By the summer of 1940, Hitler’s ‘Operation Sea Lion’ was in full swing. Hitler needed air superiority over the English Channel. This meant destroying RAF airfields in the south of England and the sources of aircraft production throughout the country. The enemy attacks started on 10 July 1940 and continued every day throughout summer – and so the Battle of Britain commenced.
The Battle of Britain Bunker is based at the former location of RAF Fighter Command in Uxbridge, UK. It was from this secret underground location that Britain’s response to the Battle of Britain – the ‘Dowding System’ named for Fighter Command’s Commander-in-Chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding – was conducted. A one-hour Bunker tour takes you down 76 steps in a small socially distanced group to see the original 1940’s Bunker and can be followed by a visit to the exhibition – a new 2,000 square metre complex on two levels, embracing the central themes of flight and aeroplanes.
Read more on the Battle of Britain Bunker:
Extra: Read my father’s eye-witness account of the Battle of Britain as a twelve-year-old:
Memories of the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz
In September 1940, when I was twelve years old, after ten weeks of evacuation in Wolverhampton, Bucks (a schools government evacuation programme) my brother Derek and I returned home to Chingford, Essex just in time for the commencement of the Battle of Britain!! Apart from continuous air raid siren warnings our lives were not seriously affected (our bit of London was on the Northeast outskirts). Our schooling was though, due to constant short-term closures and attendant erratic lessons. The main action we saw at this time were aircraft at 20,000 ft, mostly visible as criss-cross vapour trails and sometimes machine gun fire.
I well remember the bombing of the London docks, some distance from us but highly visible and audible due to the great fires that were started by the German bombers. The night-time bombings (the ‘’Blitz’’) caused the enormous disruption in our everyday lives. At first, we visited the air raid shelters at each raid warning but as the number and weight of the air raids increased, we would spend the whole night (and I mean every night) in the government provided ‘Anderson shelter’ (dad had to dig it in and erect it himself). We went into the shelter at six or seven every evening until the next morning. Bombs dropped in the Chingford area but none within half a mile of us until one night, during the winter, a land mine exploded across the street behind the row of houses opposite ours. I remember a great thundering explosion causing our shelter to vibrate and showering us with choking dust. The shelter saved our lives and we all survived, but people across the road did not. My father missed full exposure to the blast by a few minutes! Our house sustained the usual blast damage; front door halfway up the stairs, most windows shattered, furniture embedded with glass splinters, curtains torn etc. Next morning, surveying the damage my father said; ‘’Well, we’d better all have a good breakfast!!’’
The night sky was full of frantic activity; aircraft engines, anti-aircraft fire (a battery was a mile away), searchlights, shrapnel falling and bombs exploding from time to time. After weeks of shelter nights, we were again evacuated, privately this time due to my father’s efforts. We went to Little Harrowden, near Wellingborough, Northamptonshire where we remained for over a year, the whole family except dad; who continued working in London; the docks, East End, the lot.