Battle of Britain (1969)



Director: Guy Hamilton.

Starring:  Harry Andrews (Senior civil servant), Michael Caine (Squadron Leader Canfield), Trevor Howard (Air Vice Marshal Keith Park), Curd Jrgens (Baron von Richter), Ian McShane (Sgt. Pilot Andy), Kenneth More (Group Capt. Baker), Laurence Olivier (Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding), Nigel Patrick (Group Capt. Hope), Christopher Plummer (Squadron Leader Colin Harvey), Michael Redgrave (Air Vice Marshal Evill), Ralph Richardson (Sir David Kelly, British minister to Switzerland), Robert Shaw (Squadron Leader Skipper), Patrick Wymark (Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory), Susannah York (Section Officer Maggie Harvey), Michael Bates (Warrant Officer Warwick).

Docudrama of the air war over Britain where the British pilots fight off waves of German bomber and fighter attacks.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Good movie.  The actions starts in France with the Germans steadily pushing the French and British forces to Dunkirk.  The British at an airfield in France have only five serviceable aircraft left when they receive the news that Sedan has fallen.  The five planes takes off and help destroy the unserviceable aircraft.

The action switches to Britain with H. C. T. Dowding, Air Chief Marshal.  Churchill had personally assured the French Prime Minister that he would have a squadron of fighter planes at his beck and call.  But Dowding has recommended the removal of all aircraft from France to Britain and he is sticking to his recommendation.

Baron von Richter travels to Switzerland to visit the British ambassador there.  But he gets nowhere with a deal proposed by Hitler to bring British submission to the now dominant Germany. 

Lord Beaverbrook says that he can deliver100 fighters a week to the British forces.  Right now they only have 650 planes compared to 2,500 for the Germans. 

Squadron Leader Colin Harvey of Canada visits with his wife, Section Officer Maggie Harvey.  But the two don't get along very well, because Colin is being transferred north to Scotland and his wife will not agree to join him there by asking for a transfer. 

Air Vice Marshal Keith Park arrives to let Squadron Leader Canfield know that his pilots need to be able to be in the sky within just two minutes.

The Germans decide to destroy the British fighter force on the ground in southern England at Manston, Biggin, Kenley, Dover and Hawkinge.  They succeed in doing a lot of damage to the airfields, but they lose 47 planes as opposed to just 15 for the British (with 6 of the pilots saved). 

The Germans report that they have destroyed 300 British planes.  But this is met with skepticism for this would have been about half the British force available.  The Germans attack in the north where they think they will be out of range of the British Spitfires.  But much to their surprise Britain has four force areas all with available fighters.  The British shoot down all 23 of the German bombers without a single plane lost. 

But the lack of pilots is becoming a serious problem for the British.  They must find more pilots or lose the war. They must also get Group 12 to protect the airfields while the Spitfires are in the sky destroying German planes. 

Squadron Leader Canfield is shot down over the English Channel.  His plane simply blew up.  Leigh-Mallory's Group 12 was just too slow to guard the airfields.  But that is not the most serious problem.  The British are now short some 200 pilots. 

Some German planes get off course and decide to drop their bombs and return home.  The bombs, however, land on London.  The German high command is furious with Majors Brandt and Froedel for Hitler specifically said not to bomb London.  The Allies then hit Berlin.  This makes Hitler so furious that he decides to abandon precision bombing and starts to bomb London on a massive scale.  One hundred plus bombers are sent to London to bomb it.  The British are caught sleeping.  They were primarily concerned with protecting their airfields and were not prepared for a massive attack on London. 

A non-operational group of Polish pilots takes the opportunity of a group of German fighters in their vicinity to attack them.   They do pretty well in the battle and this pushes the British into making operational the Polish, Czech and Canadian air forces. 

With the new emphasis of the Germans on London, the German planes are now coming directly within the range of Group 12.  The British start to realize that ne German concentration of bombing London could prove to be Hitler's biggest blunder. 

Winston Churchill pays a visit to the airfields.  At a dinner, the German officers are very downcast over the losses the British have inflicted on them. 

Londoners are using the subways as an air raid shelter.  On the radio they hear the happy news that in the most recent battle 165 German planes were destroyed versus only 30 for the British (with 10 pilots saved).

Then one morning the Germans are late and the Allied pilots are getting very antsy.  What the British did not know that morning, however, was that Hitler had given up on the idea of invading Britain.

Churchill later praised the Allied pilots saying that "Never have so many owed so much to so few."


Nationality of the Pilots involved:  Number of Pilots: Number of Pilots killed in action:
RAF and other Commonwealth 1,822 339
Fleet Air Arm 0056 009
Australian 0021 014
New Zealand 0073 011
Canadian 0088 020
South Africa 0021 009
Southern Rhodesia 0002 000
Irish 0008 000
Polish 0141 029
Czech 0086 008
Belgian 0026 006
Free French 0013 000
Israeli 0001 000


Historical Background:




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