Sunderland Flying Boat

The Short S.25 Sunderland was a British flying boat patrol bomber, developed and constructed by Short Brothers for the Royal Air Force (RAF). 

The aircraft took its service name from the town (latterly, city) and port of Sunderland in North East England.

Developed in parallel with the civilian S.23 Empire flying boat, the flagship of Imperial Airways, the Sunderland was developed specifically to conform to the requirements of British Air Ministry Specification R.2/33 for a long-range patrol/reconnaissance flying boat to serve with the Royal Air Force (RAF). As designed, it served as a successor to the earlier Short Sarafand flying boat. 

Sharing several similarities with the S.23, it featured a more advanced aerodynamic hull and was outfitted with various offensive and defensive armaments, including machine gun turrets, bombs, aerial mines, and depth charges. 

The Sunderland was powered by four Bristol Pegasus XVIII radial engines and was outfitted with various detection equipment to aid combat operations, including the Leigh searchlight, the ASV Mark II and ASV Mark III radar units, and an astrodome.

The Sunderland was one of the most powerful and widely used flying boats throughout the Second World War. 

In addition to the RAF, the type was operated by other Allied military air wings, including the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), South African Air Force (SAAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), French Navy, Norwegian Air Force, and the Portuguese Navy. 

During the conflict, the type was heavily involved in Allied efforts to counter the threat posed by German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. 

On 17 July 1940, a RAAF Sunderland (of No. 10 Squadron) performed the type’s first unassisted U-boat kill. Sunderlands also played a major role in the Mediterranean theatre, performing maritime reconnaissance flights and logistical support missions. 

During the evacuation of Crete, shortly after the German invasion of the island, several aircraft were used to transport troops. Numerous unarmed Sunderlands were also flown by civil operator British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), traversing routes as far afield as the Pacific Ocean.

During the post-war era, use of the Sunderland throughout Europe rapidly declined, while greater numbers remained in service in the Far East, where large developed runways were less prevalent. 

Between mid-1950 and September 1954, several squadrons of RAF Sunderlands saw combat action during the Korean War. 

Around a dozen aircraft had also participated in the Berlin airlift, delivering supplies to the blockaded German city. The RAF continued to use the Sunderland in a military capacity up to 1959. 

In December 1960, the French Navy retired their aircraft, which were the last remaining examples in military use within the Northern Hemisphere. 

The type also remained in service with the RNZAF up to 1967, when they were replaced by the land-based Lockheed P-3 Orion. 

A number of Sunderlands were converted for use within the civil sector, where they were known as the Hythe and the Sandringham; in this configuration, the type continued in airline operation until 1974. 

Several examples were preserved, including a single airworthy Sunderland which has been placed on display in Florida at Fantasy of Flight.


Handley Page Hampden

The Handley Page HP.52 Hampden was a British twin-engine medium bomber of the Royal Air Force (RAF).

It was part of the trio of large twin-engine bombers procured for the RAF,

joining the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Vickers Wellington.

The newest of the three medium bombers, the Hampden was often referred to by aircrews as the “Flying Suitcase” because of its cramped crew conditions.

The Hampden was powered by Bristol Pegasus radial engines but a variant known as the Handley Page Hereford had in-line Napier Daggers.

The Hampden served in the early stages of the Second World War, bearing the brunt of the early bombing war over Europe, taking part in the first night raid on Berlin and the first 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne.

When it became obsolete, after a period of mainly operating at night, it was retired from RAF Bomber Command service in late 1942. By 1943,

the rest of the trio were being superseded by the larger four-engined heavy bombers such as the Avro Lancaster.

de Havilland Mosquito

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito is a British twin-engined, shoulder-winged multirole combat aircraft,

introduced during the Second World War.

Unusual in that its frame was constructed mostly of wood, it was nicknamed the “Wooden Wonder”, or “Mossie”.

Lord Beaverbrook,

Minister of Aircraft Production, nicknamed it “Freeman’s Folly”, alluding to Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman, who defended Geoffrey de Havilland and his design concept against orders to scrap the project.

In 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world.

Originally conceived as an unarmed fast bomber, the Mosquito’s use evolved during the war into many roles, including low- to medium-altitude daytime tactical bomber, high-altitude night bomber, pathfinder, day or night fighter, fighter-bomber,

intruder, maritime strike, and photo-reconnaissance aircraft. It was also used by the British Overseas Airways Corporation as a fast transport to carry small, high-value cargo to and from neutral countries through enemy-controlled airspace.

