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RAF Museum launches Battle of Britain Blog

Published on: 10 July 2015

A Portrait of John Bisdee in Charcoal and Chalk by Cuthbert OrdeFrom 10th July, the Royal Air Force Museum will be publishing a daily blog about the Battle of Britain on its website

Entries for this blog will be taken from the diary of a young pilot John Bisdee of No.609 (West Riding) Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force; and will describe not only his combat sorties but also his hopes and fears as well as his life off duty. On days when there are no diary entries the blog will reproduce information from the Air Staff Operational Summaries.

The dates of 10th July to 31st October were selected as the blog’s publication dates as this period in 1940 was later laid down by the Royal Air Force for the allocation of Battle of Britain honours to units, and for aircrew to qualify for the Battle of Britain clasp.

Peter Elliott, the Head of Archives for the Royal Air Force Museum, states:

"First-hand accounts, written at the time of the Battle, are rare. Bisdee's diary shows that life on the front line could be a mixture of intense action and off-duty relaxation. 

We tend to think of the Battle as taking place over the South-East but Bisdee's squadron, based in Hampshire, saw action over an area stretching from the outskirts of London to Bristol. There are some gaps, but we have filled these with extracts from the daily Air Staff Operational Summaries, to give a picture of the overall campaign and we have also added relevant material from the Museum's collections, such as portraits of Bisdee and some of his colleagues and a number of the squadron's combat reports. 

Spitfire I of 609 Squadron at RAF Northolt, Spring 1940. With the kind permission of Mrs H. Scott

The blog gives an opportunity to see the Battle of Britain unfold through the eyes of a young man who went on to become one of the RAF's more successful fighter pilots; and it provides us with an added insight into what it was really like to be one of ‘The Few’. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank John Bisdee’s family for granting us permission to share his account, as a young man, with the Museum’s online audience."  

The First Page of John Bisdee's Diary

John Bisdee was born in Weston-Super-Mare in 1915 and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1937.  He saw action over Dunkirk in June 1940 and remained with 609 Squadron throughout the Battle of Britain being awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and an OBE by the end of the war. He left the service in 1945 to resume his career with Unilever. He died in October 2000.

To view his blog please visit The Royal Air Force Museum London and its Battle of Britain Hall is open daily from 10am to 6pm, with last admission being at 5:30 pm. Admission is free. 

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