British Military Aviation in 1940


Fourteen Lockheed Hudsons and a Short Sunderland are fitted with the first
maritime search radar sets, designated
Air-to-Surface Vessel (ASV) Mark 1.

1 January

Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) coding is introduced to identify Bomber,
Coastal and Fighter Command aircraft for the air defence system. VHF Radio
Telephone installations are also completed eight selected sectors.

12-13 January

Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys of No.77 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command, operating
from Villeneuve in France, drop leaflets over Prague and Vienna for the
first time.

31 January

The first casualty list of the Second World War is released and lists
758 personnel killed, with 210 aircraft losses.

14 February

A Lockheed Hudson of RAF Coastal Command locates the German prison and
re-supply ship Altmark in Norwegian territorial waters.

22 February

Squadron Leader Douglas Farquhar of No.602 Squadron takes the first British
gun-camera film of the war, while attacking and destroying a Heinkel He111
over Coldingham in Berwickshire.

25 February

The first Royal Canadian Air Force unit arrives in the United Kingdom.

11 March

A Bristol Blenheim of No.82 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command, on patrol off
Borkum surprises and sinks U-31 on the surface in the Schillig Roads.
The attack is pressed home at such a low altitude that the Blenheim is
damaged by the explosions and the pilot of the Blenheim, Squadron Leader
Miles Villiers ‘Paddy’ Delap, is subsequently awarded the Distinguished
Flying Cross for his actions. This is the first U-Boat of the war to be
sunk by a Royal Air Force aircraft without the assistance of surface vessels.

The Type VIIIA U-boat U-31 is subsequently raised by the German Navy,
only to be sunk again by the destroyer HMS Antelope in November 1940.
Raised for a second time, the U-31 is finally scuttled in May 1945.

3 April

Air Marshal Sir Charles Portal succeeds Air Marshal Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt
as Air Officer Commanding in Chief of Bomber Command.

8 April

The Civilian Repair Organisation (CRO) is formed. This organisation is
designed to utilise civilian resources for the rapid repair of damaged
Royal Air Force aircraft, returning them to the front-line without the
use of Royal Air Force engineering resources. Between 1940 and 1945, the
CRO repaires a total of 80,666 aircraft.

8 April

A Short Sunderland of No.204 Squadron detects the German cruiser Hipper
and escorting destroyers heading towards Trondheim in Norway. The warships
are carrying part of a German force that has been assembled for the invasion
of Norway.

9 April

German forces invade Norway and Denmark and Danish forces are ordered
not to offer resistance.

11 April

Three Vickers Wellingtons of No.115 Squadron and two Bristol Blenheims
of No.254 Squadron attack Stavanger/Sola airfield, in the first Royal
Air Force attack on Norway and the first of sixteen attacks on this airfield
over the following days.

13 April

RAF Bomber Command mounts the first Royal Air Force minelaying operation
of the Second World War. Fifteen Handley Page Hampdens are despatched
and of this force, fourteen lay sea mines off Denmark and one aircraft
is lost. During the course of the Second World War, the Royal Air Force
flies 19,917 minelaying sorties and the sea mines laid sink 638 vessels
at a cost of 450 lost aircraft.

20 April

The training of air crews under the Empire Air Training Scheme begins.
The scheme is later retitled the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

22 April

HMS Glorious sails from Scapa Flow, carrying eighteen Gloster Gladiators
of No.263 Squadron of the Royal Air Force. The squadron subsequently flies
from the deck of the aircraft carrier on 24 April, landing on the frozen
surface of Lake Lesjaskogin in Norway.

The squadron had been despatched to support Allied ground forces around
Namsos and Andalsnes in Norway, with further assistance provided by aircraft
from Glorious and the carrier HMS Ark Royal. No.263 Squadron ceases operations
on 26 April after running out of fuel and serviceable aircraft. During
the two days the squadron is operational, it makes 37 interceptions of
Luftwaffe aircraft and claims six aircraft shot down and a number of others

24 April

The Air Council decides to establish a Royal Air Force Technical Branch.