The crew of two, pilot and navigator, sat side by side. A single passenger could ride in the aircraft’s bomb bay when necessary.

The Mosquito FBVI was often flown in special raids, such as Operation Jericho (an attack on Amiens Prison in early 1944), and precision attacks against military intelligence, security, and police facilities (such as Gestapo headquarters).

On 30 January 1943, the 10th anniversary of the Nazis’ seizure of power, a morning Mosquito attack knocked out the main Berlin broadcasting station while Hermann Göring was speaking, taking his speech off the air.

The Mosquito flew with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and other air forces in the European, Mediterranean and Italian theatres.

The Mosquito was also operated by the RAF in the Southeast Asian theatre and by the Royal Australian Air Force based in the Halmaheras and Borneo during the Pacific War.

During the 1950s, the RAF replaced the Mosquito with the jet-powered English Electric Canberra.

The Spitfire

The British Spitfire

The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and other Allied countries before, during, and after World War II.

Many variants of the Spitfire were built, using several wing configurations, and it was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft.

It was also the only British fighter produced continuously throughout the war. The Spitfire continues to be popular among enthusiasts; nearly 60 remain airworthy, and many more are static exhibits in aviation museums throughout the world.

The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works, which operated as a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong from 1928. Mitchell pushed the Spitfire’s distinctive elliptical wing with cutting-edge sunken rivets (designed by Beverley Shenstone) to have the thinnest possible cross-section, helping give the aircraft a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane.

Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith took over as chief designer, overseeing the Spitfire’s development through its multitude of variants. 

During the Battle of Britain, from July to October 1940, the public perceived the Spitfire to be the main RAF fighter, though the more numerous Hurricane shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against Nazi Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe. 

However, Spitfire units had a lower attrition rate and a higher victory-to-loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes because of the Spitfire’s higher performance. 

During the battle, Spitfires were generally tasked with engaging Luftwaffe fighters—mainly Messerschmitt Bf 109E-series aircraft, which were a close match for them. After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific, and South-East Asian theatres.

Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber, and trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s.

The Seafire was a carrier-based adaptation of the Spitfire that served in the Fleet Air Arm from 1942 through to the mid-1950s. 

Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp (768 kW), it was strong enough and adaptable enough to use increasingly powerful Merlins and, in later marks, Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,340 hp (1,745 kW). As a result, the Spitfire’s performance and capabilities improved over the course of  its service.

Vera Lynn

Vera Lynn during World War 2

Dame Vera Margaret Lynn CH DBE OStJ (née Welch; born 20 March 1917 is an English singer of traditional popular music, songwriter and actress, whose musical recordings and performances were enormously popular during the Second World War.

She is widely known as “the Forces’ Sweetheart” for giving outdoor concerts for the troops in Egypt, India, and Burma during the war as part of Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA).

The songs most associated with her are “We’ll Meet Again”, “

The White Cliffs of Dover”, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “There’ll Always Be an England”.

She remained popular after the war, appearing on radio and television in the UK and the US and recording such hits as “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” and her UK number one single “My Son, My Son”.

Her last single, “I Love This Land”, was released to mark the end of the Falklands War.
In 2009, at the age of 92, she became the oldest living artist to top the UK Albums Chart, with compilation album We’ll Meet Again:

The Very Best of Vera Lynn.
Lynn also scored a number one in 2014, when she was 97, with the collection Vera Lynn:

National Treasure, and remains the oldest person to top the album charts.

Further, she released the compilation album of hits Vera Lynn 100 in 2017, to commemorate her centennial year, and it was a number-3 hit, making her the first centenarian performer to have an album in the charts.

She has devoted much time and energy to charity work connected with ex-servicemen, disabled children, and breast cancer. She is held in great affection by veterans of the Second World War and in 2000 was named the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the 20th century.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill

Great Britain Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British politician, army officer, and writer. He was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955.

Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist,

for most of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was a member of the Liberal Party.

Of mixed English and American parentage, Churchill was born in Oxfordshire to a wealthy, aristocratic family.

He joined the British Army in 1895, and saw action in British India, the Anglo–Sudan War, and the Second Boer War, gaining fame as a war correspondent and writing books about his campaigns. Elected an MP in 1900, initially as a Conservative, he defected to the Liberals in 1904.

In H. H. Asquith’s Liberal government, Churchill served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, and First Lord of the Admiralty, championing prison reform and workers’ social security.

