13 Hours That Saved Britain (2010) Movie Script

On one day in September, 1940,
the Battle of Britain
reached its decisive moment.
Throughout the summer months,
Britain's Fighter Command had fought
a desperate battle against the Luftwaffe.
As far as the planes were concerned,
we'd never seen anything like it.
It was just awesome.
It was They were overhead.
There were masses of them.
They had only got to come across
the water, and they were here.
Everybody was in the front line.
The civilians were in the front line.
Beneath the battle-ridden skies,
people from all walks of life
became involved in the defence of Britain.
Age, situation, or circumstance
was no barrier.
It was a time that this country
was actually welded together
with one aim in mind,
to defeat the aggressor.
Each day, they faced
the grim realities of war.
The next thing he said,
"Now I'm standing on me own."
"The other man's on the floor.
He'd been bombed."
To me, as a child,
it seemed extraordinary fun.
And then I glanced to the right,
and I saw this huge formation
of Spitfires and Hurricanes
making their way directly towards
the formation of the bombers.
And it was just unbelievable
to see so many aircraft.
Never seen so many aircraft.
One day of dramatic aerial combat
would now decide the fate of the nation.
The role of the Luftwaffe
during the Battle of Britain
was to destroy Fighter Command,
to gain air superiority
to enable the invasion to take place,
to occupy Britain,
or to force us out of the war
on Nazi terms.
This is the story of that day,
15th September, 1940,
and 13 hours that saved Britain.
Hitler's Nazi Germany
dominates Europe.
His armed forces have swept
across the continent,
crushing all opposition.
Of his enemies,
only Britain remains undefeated.
The rest of Europe
was either in thrall to Nazi Germany
or had been conquered.
Poland, Denmark, Norway, France,
Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg.
These countries had fallen.
So, Germany was at the peak of his powers.
Hermann Goering,
head of the Luftwaffe,
believes that attacks
by German Air Force alone
can bring Britain to its knees.
He has promised the Fhrer
that the Royal Air Force
will be swept from the skies.
The German Air Force
had concentrated on the Royal Air Force,
both in the air and on the ground,
the fighter airfields.
Germans were flying
what they term "free hunts",
A hundred, 150 fighters
sweeping over southern Britain,
hunting out the Hurricane and Spitfires.
An instruction went out to our pilots
not to engage these fighters
unless they were escorting bombers.
So, the myth started to grow
that the Royal Air Force
was being depleted and defeated.
The following events take place
between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.,
13 hours that proved a turning point
in the war with Germany.
6:34 a.m.
Sunday dawns for a country
that has lived in fear of invasion
for more than three months.
We had the Germans
knocking at the door.
The Air Force had been overwhelmed.
They would have been in London
within a week or so.
We couldn't have stopped it.
When France fell,
we didn't think we had a chance.
I mean, they had only got to come
across the water, and they were here.
We were very conscious of the fact
that if we lost it
I won't say the game was up,
but the battle, the war
would have been fought on our territory.
I think to any outside observer,
you'd think
"Well, how can that small country
survive against this might"
"Organised might?"
I said to this old soldier
"Tell me, what are we gonna do
if the Germans come?"
He said, "If the Germans come, son,
you will do what you're told."
Our sort of captain,
Mainwaring Captain, was replaced,
and he used to finish each parade,
"Before I dismiss you, remember, boys,
take no prisoners, shoot the bastards."
And your motto is: Kill the bosh!
And then, he'd go,
with his revolver, "Kill, kill, kill."
It encapsulates the exact attitude
of the British people at that time.
Britain's Air Defence network
prepares itself for the 13 hours ahead.
The Air Defence of Great Britain
was divided up into four fighter groups,
10 Group covering the Southwest,
11 Group, London and the South East,
12 Group, the Midlands, the East Coast,
and Number 13 Group, defending parts
of North East Scotland
and Northern Ireland.
As the day begins, one squadron
from each sector is brought to readiness.
The integrated Air Defence
of the United Kingdom
is all down to the foresight
of Sir Hugh Dowding.
When he took over Fighter Command,
he reorganised the Air Defence
of the United Kingdom
-into the group system.
The Germans had nothing like it,
and in fact, they just did not realise
what they were up against.
8:02 a.m.
A lone German Heinkel bomber
on a weather reconnaissance flight
flies westward along the English Channel.
Out of range of British fighters,
its progress is monitored
by an innovation that is the cornerstone
of Dowding's air defence system.