29 April

The Empire Air Training Scheme begins in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

1 May

British forces are evacuated from Andalsnes and Namsos in Norway.

7 May

A Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber of RAF Coastal Command drops the first
2,000 pound bomb to be delivered by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the
Second World War. The target is an enemy cruiser near Nordeney, but the
weapon missed the warship.

10 May

The German offensive in the west, Fall Gelb (Operation Yellow), opens
at dawn with the invasion of Luxemburg, Belgium and the Netherlands, all
three of which are neutral.

A coalition Government is formed, with Winston Churchill as both Prime
Minister and Minister of Defence.

Eight Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys of No.77 and No.102 Squadrons attack
enemy communications in Germany, west of the Rhine, in the first deliberate
Royal Air Force raid on mainland Germany.

12 May
Victoria Cross

Flying Officer D.E. Garland and his observer, Sergeant T. Gray, are posthumously
awarded the first Royal Air Force Victoria Crosses of the war, for a bombing
attack on Veldwezelt bridge in Belgium, flying Fairey Battle P2204 ‘K’
of No.12 Squadron, Advanced Air Striking Force. Four of the five Battles
that attacked the bridge were lost.

14 May
© Imperial War Museum

A Luftwaffe bombing raid destroys the centre of Rotterdam, killing
814 civilians. The raid causes an international outcry in neutral countries.
In fact, the German High Command had sent a signal aborting the raid,
but it was not received by the attacking force.

The entire available bomber force of the Royal Air Force’s Advanced
Air Striking Force in France attack troops and bridges near Sedan in an
attempt to halt a German breakthrough. 39 of 71 aircraft of an attacking
force are shot down by flak and fighters. In the evening, a further attack
by 28 Bristol Blenheims of No.2 Group fails, with the loss of six more

15 May

The Dutch Army surrenders to Germany.

15 May

In the first large-scale Bomber Command attack on German industrial targets,
99 aircraft bomb 16 targets in the Ruhr area. This raid effectively marks
the start of the Strategic Air Offensive against Germany. No aircraft
are lost to enemy action, however, a Vickers Wellington of No.115 Squadron
is blown off course and crashes into high ground near Rouen in France
and the five aircrew aboard are killed.

17 May

The Ministry of Aircraft Production is constituted by an Order in Council
and Lord Beaverbrook is appointed the first Minister of Aircraft Production.

18 May

British battleship HMS Resolution is hit, but not sunk, by a 1,000 kilo
bomb from a Junkers Ju88 near Narvik.

21 May

A further eight Gloster Gladiators of No.263 Squadron fly from HMS Glorious
and land at Bardufoss, north of Narvik in Norway.

22 May

7 Westland Lysanders of No.16 Squadron Army Co-operation Command drop
supplies to a besieged Allied garrison at Calais. Over the course of the
next two weeks more than 30 Lysanders from 5 squadrons were lost on these

23-24 May

The first combats between Royal Air Force (RAF) Supermarine Spitfires
and Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf109s take place. Amongst the Royal Air Force
pilots shot down and taken prisoner during these engagements is Squadron
Leader Roger Bushell, who will later to lead the ‘Great Escape’ from Stalag
Luft III, on 24 March 1944.

26 May

Twelve Hawker Hurricanes of No.46 Squadron, led by Squadron Leader K.B.B.
‘Bing’ Cross, fly from the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious;
flights from the squadron land at Bardufoss and Skaanland. The flight
of No.46 Squadron at Skaanland flies its first operational sorties on
27 May, however, following a succession of landing accidents it joins
the rest of No.46 Squadron and No.263 Squadron at Bardufoss later that

26 May
© Imperial War Museum

The evacuation of British and French forces from Dunkirk begins (Operation
Dynamo) and continues until the 4 June, during which time 338,226 Allied
troops are brought back to the United Kingdom. Two British Army divisions,
the 1st Armoured Division, which is the United Kingdom’s only armoured
division at that time, and the 51st Highland Division, remain in France
and continue to fight alongside the French Army.