During the First World War, he oversaw the Gallipoli Campaign; after it proved a disaster, he resigned from government and served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front. In 1917, he returned to government under David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions, then as Secretary of State for War and Air, and finally for the Colonies, overseeing the Anglo-Irish Treaty and Britain’s Middle East policy.

After two years out of Parliament, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin’s Conservative government, returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-war parity, a move widely seen as creating deflationary pressure and depressing the UK economy.

Out of office during the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in calling for British rearmament to counter the growing threat from Nazi Germany.

At the outbreak of the Second World War he was re-appointed First Lord of the Admiralty.

In 1940 he became prime minister, replacing Neville Chamberlain.

Churchill oversaw British involvement in the Allied war effort against Germany and the Axis powers, resulting in victory in 1945.

His wartime leadership was widely praised, although acts like the Bombing of Dresden and his wartime response to the Bengal famine generated controversy.

After the Conservatives’ defeat in the 1945 general election, he became Leader of the Opposition. Amid the developing Cold War with the Soviet Union, he publicly warned of an “iron curtain” of Soviet influence in Europe and promoted European unity.

Re-elected Prime Minister in 1951, his second term was preoccupied with foreign affairs, including the Malayan Emergency,

Mau Mau Uprising, Korean War, and a UK-backed Iranian coup. Domestically his government emphasised house-building and developed a nuclear weapon.

In declining health, Churchill resigned as prime minister in 1955, although he remained an MP until 1964. Upon his death in 1965, he was given a state funeral.

Widely considered one of the 20th century’s most significant figures, Churchill remains popular in Britain and throughout the West, where he is seen as a victorious wartime leader who played an important role in defending Europe’s liberal democracy from the spread of fascism.

Praised as a social reformer and accomplished writer, among his many awards was the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Conversely, his imperialist views and comments on race, as well as his sanctioning of human rights abuses in the suppression of anti-imperialist movements seeking independence from the British Empire, have generated considerable controversy.

Battle Of Britain

The Battle of Britain (German: die Luftschlacht um England, “the Air Battle for England”) was a military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom (UK) against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe.

It has been described as the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces.
The British officially recognise the battle’s duration as being from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps the period of large-scale night attacks known as the Blitz, that lasted from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941.
German historians do not accept this subdivision and regard the battle as a single campaign lasting from July 1940 to June 1941, including the Blitz.

The primary objective of the German forces was to compel Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement.
In July 1940, the air and sea blockade began, with the Luftwaffe mainly targeting coastal-shipping convoys, ports and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth.

On 1 August, the Luftwaffe was directed to achieve air superiority over the RAF with the aim of incapacitating RAF Fighter Command; 12 days later, it shifted the attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure.

As the battle progressed, the Luftwaffe also targeted factories involved in aircraft production and strategic infrastructure.
Eventually, it employed terror bombing on areas of political significance and on civilians.
The Germans had rapidly overwhelmed France and the Low Countries, leaving Britain to face the threat of invasion by sea.

The German high command knew the difficulties of a seaborne attack and its impracticality while the Royal Navy controlled the English Channel and the North Sea
On 16 July, Adolf Hitler ordered the preparation of Operation Sea Lion as a potential amphibious and airborne assault on Britain, to follow once the Luftwaffe had air superiority over the UK.

In September, RAF Bomber Command night raids disrupted the German preparation of converted barges, and the Luftwaffe’s failure to overwhelm the RAF forced Hitler to postpone, and eventually cancel Operation Sea Lion.

Germany proved unable to sustain daylight raids, but their continued night-bombing operations on Britain – became known as the Blitz.

Historian Stephen Bungay cited Germany’s failure to destroy Britain’s air defences to force an armistice (or even an outright surrender) as the first major German defeat in World War II and a crucial turning point in the conflict.

The Battle of Britain takes its name from the speech given by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the House of Commons on 18 June: “What General Weygand called the ‘Battle of France’ is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”  

The Battle of Britain (German: die Luftschlacht um England, “the Air Battle for England”) was a military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom (UK) against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe.
I

t has been described as the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces.
The British officially recognise the battle’s duration as being from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps the period of large-scale night attacks known as the Blitz, that lasted from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941.

German historians do not accept this subdivision and regard the battle as a single campaign lasting from July 1940 to June 1941, including the Blitz.
The primary objective of the German forces was to compel Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement.

