The first phase of the Battle of Britain commenced 75 year ago this month. It was a period of heavy German attacks on coastal convoys designed to bring RAF fighters into battle with the numerically superior Luftwaffe. The Tangmere squadrons (Nos 43 and 601 dispersed on the airfield with No 145 at Westhampnett) were fully employed during this period in the defence of the English Channel convoys and lost a number of pilots but claimed many victories.
RAF losses were minimised at the time by Dowding’s wise refusal to commit large numbers of fighters to action over the Channel, where warning time was shorter and German fighters gained from reduced range to target. As a result of this careful management of resources, RAF fighter strength increased to about 740 aircraft available for the next phase of the battle.
On 1 August, Hitler issued a directive to the Luftwaffe “to overpower the English Air Force with all forces at its command in the shortest possible time”. To achieve this he outlined a policy of attacks on flying units, their ground installations and supply organisations and the aircraft industry. Göring translated this into a strategy known as “Adlerangriff” (Eagle Attack), a progressive campaign to destroy the RAF in the air and on the ground with the opening date “Adler Tag” (Eagle Day) to be decided when plans had been completed and weather forecast suitable.
RARE EXAMPLES OF A TYPE B FLYING HELMET, MARK 8 GOGGLES AND A TYPE D OXYGEN MASK ARE DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S BATTLE OF BRITAIN HALL