The fighter squadrons of No.11 Group, RAF Fighter Command, operating
from the south-east of England, provide fighter cover throughout the operation,
although fuel constraints limit the time that patrols could spend over
the Dunkirk area. This resulted in intensive air combat between the Luftwaffe
and the Royal Air Force, with neither side able to achieve permanent air
superiority. The Royal Air Force lose 177 aircraft over Dunkirk, including
106 fighters and the Luftwaffe lose 132 aircraft of all types.

27 May

Royal Air Force Training Command disbands, to be replaced by Flying Training
Command and Technical Training Command. Royal Air Force Reserve Command
is disbanded.

27 May

The Belgian Army surrenders to Germany.

29 May

The first fighter operations using Very High Frequency (VHF) Radio Telephone
control take place during the air battle over Dunkirk. However, shortages
of the new VHF equipment mean that Fighter Command is forced to revert
to using less efficient High Frequency radios to ensure that all squadrons
can operate on the same frequencies.

3 June

The Luftwaffe bombs communications and airfields in the Paris area.

The evacuation of Allied forces from Narvik in Norway begins

Headquarters of No.71 Wing, Advanced Air Striking Force, moves to the
Marseilles area to prepare two airfields for use by RAF Bomber Command
aircraft for attacks on Italian targets, should Italy enter the Second
World War.

4 June

Operation Dynamo comes to an end. Commenting on Dunkirk, Prime Minister
Winston Churchill says, “Wars are not won by evacuation but there
was a victory inside this deliverance, which should be noted. It was gained
by the Air Force.”

6 June

Inspired by the success of the Luftwaffe’s airborne forces in Norway and
France, the Prime Minister called for the creation of “a corps of
at least 5,000 parachute troops.”

7 June

A converted Farman NC2234 civilian transport aircraft (F-AIRN ‘Jules Verne’),
operated by French Navy squadron B5, bombs Berlin. This is the first Allied
air raid on the German capital during the Second World War, and the only
such raid to be carried out on Berlin before France falls. According to
one account of this raid, the aircrew threw incendiary bombs out of the
passenger entry door. One enraged French airman even went so far as to
pull his shoes off and throw them out as well!

8 June

The Royal Air Force (RAF) contingent is evacuated from Norway. In the early
hours of 8 June, the ten surviving Gloster Gladiators and seven Hawker
Hurricanes of No.263 and No.46 Squadrons are embarked upon the aircraft
carrier HMS Glorious, the first time that either the Hurricanes or their
pilots have landed on a carrier deck. Despite this, the landings are carried
out without undue difficulty.

During the return journey the Glorious and her escorting destroyers
Ardent and Acasta are sighted at 1545hrs on the afternoon of 8 June by
the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. After a gallant struggle,
during which the Scharnhorst is damaged by a torpedo from the Acasta,
all three Royal Navy warships are sunk. A total of 1,519 British personnel
lose their lives, and of the Royal Air Force airmen aboard Glorious, only
two, Squadron Leader Cross and Flight Lieutenant Jameson, survive.

9 June

Norway surrenders to Germany.

10 June

Italy declares war on the Allies.

11 June

The Italian Air Force (the Regia Aeronautica) carries out its first operation
against the Royal Air Force of the Second World War. 35 Savoia Marchetti
SM79 Sparviero (Hawk) bombers, escorted by Macchi MC200 Saetta (Lightning)
fighters, attack the airfield at Hal Far and the seaplane base at Kalafrana
in Malta. One Italian aircraft is damaged by defending Gloster Sea Gladiators.

26 Bristol Blenheims from Nos. 44, 55 and 113 Squadrons, operating from
Egypt, attack the Italian airfield at El Adem in Libya.

Operation Haddock: a detachment from No.99 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command,
arrive at the airfield at Salon near Marseilles to commence bombing operations
against Italy. The Haddock detachment attempts to mount its first operation
on the night of 11/12 June; however, disagreements between the British
and French High Commands with regard to the policy of attacking Italy
lead to the runway being blocked by French lorries!

