FCHQ to Group, between groups, and down to Sectors, and then to the defenses. Dowding’s support for radar was matched by his understanding that radar alone was not a panacea. [© IWM (D 1417)]
WAAF plotters at work in the Operations Room at Headquarters, No 11 Group, Uxbridge, Middlesex. [© IWM (CH 7698)] One of the best-developed control rooms was for No. 10 Group, located at RAF Box in Wiltshire. [© IWM (CH 13680)]
Flight Officer P M Wright supervises (right) as Sergeant K F Sperrin and WAAF operators Joan Lancaster, Elaine Miley, Gwen Arnold and Joyce Hollyoak work on the plotting map in the Receiver Room at Bawdsey CH, Suffolk. [© IWM (CH 15331)]
Engineers and Armourers
Armourers replenish the ammunition in a Hawker Hurricane Mk I of No. 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 7 September 1940. [© IWM (CH 1297)]
British technician during repairs Riggers and Fitters
A Czech Spitfire pilot of No 313 Squadron in conversation with his rigger and fitter at Hornchurch, 8 April 1942. His aircraft is BL581 Moesi-llir, a Mk VB presented by the Netherlands East Indies Fund.
Squadron Leader Peter Townsend chatting with ground crew on his Hawker Hurricane at Wick, Scotland, 1940. Firefighters
Firefighters in action during Battle of Britain. View from St. Paul’s Cathedral after “The Blitz”. Collapsing walls after bombing in London, 1940. Factory Workers
Female workers attach the Induction Manifolds to the Cylinder Blocks, prior to the Blocks being fitted to the engine, at this aircraft engine factory somewhere in Britain. [© IWM (D 12131)]
Guards of British Army
The Prime Minister Winston Churchill meets infantrymen manning a coast defence position near Hartlepool on 31 July 1940. [© IWM (H 2628)]
Troops guard the wreck of Heinkel He 111P (W.Nr 1582: G1+FR) of 7./KG 55, which was shot down during an attack on Great Western Aerodrome (now Heathrow) and crash-landed at High Salvington near Worthing, 16 August 1940. [© IWM (HU 72684)]
This Morris Commercial T-type van, originally used as a portable radio reception testbed, was later refitted for the Daventry Experiment. It is shown in 1933, being operated by “Jock” Herd. The operator display of the CH system was a complex affair. The large knob on the left is the goniometer control with the sense button that make the antenna more directional. Radar Cover in September 1939 and September 1940.
AMES Type 1 CH East Coast radar installation at Poling, Sussex. On the left are three (originally four) in-line 360ft steel transmitter towers, between which the transmitter aerials were slung, with the heavily protected transmitter building in front. On the right are four 240ft wooden receiver towers placed in rhombic formation, with the receiver building in the middle. Radar receiver towers and bunkers at Woody Bay near St Lawrence, Isle of Wight, England. This installation was a ‘Remote Reserve’ station to Ventnor CH. Scrappers and Journalists
Reporters examine the remains of a Heinkel He 111, Junkers Ju 87 and Messerschmitt Bf 109E, now resting in a scrapyard in Britain, 2nd October 1940. Workmen carry part of the bullet-riddled fuselage of a Dornier Do 17, alongside the wreckage of other crashed German aircraft at a scrapyard in Britain, August 1940.
Downed Bf-110D being displayed for British soldiers and civilians in London, 1940. Because of German air-raids, some citizens of London had to find their shelter in the subway tunnel.
Damian is a history geek that’s working for War History Online for almost a decade. He can talk about the history and its chain of events for hours and is 100% legit fun at parties. Aside of history, geography and etymology of all things are no less exciting for him! An avid video game player, meme distributor, and your comment section moderator all in one. Mythologies of all cultures are fascinating to him, Greek, Nordic, Slavic – you name it, and he’s in!
In his spare time, assuming he has some left, he gives it all to his family, enjoying morning walks, a good book, an exciting FPS, and a long nap…or a few. Definitely a cat person.