This exhibition, due to be held in 2020, was planned to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain but had to be postponed until this year due to the Covid restrictions.
On 20 August 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood up in the House of Commons and made the following speech, “The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen, who, undaunted by the odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.
In his use of the word ‘few’ Churchill was referring to the RAF fighter pilots involved in what became known as the Battle of Britain that took place during the summer of 1940. It was a time when invasion was imminently expected from the all-conquering German armed forces. However, Hitler realised that to successfully invade Britain the Luftwaffe would need to destroy the Royal Air Force.
This exhibition has new material and focuses on the part RAF Tangmere and some of its ‘few’ made in this epic struggle, fought mainly over southern England eight decades ago. The story begins with the Battle of France on 10 May 1940 when the German Blitzkrieg (lightning war) commenced, moves on to focus on the difficult task Tangmere squadrons faced in protecting the Channel convoys at the beginning of the battle and then covers the experiences of three of the Spitfire pilots of No 602 Squadron based at Tangmere’s satellite Westhampnett. The exhibition also covers the Air Officer Commanding No 11 Group, Air Vice Marshal Keith Park (an RAF Tangmere commanding officer in the 1930s) and features two films on No 601 (the Millionaires’ Squadron) pilots; Willie Rhodes-Moorhouse and ‘Billy’ Fiske.
The aim of this temporary exhibition is to supplement the story already told in the Museum’s Battle of Britain Hall and runs from 1 June until 30 August 2021.