11 June

36 Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys of Nos. 10, 51, 77 and 102 Squadrons make
the first attack on Italy. The aircraft operate from the United Kingdom,
refuelling in the Channel Islands. Due to bad weather, only thirteen attack
Turin and Genoa with two aircraft failing to return.

12 June

In a desperate attempt to support French troops fighting in Normandy,
a further two divisions (the 52nd Lowland Division and the 1st Canadian
Division) are landed at Cherbourg.

14 June

German forces enter Paris, which had been declared an open city.

15 June

Following the events of 11-12 June, RAF Bomber Command aircraft in France
mount their first operation against an Italian target. Vickers Wellingtons
of No.99 and No.149 Squadrons take off from Salon en route to Genoa, however,
due to violent thunderstorms only one aircraft attacks the target. The
final attack by the Haddock force is mounted on the following night, 22
Wellingtons are despatched with fourteen aircraft bombing the target.

16 June

The Night Interception Committee decides to form a ground radio interception
unit, to work in collaboration with specialist aircraft to investigate
German navigation aids, with a view to developing radio counter-measures
(RCM). This decision marks the beginning of RCM development in the United

17 June

The French Government asks for an armistice.

The last British Army formations in France are evacuated via Cherbourg.
When the last ship sails from the port at 1600hrs in the afternoon of
18 June, a total of 160,000 British and Allied troops and more than 300
guns have been embarked.

18 June

The withdrawal of Allied Forces from Normandy is announced and Churchill
says: “The battle of France is over…. The Battle of Britain is
about to begin … let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and
so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last
for a thousand years, men will say ‘This was their finest hour’.”

Royal Air Force Hurricane squadrons in France, having covered the evacuation
of remaining British ground forces from the ports of Western France, are
ordered back to the United Kingdom. The last out are the first in and
the final squadrons to leave are No.1 and No.73 Squadrons, which had been
the first Royal Air Force fighter squadrons to arrive in France in 1939.

The campaign in France and the Low Countries cost the Royal Air Force
1,029 aircraft and over 1,500 personnel killed, wounded or missing.

21 June

The Royal Air Force (RAF) forms the Parachute Training School at Ringway,
under the command of Squadron Leader Louis A. Strange. This later becomes
a component of the Central Landing School. Subsequently, the Central Landing
Establishment (CLE) is formed from the Central Landing School on 19 September

The functions of the CLE includes training parachute troops, glider
(sailplane) pilots and aircrew in the airborne role, developing the tactical
handling of airborne troops, conducting technical research and recommending
operational requirements.

22 June

The French Government signs an armistice in the Forest of Compiegne. The
ceremony is conducted in the same railway carriage in which German representatives
had signed the armistice that ended the First World War.

Flight Lieutenant George Burge of the Royal Air Force, flying a Gloster
Sea Gladiator nicknamed Faith, claims the first Italian bomber aircraft
destroyed over Malta. Faith is one of three crated Sea Gladiators left
on Malta by the Fleet Air Arm, which are hurriedly assembled at the outbreak
of hostilities with Italy. For some time they represent the only fighter
defence of the naval dockyard and the island. They are quickly nicknamed
Faith, Hope and Charity.

1-2 July

The Royal Air Force drops its first 2,000 pound bomb on German battleship
Scharnhorst at Kiel.

3 July

For the first time, the targets attacked by RAF Bomber Command during
this day include invasion barges being massed for a possible invasion
of Britain.

3 July

Aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm take part in an attack on the French fleet
in Oran. The attack is made in an attempt to prevent the ships falling
into German hands.

6 July

The first depth charge is used by a Royal Air Force anti-submarine warfare
aircraft. The weapon in question is the 450 pound MkVII depth charge,
which gradually replace the earlier, ineffective anti-submarine bombs
used by RAF Coastal Command.

10 July

The preliminary phase of the

Battle of Britain, the Kanalkampf, or Channel
battle, begins with German attacks on convoys in the English Channel and
the ports along Britain’s southern coast.

