‘All to Little Purpose’

With the Battle of Britain over, RAF Fighter Command took the air war to the Germans by escorting small numbers of bombers with large numbers of fighters over France. The intention was to ‘bait’ the Luftwaffe into battle, but it was a costly and arguably flawed policy as Andy Saunders explains.


Spitfires of 74 Squadron on a Circus operation, summer 1941.
Air Vice Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, C-in-C 11 Group, RAF Fighter Command.
[1940 MEDIA]

By the late autumn and winter of 1940, rumours began to circulate amongst RAF fighter squadrons that offensive fighter operations over France would shortly commence. For the most part, it wasn’t something which met with much enthusiasm from the veterans who had survived the Battle of Britain. To a man, they were pretty much exhausted – both physically and mentally – and the new pilots, replacements direct from training units, didn’t have either the skills or experience to suitably equip them for the demanding operations which apparently lay ahead.

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