ebook ∣ The Battle of Britain · Anzac Battles
By Adam Claasen
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In the summer of 1940 the Luftwaffe locked horns with the RAF in a life-and-death struggle for mastery of the skies over southern England. Success for Germany would knock Britain out of the war and give Adolf Hitler a free hand for his assault on the Soviet Union. Success for the RAF would bring an end to the German advance to the west and ultimately facilitate the D-Day landings four years in the future. What is less well known is that the second-largest foreign contingent in Fighter Command was drawn from the British Commonwealth's southernmost Dominions: New Zealand and Australia. One hundred and seventy-one Anzac airmen were thrust headlong into a ferocious air battle that would put their skills, resolve and character to the ultimate test. The tale of their place in the Battle of Britain, along with their personal stories, friendships, successes, losses and fears are told in detail for the first time in 'Dogfight'.
'Dogfight' tells the story of Australians and New Zealanders in one of the Second World War's defining and most memorable campaigns. From July until October 1940, the German air force (the Luftwaffe) sought aerial supremacy in skies over England as a prerequisite for an invasion of Britain (Operation Sealion). The ensuing conflict of Luftwaffe and RAF aircraft in the long summer of 1940 became forever known as the Battle of Britain.
Of the 574 overseas pilots in the campaign, the New Zealand contingent of 134 airmen was second in size only to the Polish contribution. The Australian involvement, though smaller, was a healthy 37. Thus a fifth of overseas pilots were Anzacs. Among these colonials were some of the Battle of Britain's widely admired aces. Of the top ten pilots with the greatest number of victories two were New Zealanders (C. F. Gray and B. Carbury) and one an Australian (P. Hughes). Australian and New Zealand aircrew were also employed in attacking enemy Channel ports and airfields as part of Bomber and Coastal Command's attempts to thwart invasion preparations and blunt the Luftwaffe aerial onslaught. The Anzacs also had a fellow compatriot at the highest level in the Fighter Command system: the highly regarded New Zealander Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park, who was instrumental in devising and implementing the integrated air defence of Britain around Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft, radio control and radar. In the spring of 1940, he was given the command of Group 11, which would face the brunt of the German aggression in south-east England. The success of Park's plans and operational initiatives, and the role played by Anzac pilots and aircrew, would all contribute to the conflict's eventual successful outcome.
Dr Adam Claasen is a senior lecturer in modern history and international relations at Massey University. He has a doctorate from the University of Canterbury, is a Smithsonian Institution fellowship recipient, and in 2006 was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. He teaches and researches primarily on the Second World War and the role of air power in war, and is the author of 'Hitler's Northern War'.
The Anzac Battles Series is a collection of books describing the great military battles fought by Australian and New Zealand soldiers during the wars of the twentieth century. Each title in the series focuses on one battle, describing the background to the action, the combat itself, the strategy employed and the outcome. The story is told through the actions of the main protagonists and the individuals who distinguished themselves in the battle. The authors are all respected military historians with specialist knowledge of the battles described.