16 July

Hitler’s War Directive No.16 of this date details advanced planning for
the invasion of the United Kingdom. As part of the preparations for such
an assault, which are to be completed by the middle of August, the War
Directive decrees that “the English Air Force must be so reduced
morally and physically that it is unable to deliver any significant attack
against the German crossing.” The assault was codenamed Seelöwe

22 July

The first aircraft is shot down by a fighter guided by its own airborne
radar. A Bristol Blenheim of the Fighter Interception Unit, fitted with
Airborne Intercept radar (AI), destroys a Dornier Do17 at night off Selsey

26 July

The first Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadron, equipped with Canadian-built
Hurricanes, arrives in United Kingdom.

1 August

Hitler’s War Directive No.17 orders the Luftwaffe to destroy the Royal
Air Force (RAF) and its supporting infrastructure in the shortest possible
time, while maintaining its combat effectiveness for Operation Sealion.

1 August

RAF Northern Ireland is formed as an independent command.

2 August

Operation Hurry: the first delivery of Hawker Hurricane fighters to Malta.
twelve aircraft are flown from the aircraft carrier HMS Argus and all
arrived safely. Subsequently, on 4 August, the Hurricanes, together with
the Gloster Sea Gladiators of the Malta Fighter Flight, are used to form
No.261 Squadron – the first fighter squadron to participate in the air
defence of Malta.

12 August
Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is awarded to Flight Lieutenant R.A.B Learoyd for a bombing
attack on the Dortmund-Ems canal. Handley Page Hampden P4403, No.49 Squadron,
RAF Bomber Command.

12 August

The preparatory phase of the Battle of Britain draws to a close, with attacks
on several Royal Air Force (RAF) airfields and radar stations, in preparation
for the events of the following day.

During the Kanalkampf (Channel Battle), the Luftwaffe’s repeated attacks
on channel shipping causes the destruction of approximately 30,000 tons
of British shipping. The Luftwaffe lose 286 aircraft, as against RAF Fighter
Command losses of 148 aircraft. Luftwaffe casualties during this phase
of the Battle include the nephew of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring,
Oberleutnant Hans-Joachim Göring, who is killed when his Messerschmitt
Bf 110C twin-engined heavy fighter is shot down by a Hawker Hurricane
flown by Squadron Leader J.S. Dewar of No.87 Squadron on 11 July.

13 August

Alder Tag (Eagle Day): the Luftwaffe commence massive air attacks on RAF
Fighter Command’s air defence ground network and fighter stations. During
the course of the day, the Luftwaffe generate 1,500 sorties and shoot
down 13 Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters and a further 47 are destroyed
on 6 Fighter Command airfields. The defenders shoot down 46 Luftwaffe

15 August

Luftflotte 5 in Scandinavia joins its counterparts in France and Belgium,
Luftflotten 2 and 3, in an attack on the United Kingdom. However, due
to the distance between Luftflotte 5’s air bases and its targets in northern
England, it can not provide Messerschmitt Bf109 single-engine fighter
escorts for the bomber force. As a consequence, the attackers and their
twin-engine escorts (Messerschmitt Bf110s) suffer heavily at the hands
of Fighter Command. Such are their losses that targets in the north of
England will never again be attacked in force in daylight.

German forces in France and Belgium continue their attacks on the Royal
Air Force. 75 Luftwaffe aircraft and 34 RAF aircraft are lost during the
course of this day.

16 August

RAF Bomber Command attacks the Fiat works in Turin and the Caproni works
in Milan.

16 August
Victoria Cross

The only Fighter Command Victoria Cross to be given during Second World War
is awarded to Flight Lieutenant E.J.B. Nicolson for an engagement near
Southampton in which he shot down an enemy aircraft even though his own
aircraft, a Hawker Hurricane P3576 (GN-A) of No.249 Squadron, had been
hit and was on fire.

16 August

RAF Bomber Command raids the Fiat works in Turin and the Caproni works
in Milan.

17 August

Pilot Officer William Mead Lindsey ‘Billy’ Fiske becomes the first American
citizen to die while serving with the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the
Second World War.

