Best websites for researching the Battle of Britain

By Jon Bauckham, 10 July 2015 - 3:45pm

Jonathan Scott surveys the best websites for researching ‘the Few’ and the RAF ground staff that supported them in the Second World War

Hawker Hurricanses flying in formation in the Battle of Britain (Getty Images)

Hawker Hurricanes flying in formation in the Battle of Britain (Credit: Getty Images)

It’s now 75 years since the Battle of Britain, the early turning point in the Second World War when the Luftwaffe tried and failed to assert air supremacy.

If your ancestor flew with Fighter Command you may already have some family ephemera relating to the conflict, such as the Battle of Britain Clasp that was awarded to combatants.

But in the build-up to this (and the previous 70th) anniversary, lots of digital resources have appeared, meaning that you can explore the timeline, aircraft, tactics, contemporary coverage and official reports of the battle in more and more detail.

Indeed if your father, grandfather or other family member was a pilot, there are several websites that should record his name, rank and wartime service – and often a lot more besides.

 

1. Battle of Britain 70th
raf.mod.uk/history/battleofbritain70thanniversary.cfm

This is the RAF’s official 70th anniversary website, which was produced in 2010. It includes a Roll of Honour, a day-by-day diary of events giving statistics of casualties, patrols, barrage balloons flown, lists of raids, movements of squadrons and weather conditions between 10 July and 31 October 1940. The material is based on official reports and the complete Fighter Command Operational Diaries. There are also Home Security reports giving details of air raid damage, as well as brief biographies of the senior officers in both the RAF and Luftwaffe. You may also like to try the official Battle of Britain Memorial Flight website, which is found at raf.mod.uk/bbmf.

 

2. Battle of Britain
www.the-battle-of-britain.co.uk

A clunky-looking but content-rich site that is dedicated to the “pilots, crew, fitters, ferry pilots, cooks, and all concerned with Fighter Command” during the period. It contains a list of all RAF pilots, pilots and crew by nationality, squadrons and a basic diary. The entry for Monday 29 July 1940, for example, reads “Dover was heavily attacked by 48, Ju 87s escorted by about 80, Bf 109s. Smaller raids took place later in the day, off Portland and Harwich...” Many of the pilots’ names are hyperlinked, which often lead to biographies and photographs.

 

3. The National Archives
nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/royal-air-force-personnel/

TNA’s Air Force page lists the key RAF collections now available. WW2 material includes combat reports, which pilots or air gunners filed after operational flights. The reports record date/time of the combat, squadron of the person submitting the information, type/number of enemy aircraft, losses, plus a detailed narrative. The records are searchable via Discovery. Fields include the name of the author/s of the report, whether pilot (for fighters) or air gunner (for bombers). You can also explore TNA’s operations record books, compiled by the Air Ministry.

 

4. Battle of Britain Day by Day
battleofbritainblog.com

This day-by-day battle diary was actually compiled and completed five years ago, but it remains a very useful and well thought-out resource. It follows the action from 10 July to 31 October in exhaustive detail and was created by former Mosquito navigator Tony Rudd, supported by a team that included Dr Zoe Bagley, who formerly worked at the RAF Museum. You can follow events by day, or browse by squadron, airfield, or go straight to sections on historical documents, planes and more. There’s also a ‘Top Gun Gallery’ as well as a section on ‘Unsung Heroes’.

 

5. Battle of Britain Memorial
battleofbritainmemorial.org

This website focuses on the events surrounding the 75th anniversary, and is also the place to explore photographs of ‘The Wing’ (the new visitor centre at the Capel-le-Ferne National Memorial) and the Battle of Britain Memorial Wall, which records all recipients of the Battle of Britain Clasp. There are also biographies of a ‘Few of the Few’, and an ‘enthusiasts only’ Squadron Logbook section, which features an assortment of in-depth articles.

 

A version of this article appeared in the July 2015 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

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