the many sup­port­ing the few

How It Works - - TRANSPORT -

Role 1… Ground crew

Each fighter plane was as­signed its own ground crew team to re-fuel, re­pair and re-arm the air­craft be­tween sor­ties. Crews would work tire­lessly to re­pair air­craft and get them back into the bat­tle.

Role 2… Radar op­er­a­tors

Dozens of manned sta­tions po­si­tioned around the coast­line made up Bri­tain’s Chain Home Radar net­work. This acted as an early warn­ing sys­tem to de­tect and re­port in­com­ing en­emy air­craft.

Role 3… fac­tory work­ers

With thou­sands of men called up to serve, mil­lions of women were called upon to power Bri­tain’s war in­dus­try. Fac­tory assem­bly lines worked around the clock to pro­duce planes, tanks, shells, ar­tillery, weaponry and other mil­i­tary ma­teriel.

Role 4… Anti-air­craft

Over 1,790 light and medium anti-air­craft guns were on hand to en­gage en­emy air­craft. Over 4,000 search­lights and 1,400 bar­rage bal­loons were also de­ployed to de­fend ma­jor cities.

un­leash­ing The WHIRL­WIND

In 1942, Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Har­ris stated that Nazi Ger­many would ‘reap the whirl­wind’ in re­sponse to its dev­as­tat­ing bomb­ing cam­paigns through­out Europe. Be­tween 1939 and 1945 Bomber Com­mand car­ried out over 360,000 mis­sions across Europe, tar­get­ing mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions, fac­to­ries, in­fra­struc­ture and even­tu­ally cities. These mis­sions aimed to dis­rupt and de­stroy Ger­many’s war in­dus­try, as well as dis­place and de­mor­alise its civil­ians.

Up to 1,000 bombers would take part in each of these raids in or­der to over­whelm air de­fences and en­emy fighters. Waves of air­craft, most of­ten Lan­caster bombers, would be led by one or two smaller pathfinder planes, which would mark the tar­get at which the rest could aim.

Through­out the war Bomber Com­mand de­vel­oped newer, dead­lier pay­loads to deal with dif­fer­ent tar­gets. In­dus­trial tar­gets were show­ered with a com­bi­na­tion of in­cen­di­ary and 2,000-kilo­gram ex­plo­sives, while re­in­forced sub­ma­rine pens were hit with ten-ton bombs.

Sev­eral Ger­man cities suf­fered im­mea­sur­able dam­age in the whirl­wind of Bomber Com­mand’s raids. Es­ti­mates of civil­ians killed dur­ing the cam­paign range from 300,000 to 1 mil­lion, and many more were made home­less. Cologne, Ham­burg, Dres­den and other ma­jor cities suf­fered some of the worst de­struc­tion in the Euro­pean theatre of WWII. Wit­nesses re­called flam­ing vor­texes whip­ping through the streets as fire­bombs turned neigh­bour­hoods into in­fer­nos. How­ever, bomber crews did not es­cape un­scathed, with over 55,000 killed, equat­ing to a 44 per cent ca­su­alty rate for Bomber Com­mand.

The jet Age

With the start of the Cold War, Bri­tain and its al­lies con­tin­ued to de­velop and adapt to the new era of war­fare dom­i­nated by the threat of nu­clear ar­se­nals. Although Nazi Ger­many had al­ready de­ployed the world’s first jet fighter dur­ing WWII, the RAF was not far be­hind with the Gloster Me­teor, which took to the sky in the sum­mer of 1944.

By the 1950s the air fleet had un­der­gone its lat­est rad­i­cal change, as the re­li­able old Spit­fires and Hur­ri­canes were phased out in favour of the high-speed strike fighter jets, such as the de Hav­il­land Vam­pire, de Hav­il­land Venom and Hawker Hunter. With top speeds of over 1,100 kilo­me­tres per hour, these air­craft were de­signed for much faster com­bat sce­nar­ios.

Bomber Com­mand was also equipped with jet power, and its new bombers were ca­pa­ble of al­ti­tudes of over 16,000 me­tres. It was also tasked with op­er­at­ing Bri­tain’s nu­clear strike ca­pa­bil­ity, and the new ‘V-force’ bombers (the Vul­can, Vic­tor and Valiant) were kept in a state of con­stant readi­ness should war break out.

Although a nu­clear strike was thank­fully never re­quired, dur­ing the Falk­lands War the Vul­can did take part in one of the long­est-range mis­sions in RAF his­tory. Op­er­a­tion Black Buck was a series of bomb­ing runs launched from

The Sop­with Camel was the RAF’S Wwi-era bi-plane. It was used to shoot down Zep­pelin air­ships in 1918

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