Fiske volunteered to join the RAF two weeks after the outbreak of the
Second World War and on completion of flying training, he was posted to
No.601 Squadron at Tangmere on 12 July 1940. He claimed his first kill,
a Junkers Ju8, on 13 August. On 16 August, Pilot Officer Fiske’s Hawker
Hurricane (P3358) crash-lands in flames following an engagement with a
Junkers Ju87 Stuka over Bognor. Horribly burned, he died on the following

In response to RAF Fighter Command’s insatiable demand for replacement
pilots, fighter Operational Training Unit courses are shortened. During
the Battle of Britain, pupils were passed out of Operational Training

Units with as little as 10 to 20 hours on Supermarine Spitfires or Hawker

18 August

Both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Luftwaffe suffer the highest number
of aircraft destroyed or damaged in the air and on the ground for any
day during the Battle of Britain.
Battle of Britain
During the course of the day, the Luftwaffe
launch three major air attacks against airfields and radar stations in
Southern England.

The Luftwaffe generate approximately 970 sorties, 69 aircraft are destroyed
or damaged beyond repair by RAF fighters, British anti-aircraft fire or
in collisions with RAF aircraft. A total of 94 aircrew are killed, 25
wounded and 40 taken prisoner.

The RAF generate 927 sorties, 886 during the day and 41 at night. 31
fighters are shot down and a further 8 destroyed on the ground and 29
non-operational aircraft are also destroyed. 10 fighter pilots are killed
or fatally wounded and 19 wounded.

“The laurels for the day’s action went to the defenders. The aim
of the Luftwaffe was to wear down Fighter Command without suffering excessive
losses in the process, and in this it had failed. It had cost the attackers
five aircrew killed, wounded or taken prisoner, for each British pilot
casualty. In terms of aircraft, it had cost the Luftwaffe five bombers
and fighters for every three Spitfires or Hurricanes destroyed in the
air or on the ground. If the battle continued at this rate the Luftwaffe
would wreck Fighter Command, but it would come close to wrecking itself
in the process”

(Dr Alfred Price, Battle of Britain: The Hardest Day, 18 August 1940,
London: Macdonald and Jane’s, 1979. Pages 156-59).

19 August

The commander of the Luftwaffe, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, issues
orders for renewed attacks upon RAF Fighter Command. In an attempt to
reduce bomber losses, and falling aircrew morale, he orders stronger fighter
escorts for Luftflotte 2’s bombers, transferring fighters for this purpose
from Luftflotte 3, the latter will place greater emphasis on night bombing.
Göring further orders that Junkers Ju87 Stuka units, which had suffered
heavily casualties when intercepted by the Royal Air Force, be conserved
for the forthcoming invasion.

20 August

In a speech to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Winston Churchill
says, “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 odds, unwearied in their constant
challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their
prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was
so much owed by so many to so few.”

21 August

The first Royal Air Force (RAF) unit established to support the activities
of the Special Operations Executive and other clandestine operations dedicated
to Special Duties operations, No.419 (Special Duties) Flight, is officially
formed at RAF North Weald. The flight is subsequently redesignated No.1419
(Special Duties) Flight on 1 March 1941.

24 August

During the night Luftwaffe aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 1 (KG1) erroneously
makes the first bombing attack on London due to a navigational error.

25 August

In retaliation for the previous night’s attack on London, 81 Vickers Wellingtons,
Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys and Handley Page Hampdens stage the first
night attack by Royal Air Force aircraft on Berlin. Six Hampdens fail
to return.

5 September

‘Bromide’ Radio Counter Measure (RCM) transmitters are first used to jam
enemy ‘Ruffian’ beams, marking the effective start of electronic countermeasures.

7 September
The fourth phase of the Battle of Britain

begins with an all-out onslaught
by the Luftwaffe against London during the afternoon. Almost 1,000 Luftwaffe
aircraft are despatched to raid the Capital and are engaged by twenty
squadrons of RAF Fighter Command. forty German aircraft are lost, and
a further fourteen damaged on operations. The defenders lose 28 aircraft.