In July 1940, the air and sea blockade began, with the Luftwaffe mainly targeting coastal-shipping convoys, ports and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth. On 1 August, the Luftwaffe was directed to achieve air superiority over the RAF with the aim of incapacitating RAF Fighter Command; 12 days later, it shifted the attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure.

As the battle progressed, the Luftwaffe also targeted factories involved in aircraft production and strategic infrastructure.

Eventually, it employed terror bombing on areas of political significance and on civilians.

The Germans had rapidly overwhelmed France and the Low Countries, leaving

Britain to face the threat of invasion by sea.

The German high command knew the difficulties of a seaborne attack and its impracticality while the Royal Navy controlled the English Channel and the North Sea.

On 16 July, Adolf Hitler ordered the preparation of Operation Sea Lion as a potential amphibious and airborne assault on Britain, to follow once the Luftwaffe had air superiority over the UK.

In September, RAF Bomber Command night raids disrupted the German preparation of converted barges, and the Luftwaffe’s failure to overwhelm the RAF forced Hitler to postpone, and eventually cancel Operation Sea Lion.

Germany proved unable to sustain daylight raids, but their continued night-bombing operations on Britain – became known as the Blitz.

Historian Stephen Bungay cited Germany’s failure to destroy Britain’s air defences to force an armistice (or even an outright surrender) as the first major German defeat in World War II and a crucial turning point in the conflict.

The Battle of Britain takes its name from the speech given by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the House of Commons on 18 June: “What General Weygand called the ‘Battle of France’ is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.

Great Britain

When the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939 at the start of World War II, the UK controlled to varying degrees numerous crown colonies, protectorates and the Indian Empire.

It also maintained unique political ties to four of the five independent Dominions—Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand[note 1]—as co-members (with the UK) of the then “British Commonwealth”.

In 1939 the British Empire and the Commonwealth together comprised a global power, with direct or de facto political and economic control of 25% of the world’s population, and of 30% of its land mass.

The contribution of the British Empire and Commonwealth in terms of manpower and materiel was critical to the Allied war-effort.

From September 1939 to mid-1942, the UK led Allied efforts in multiple global military theatres.

Commonwealth, Colonial and Imperial Indian forces, totalling close to 15 million serving men and women, fought the German, Italian, Japanese and other Axis armies, air-forces and navies across Europe, Africa, Asia, and in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

Commonwealth forces based in Britain operated across North western Europe in the effort to slow or stop Axis advances. Commonwealth air forces fought the Luftwaffe to a standstill over Britain, and Commonwealth armies fought and destroyed Italian forces in North and East Africa and occupied several overseas colonies of German-occupied European nations.

Following successful engagements against Axis forces, Commonwealth troops invaded and occupied Libya, Italian Somaliland, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Madagascar.

The Commonwealth defeated, held back or slowed the Axis powers for three years while mobilizing its globally-integrated economy, military, and industrial infrastructure to build what became, by 1942, the most extensive military apparatus of the war. 

These efforts came at the cost of 150,000 military deaths, 400,000 wounded, 100,000 prisoners, over 300,000 civilian deaths, and the loss of 70 major warships, 39 submarines, 3,500 aircraft, 1,100 tanks and 65,000 vehicles.

During this period the Commonwealth built an enormous military and industrial capacity.

Britain became the nucleus of the Allied war-effort in Western Europe, and hosted governments-in-exile in London to rally support in occupied Europe for the Allied cause.

Canada delivered almost $4 billion in direct financial aid to the United Kingdom, and Australia and New Zealand began shifting to domestic production to provide material aid to US forces in the Pacific.Following the US entry into the war in December 1941, the Commonwealth and the United States coordinated their military efforts and resources globally.

As the scale of the US military involvement and industrial production increased, the US undertook command in many theatres, relieving Commonwealth forces for duty elsewhere, and expanding the scope and intensity of Allied military efforts.

Co-operation with the Soviet Union also developed.

However, it proved difficult to co-ordinate the defence of far-flung colonies and Commonwealth countries from simultaneous attacks by the Axis powers.

In part this difficulty was exacerbated by disagreements over priorities and objectives, as well as over the deployment and control of joint forces.

The governments of Britain and Australia, in particular, turned to the United States for support.

Although the British Empire and the Commonwealth countries all emerged from the war as victors, and the conquered territories returned to British rule, the costs of the war and the nationalist fervour that it had stoked became a catalyst for the decolonisation which took place in the following decades.