We had radar, which, of course,
gave us eyes into the continent,
so we could see the build-up of aircraft,
and we could see the aircraft
coming across, uh, towards the UK.
This would give us time
to get the aircraft up off the ground
and into position
to meet any given threat.
This information would go
from the, uh, radar stations,
uh, to headquarters, Fighter Command.
It was filtered,
passed to their operations room,
-and then passed direct to the group.
They would place the plots on the table,
and these were being tracked in by radar.
CH radar was entirely
in the business of defence.
In other words, picking up bombers
at 90 miles' range
before they ever started
crossing the channel
or heading in our direction.
They were seen on the screen
the moment they got up in the air.
The course flown
by the lone Heinkel
eventually brings it
within range of British fighters.
The controller of the day
would watch this,
he would then alert
whichever sector station he wanted.
The sector controller's job
was to get his aircraft off the ground
to vector them
towards the enemy formations.
The sector controller
scrambles two Hurricanes from Exeter
to intercept the intruder.
None of its five-man crew survives.
They are the first casualties of the day.
For the people of South East England,
increasingly accustomed
to living in the shadow of war,
it's a Sunday morning like many others.
But it will not be a day of rest for many.
for hop-picking is around again,
and the family is setting out
on its pilgrimage
to the green fields of Kent.
For some children,
it is the start of another day
of a working holiday in the countryside,
far from the dangers of war.
We used to go to hop-picking
the same farm every year in September.
Now, it was traditional to wait for
We used to have two notifications,
about ten days before we actually went,
when Mum and Dad used to get a card
saying, "We booked a bin and hut for you."
'Cause if you was agricultural workers,
at that time, 1940, you got extra rations.
Summer term of 1940,
attending Dartford Junior
Technical College,
uh, and a notice came 'round
asking for volunteers to go fruit-picking
in the coming autumn. Um
Apparently, um, all accommodation,
food would be provided, free of charge,
and we'd be paid for the work we did.
In the East End of London,
Mary Sterry is looking forward
to a big family occasion.
My uncle was getting married.
We didn't know
the girl he was getting married,
but we were told
that she was a young actress.
We had been invited to the wedding.
My father, all us kids
The one getting married,
Uncle Tom, was only, um
Was younger than my dad.
And they didn't want us to go, did they?
But, oh, we went.
Herbert Hurry is getting ready
to join his workmates
for a fund-raising football match.
I played a lot of football.
And, uh, in me time, I played
at one or two decent grounds, but, uh,
yeah, they knew that at work.
But my foreman was a decent type,
and, uh, he said, "If you clean my car,
I'll let you off to play football."
We used to play down by Wormwood Scrubs
and attract a thousand people on a Sunday.
9:00 a.m.
While London stirs into life,
at bases in Occupied France,
Luftwaffe aircrews prepare their aircraft
for a major attack,
one they expect to be decisive.
There was a meeting in The Hague
in Holland headed by Hermann Goering.
At this meeting,
the state of the Royal Air Force,
in particular, Fighter Command,
was discussed.
German pilots were going back
claiming maybe they'd shot down
10, 20 Hurricanes and Spitfires.
In reality, only five.
The Germans believed
that the Royal Air Force
was now on the verge of defeat,
and they mounted two major raids.
10:30 a.m.
Britain's air defences are on full alert.
But now, Air Vice Marshal Keith Park,
commander of 11 Group,
receives unexpected news.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
has chosen today
to visit 11 Group's Command Centre.
In full view
of the controller here at Uxbridge,
he could see the German forces
assembling over the continent
before they cross the channel.
Churchill watches markers
appear on the table,
indicating a build up
of German bomber squadrons
making their way to rendezvous points
over the French coast.
Starting from a few aircraft
coming over the
Or near England
and the south and east coast,
to suddenly having to put up 250 plus
was very, very scary.
'Cause you couldn't imagine
that many aeroplanes coming over.
And were we going to survive?
11:05 a.m.
Two squadrons of Spitfires from 11 Group
are scrambled from Biggin Hill.
Climbing fast, they set course
for their allotted patrol area
25,000 feet above Canterbury.
The system swings into action
as Park's controllers
scramble more squadrons.
Somebody would tell you that there were
200 plus, 100 plus, 50 plus coming over.
A raid did build up,
well, like a thunderstorm.
The Luftwaffe formations,
comprising more than 200 aircraft,
wheel towards England.
