A group of RAF fighter pilots resting in front of one of their Hurricane aircraft during the Battle of Britain. Photo credit Air Force Museum of New Zealand

Remembering those who fought

by Ann van Engelen

The Air Force Museum of New Zealand and Canterbury Brevet Club are remembering those who served in the skies over England during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

“Serving with the Royal Air Force as pilots or air gunners, 133 New Zealanders took part in the Battle of Britain,” says communications manager at the Air Force Museum, Michelle Sim.

“Twenty New Zealanders were among the 544 who lost their lives in the desperate battle fought in the skies over England, as the RAF sought to defend Great Britain from invasion by Nazi Germany.”

With only 650 serviceable fighter aircraft and 1,103 trained fighter pilots at the outset, the RAF were vastly outnumbered against the German Air Force.

That led British prime minister Winston Churchill to famously refer to them as ‘The Few’.

“One Kiwi, Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park, played a critical role during the battle, as the commander of No 11 Group of the RAF’s Fighter Command, which was at the forefront of the battle, tasked with the defence of south-east England. He is now widely regarded as being instrumental in the British victory and is often referred to as the ‘Defender of London’.

“While it may be slipping out of living memory, the Battle of Britain remains a hugely significant historical event. As the first major military campaign fought entirely in the air, it is also a fitting opportunity to honour all who have served and continue to serve, in our air force.

“On September 15, their sacrifice will be remembered in a commemorative service with an address given by Deputy Chief of the Air Force, Air Commodore Carol Abraham.

“The event will be at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand Atrium in Wigram on September 15 2019, from 10.30am to 12.30pm. If you have any special mobility requirements, please contact us so we can make sure you are accommodated on the day.”