     

The Royal Air Force

   

The RAF underwent rapid expansion prior to and during the Second World War. Under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan of December 1939, the air forces of British Commonwealth countries trained and formed “Article XV squadrons” for service with RAF formations. Many individual personnel from these countries, and exiles from occupied Europe, also served with RAF squadrons. By the end of the war the Royal Canadian Air Force had contributed more than 30 squadrons to serve in RAF formations, similarly, approximately a quarter of Bomber Command’s personnel were Canadian.[16] Additionally, the Royal Australian Air Force represented around nine percent of all RAF personnel who served in the European and Mediterranean theatres.[17]

 

The Avro Lancaster heavy bomber was extensively used during the strategic bombing of Germany.

In the Battle of Britain in 1940, the RAF defended the skies over Britain against the numerically superior German Luftwaffe

In what is perhaps the most prolonged and complicated air campaign in history, the Battle of Britain contributed significantly to the delay and subsequent indefinite postponement of Hitler‘s plans for an invasion of the United Kingdom (Operation Sea Lion). In the House of Commons on 20 August, prompted by the ongoing efforts of the RAF, Prime Minister Winston Churchill eloquently made a speech to the nation, where he said “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.

The largest RAF effort during the war was the strategic bombing campaign against Germany by Bomber Command

While RAF bombing of Germany began almost immediately upon the outbreak of war, under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Harris, these attacks became increasingly devastating from 1942 onward as new technology and greater numbers of superior aircraft became available. 

The RAF adopted night-time area bombing on German cities such as Hamburg and Dresden, and developed precision bombing techniques for specific operations, such as the “Dambusters” raid by No. 617 Squadron,[19] or the Amiens prison raid known as Operation Jericho.

 

The British Army


 



The British Army

The British Army The British Army during World War I fought the largest and most costly war in its long history.

Unlike the French and German Armies, the British Army was made up exclusively of volunteers—as opposed to conscripts—at the beginning of the conflict.

Furthermore, the British Army was considerably smaller than its French and German counterparts.

Men of the Wiltshire Regiment attacking near Thiepval, 7 August 1916, during the Battle of the Somme.

During World War I, there were four distinct British armies.

The first comprised approximately 247,000 soldiers of the regular army, over half of which were posted overseas to garrison the British Empire, supported by some 210,000 reserves and a potential 60,000 additional reserves.

This component formed the backbone of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), which was formed for service in France and became known as the Old Contemptibles.

The second army was provided by the approximately 246,000-strong Territorial Force, initially allocated to home defence but used to reinforce the BEF after the regular army suffered heavy losses in the opening battles of the war.

The third army was Kitchener’s Army, comprising men who answered Lord Kitchener’s call for volunteers in 1914–1915 and which went into action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

The fourth army was the reinforcement of existing formations with conscripts after the introduction of compulsory service in January 1916.

By the end of 1918, the British Army had reached its maximum strength of 3,820,000 men and could field over 70 divisions.

The vast majority of the British Army fought in the main theatre of war on the Western Front in France and Belgium against the German Empire.

Some units were engaged in Italy and Salonika against Austria-Hungary and the Bulgarian Army, while other units fought in the Middle East,

Africa and Mesopotamia—mainly against the Ottoman Empire—and one battalion fought alongside the Japanese Army in China during the Siege of Tsingtao.

The war also posed problems for the army commanders, given that, prior to 1914, the largest formation any serving General in the BEF had commanded on operations was a division.

The expansion of the British Army saw some officers promoted from brigade to corps commander in less than a year.

Army commanders also had to cope with the new tactics and weapons that were developed. With the move from manoeuvre to trench warfare, both the infantry and the artillery had to learn how to work together.

During an offensive, and when in defence, they learned how to combine forces to defend the front line. Later in the war, when the Machine Gun Corps and the Tank Corps were added to the order of battle, they were also included in the new tactical doctrine.

The men at the front had to struggle with supply problems–there was a shortage of food; and disease was rife in the damp, rat-infested conditions.

Along with enemy action, many soldiers had to contend with new diseases: trench foot, trench fever and trench nephritis.

When the war ended in November 1918, British Army casualties, as the result of enemy action and disease, were recorded as 673,375 killed and missing, with another 1,643,469 wounded. The rush to demobilise at the end of the conflict substantially decreased the strength of the British Army, from its peak strength of 3,820,000 men in 1918 to 370,000 men by 1920.