Their target, London.
Their course will take them
over the farms and fields of Kent.
Our neighbour said to me,
"Your mother's calling you, Albert."
So I think she wanted me
to carry something back to the huts.
As I walked back to the huts,
we heard a heavy drone of aircraft.
The weather was fine, clear skies,
nice autumn days.
And then--
Then after that, it all happened.
The aircraft of Fighter Command
are about to be drawn into a major battle
above the Garden of England.
The fate of the nation
hangs upon its outcome.
11:36 a.m., 15th of September, 1940.
Luftwaffe formations
cross the English coast at Folkestone.
The only opposition they meet
is anti-aircraft fire from the ground,
reinforcing their belief
that the Royal Air Force
is on the verge of defeat,
and London is exposed to attack.
Civilians in Kent have a ringside seat
for the tumultuous events that'll follow.
They weren't dropping bombs,
they were just flying steadily.
Not speeding like they do today,
just steadily,
masses of them, flying inland.
Sitting alone in his garden,
Graham Matthews watches
almost 200 enemy aircraft
cross the skies of Kent.
I was in this garden.
In fact, I was sitting on the steps
right behind me here,
uh, when I heard the German bombers
coming over.
Uh, and I could see
this column of German planes
they were flying
into these big puffs of flak
put up by anti-aircraft guns.
Once the enemy aircraft
had crossed the coastline,
radar was technically redundant.
So, it was the Observer Corps,
simply by looking through a rangefinder,
binoculars identify the aircraft,
height, direction, and number,
feeding that information
back to an observer centre,
and from that centre,
simultaneously to the command sector,
and to group.
Having got your plots,
it was then up to the controller
to say what you wanted done with them.
When there was a battle on,
you would plot your plots,
and you could see the combat
coming nearer and nearer.
Precise information
on the raiders' progress
is relayed to RAF fighter squadrons.
When you hear the sirens
or anti-aircraft guns,
you must get undercover at once.
You must not stand staring up at the sky.
The siren went,
and, of course, as a six-year-old,
I thought, this is it, war, war.
So I zoomed out to the, uh, front door
and stood there,
waiting to see all the soldiers
with their guns,
and firing, and shooting,
and sword-fighting, and all that.
Most people went to the underground,
or if they had an Anderson sort of shelter
in a tin place
at the bottom of the garden.
My next door neighbour,
he dug a hole underneath his garage.
If I was at home,
I'd go down there and shelter.
Above Canterbury,
patrolling Spitfires
of 92 and 72 Squadrons
have spotted the enemy formations
and dived in to attack.
Along with other children,
Ray Binks has been sent from London
to the safety of rural Kent.
But he soon discovered
that the front line of the aerial battle
now runs through the fields and villages
of Southern England.
We were watching
all these air battles going on
and all of a sudden, from across
the trees was this German bomber,
came across so low
that you felt you needed to duck.
And behind it
was one of our fighter aircraft,
and they're both having a go
at each other.
And the engagement
initially only lasted a couple of seconds.
And then, you would then break away,
and then attack them individually again
until either you were out of ammunition,
or for one reason or another,
you weren't able to attack anything.
More British fighter squadrons
join the action.
Our boys were coming out of the sky
and, uh, shooting them up.
And they were going up,
and there was these vapour trails.
You had vapour trails all over the sky.
Um, it was just like a lacework pattern.
So you'd hear the roar of the engines,
and the stutter of the guns,
and, uh, screaming.
Well, screaming of the engines, really.
You would see the smoke
start pouring out of one,
and then it plummets to the ground.
Drawing nearer to London,
the beleaguered German formations
reach the village of Chislehurst.
My father had heard
that Chislehurst Caves was a place
where people used to go
who were bombed out.
So he said, "Let's get into the van,"
and we go to the caves.
Not hardly any light in at all.
They gave us the hurricane lamps
to find our way in.
They gave us mattresses to lay on,
on the floor, blankets
And we were one of the early ones then,
because that was just at the start of it.
And there was very few people here.
There was no, uh, no sound of aircraft,
or bombs, or guns.
But Ron has no intention
of missing the excitement
taking place overhead.
He leaves the shelter of the caves.
I was more interested
in watching what was going on,
and I saw this huge formation
of Spitfires and Hurricanes,
more than I'd seen before, I should say
roughly, again, about 50 or 60 of them,
making their way directly towards
the formation of the bombers.
