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Battle of Britain


In April 2024, I travelled to England with the Belgian reenactment group The Irvin Squadron to pay tribute to the Belgian RAF pilots who fought during World War II. Our trip in the south of England included visits to the famous Battle of Britain Memorial in Folkstone and the Kent Battle of Britain Museum where I organised a unique photo shoot with the reenactors in the presence of replica's of Hawker Hurricane warbirds. The Battle of Britain was a large military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the Royal Navy defended the United Kingdom against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany's air force (Luftwaffe). The most famous fighter aircraft used in the Battle of Britain were the British Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire Mk I, and the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 E variant single-engined fighters. Although the Spitfire had attracted more attention from the public, the Hurricanes were more numerous and were responsible for most of the German losses, especially in the early part of the battle. The turn-around time (re-arm and refuel) for the Spitfire was 26 minutes, while the Hurricane's was 9 minutes, which increased its effectiveness.

About 20% of pilots who took part in the Battle of Britain were from non-British countries. The Royal Air Force roll of honour for the Battle of Britain recognises 595 non-British pilots (out of 2,936) as flying at least one authorised operational sortie with an eligible unit of the RAF or Fleet Air Arm between 10 July and 31 October 1940. These included 145 Poles, 127 New Zealanders, 112 Canadians, 88 Czechoslovaks, 10 Irish, 32 Australians, 28 Belgians, 25 South Africans, 13 French, 9 Americans, 3 Southern Rhodesians and individuals from Jamaica, Barbados and Newfoundland. Altogether in the fighter battles, the bombing raids, and the various patrols flown between 10 July and 31 October 1940 by the Royal Air Force, 1495 aircrew were killed, of whom 449 were fighter pilots, 718 aircrew from Bomber Command, and 280 from Coastal Command. Among those killed were 47 airmen from Canada, 24 from Australia, 17 from South Africa, 30 from Poland, 20 from Czechoslovakia and six from Belgium. Forty-seven New Zealanders lost their lives, including 15 fighter pilots, 24 bomber and eight coastal aircrew. 


As the Kent Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge, Folkestone has a impressive collection of aircraft and other relics from the Battle of Britain, it was the perfect location for a unique photo shoot. During this photo shoot with the Belgian reenactor group The Irvin Squadron, various scenarios were recreated that played an important role during this huge air war. The author would like to thank the Kent Battle of Britain Museum and the Battle of Britain Memorial for their collaboration on this photo shoot! 

Text: Kris Christiaens
Photos: Kris Christiaens 

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