The codeword Cromwell is released, bringing the United Kingdom’s air,
sea and land defences to the highest level of alert – an invasion is judged
to be imminent.

RAF Bomber Command begins a concentrated bombing campaign on German
landing barges and shipping being grouped in French ports for Operation
Sealion – the planned invasion of the United Kingdom.

15 September
Victoria Cross

Sergeant Hannah is awarded the Victoria Cross. Sergeant Hannah, a wireless operator
and air gunner, was the youngest airman to receive the Victoria Cross,
being only 19 at the time of the award. He was decorated for his actions
during a bombing raid on enemy barge concentration at Antwerp, Belgium,
while flying in Handley Page Hampden P1355 of No.83 Squadron, RAF Bomber

17 September

The first operational patrol by a Bristol Beaufighter nightfighter fitted
with Air Interception radar (AI Mark IV) is flown by an aircraft of No.29
Squadron, RAF Fighter Command, during the night. The Beaufighter was the
first truly effective radar-equipped nightfighter to be operated by the
Royal Air Force (RAF).

19 September

The first convoy of aircraft to use the West African Reinforcement Route,
six Hawker Hurricanes, led by a Bristol Blenheim carrying a navigator,
leave Takoradi in the Gold Coast en route across the African Continent
to Abu Sueir in Egypt. The aircraft covers the 1,026 mile route in 8 days,
arriving at No.102 Maintenance Unit, RAF Abu Sueir, on 27 September. The
West African Reinforcement Route is established to enable aircraft manufactured
in the United Kingdom or acquired via Lease-Lend to be ferried to the
Mediterranean and Middle East theatres without having to brave the dangerous
passage through the Mediterranean – it will prove a vital artery for the
Allied air forces.
20 September

The first operational mission by Hawker Hurricane fighter-bombers is carried
out in the Mediterranean theatre, when aircraft of No.261 Squadron in
Malta attack targets in Sicily.

6 October

The opening of final stage of Battle of Britain, which will continue until
31 October. Daylight attacks gradually give way to night raids.

8 October

No.71 Squadron is formed. This is the first of the Royal Air Force’s ‘Eagle
Squadrons’, the aircrew of which are predominantly drawn from United States
citizens enrolled in the Royal Air Force (RAF). Subsequently, two further
Eagle Squadrons (No.121 and No.133 Squadrons) are formed. Following America’s
entry into the war, the Eagle Squadrons are transferred to the United
States Army Air Force (USAAF) where they form the 4th Fighter Group, United
States 8th Air Force.

12 October

Hitler postpons Operation Sealion (the invasion of Britain) until the
Spring of 1941.

18 October

It is announced in the House of Commons that, because of Luftwaffe air
raids on London, nearly half a million children have been evacuated and
that thousands more continue to leave on a daily basis.

25 October

Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal succeeds Marshal of the Royal Air
Force Sir Cyril Newall as Chief of the Air Staff.

25 October

Aircraft of the Italian Air Force contingent in Belgium, the Corpo Aereo
Italiano (CAI), raid the United Kingdom for the first time, when fifteen
Fiat BR20 bombers attack Harwich by night. The CAI is attached to the
Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 2 and between 25 October and 31 December 1940,
the Italian Air Force contingent in Belgium flies 97 bomber and 113 fighter
sorties, without achieving any notable results.

27 October

The Skoda works at Pilsen in Czechoslovakia is attacked by Bomber Command
for the first time.

28 October

Italian forces invade Greece from Albania. By the end of December the
Royal Air Force (RAF) have deployed three light bomber squadrons equipped
with Bristol Blenheims (Nos. 30, 84 and 211 Squadrons) and two fighter
squadrons equipped with Gloster Gladiators (No.80 and No.112 Squadrons)
to Greece. The Gladiator squadrons succeed in achieving a degree of air
superiority over the Italians.

31 October

The Battle of Britain is officially regarded as having come to an end
on this date. During November, the Luftwaffe commence night bombing operations
against British cities in earnest.

On 15 May 1947, Secretary of State for Air, Mr Philip Noel-Baker, announces
official German statistics for Luftwaffe aircraft casualties during the
Battle of Britain between 10 July and 31 October 1940, which are accepted
to be accurate: 1,733 aircraft destroyed and 643 damaged.

10 November

The first landplanes to be ferried across the Atlantic by air, seven Lockheed
Hudsons, are flown from Gander in Newfoundland, Canada to Aldergrove in
Northern Ireland by aircrew of the Atlantic Ferry Organisation (ATFERO).
The flight is led by Captain D.C.T. Bennett, who will later rejoin the
Royal Air Force, becoming Air Officer Commanding of No.8 (Pathfinder)
Group, RAF Bomber Command.

ATFERO had been established in July 1940 at the initiative of the Minister
of Aircraft Production, Lord Beaverbrook, to ferry aircraft purchased
from United States manufacturers to the United Kingdom by air, avoiding
a slow and hazardous sea crossing. ATFERO aircrews comprise a mixture
of civilian and military personnel. Between 1940 and 1944, 4,321 aircraft
for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and 10,468 for the United States Army Air
Force (USAAF) will be ferried by air across the Atlantic.

11 November

Twenty-one Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers of the Fleet Air Arm are launched
in two waves from the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious to
attack the Italian naval base at Taranto in southern Italy. Surprise is
total and the attackers succeed in torpedoing one new and two old battleships
and one cruiser, and damaging dockyard installations. More importantly,
immediately following the attack all seaworthy vessels in Taranto leave
the port for anchorages on Italy’s west coast, this reducing the threat
to British convoys in the Mediterranean. Only two Swordfish are lost during
the attack. This raid strongly influenced the Japanese attack on the United
States Navy (USN) anchorage at Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941.

14 November

During Operation Moonlight Sonata, 450 Luftwaffe bombers attack Coventry,
devastating the centre of the city. The air defences fail to destroy a
single enemy aircraft.

15 November

Hamburg is attacked by 49 Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers.

17 November

Operation White: the second delivery of twelve Hawker Hurricane fighters
to Malta from HMS Argus. Unlike the first such operation, on 2 August,
it is not a success because eight of the twelve aircraft run out of fuel
before reaching the island and are forced to ditch in the Mediterranean.

19 November

The first German bomber to be shot down by Bristol Beaufighter nightfighter
of RAF Fighter Command falls on this night. A Junkers Ju88A-5 of 3/Kampfgeschwader
54 is damaged by a Beaufighter flown by Flight Lieutenant John Cunningham
and Sergeant J. Phillipson of No.604 Squadron over the Midlands and subsequently
crashes near East Wittering, Chichester. Two of the crew are killed and
the remaining two crewmembers bail out of the aircraft and are captured.
Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) John Cunningham later becomes
one of the Royal Air Force’s most successful nightfighter pilots.

1 December

Royal Air Force Army Co-operation Command is formed under command of Air
Marshal Sir Arthur Barrett.

1 December

No.148 Squadron (Vickers Wellington) is established on Malta, becoming
the first Royal Air Force bomber squadron to be based on the island.

10 December

Hitler announces the decision to base the Luftwaffe’s Fliegerkorps X in
the Mediterranean. Units from this formation begin to arrive in Italy
and Sicily during January 1941.

20 December

Two Supermarine Spitfires of No.66 Squadron inaugurate Rhubarb offensive
sweeps (small-scale fighter or fighter-bomber attacks on ground targets)
over France with a sortie against Le Touquet.

21 December

The first ‘intruder’ sorties (offensive night patrols over enemy territory
intended to destroy hostile aircraft and dislocate the enemy’s flying
training organisation) are mounted by Bristol Blenheims of No.23 Squadron.
This duty is transferred from Bomber Command which had flown ‘security
patrols’ to harass Luftwaffe bombers participating in night raids on the
United Kingdom.

26 December

Blind approach equipment begins to be introduced into operational aircraft
for the first time.