12:07 a.m.
Hard-pressed and stripped
of most of their fighter escort,
the German bomber formations
arrive over London.
You could hear the, um, throbbing
of these, uh, aircraft.
That was It was pretty eerie, I must say.
You could hear It was droning.
Well, you know, sort of
And you think, "Oh, my gosh,
we're going to be in for it."
Twin brothers
Geoffrey and Alan Lee Williams
are already accomplished plane spotters.
We knew all the aircraft
before we joined the ATC
'cause every book we bought
was about aircraft recognition.
The German bombers,
especially the Heinkels,
they made a very distinctive noise,
so you could tell the difference between
a German plane and a British plane.
12:08 p.m.
Park has six fighter squadrons
over the capital itself,
with six more en route
from neighbouring groups.
More than 125 RAF fighters
are about to fall
on the Luftwaffe formations.
Once the fighters were up there,
there was no anti-aircraft firing.
You know, otherwise,
our aircraft would have been vulnerable.
Clear blue sky above us.
The bombers were about
15,000 to 20,000 feet up, I think,
and the fighters were above them
and beneath them.
And the fighters
were attacking each other.
The Hurricanes were attacking the bombers,
as far as we can detect,
and the Spitfires
were attacking the Messerschmitts.
There was this chap that I attacked,
and I remember being very close to it.
And I remember also, uh,
it splattering bits and pieces.
It's rather like hitting water
with the back of a spoon.
You know, you see things
fly off in all directions.
High over London,
five squadrons from 12 Group
now enter the fray.
There were that many RAF fighters
in the sky.
Technically, they were getting
in each other's way.
You got yourself tangled up
with these things with black swastikas
and crosses on them and things.
Occasionally, you would find
you were mixed up in a dogfight,
and a Spitfire would whiz past,
and you'd think,
"Ah, there's somebody else here as well."
"A friend."
But, uh, otherwise, you didn't see them.
You'd lost contact
with all your own aircraft after all.
One minute, the sky was a tangled mass
of whirling aircraft,
and you fastened on to one
and went off in one direction.
And by the time you'd finished with that,
you looked 'round,
there was nobody to be seen anywhere.
Looking up, I couldn't tell
which was which.
I mean, to me, they looked
like giant moths playing "You're it."
But I couldn't tell which was ours
and which was theirs.
For the German airman,
as he crossed over, believing
that the Royal Air Force was defeated,
to be confronted by another
50 to 60 Hurricanes and Spitfires,
you can imagine how their morale felt.
A lot of the bombers,
once they got to London,
they quickly turned 'round.
And as they flew back,
they got rid of the bombs.
I don't remember hearing a noise at all.
I think the bomb was so close,
that we didn't hear a noise,
but we felt the blast.
And we were picked up
and thrown into the wool shop.
And, of course, the blast, uh,
had reached the window and blown it in
before it blew us through the
A fraction of a fraction of a second
between the two events.
Thank God, because if we had
actually gone through the glass,
I think it might well have killed us.
And then, as I was about to deliver
another attack on the same aeroplanes,
um, the crew began to bail out.
And I was immediately behind it.
And I remember seeing things
I didn't really recognise to start with,
until they flew
past the top of my cockpit,
and I realised they were arms and legs.
A German aircraft was shot down
just over, um, our area,
and the pilot parachuted into the grounds
of the old Bedlam lunatic asylum
which is now the Imperial War Museum.
Um, he was immediately surrounded
by as many people as you can name,
um, all very, very angry, of course.
12:11 p.m.
The German formations
turn away from London
and head back towards the English Channel,
harried all the way
by Spitfires and Hurricanes.
Two of the bomber pilots
decided it was time to go home.
They didn't fancy They had never seen
so many Spitfires and Hurricanes together
in one time.
So, they took a turn.
They broke off
from the right side of the, uh, formation,
which brought the two of them towards me.
As they were coming over,
they thought they'd get a bit more speed,
so they started to jettison their bombs.
One of the bombs came down quite near me,
but being young, and energetic,
and quite fit, I was able to run.
I felt the blast of the bomb, but I ran.
Managed to keep my feet,
I ran into the caves.
When the German formation
started its retreat from London,
uh, RAF fighters were concentrating
on trying to bring the aircraft down.
The German commander
of that formation, Alois Lindmayer,
kept his formation together
as tightly as possible,
knowing that if they split up, uh,
individual aircraft would be doomed.
And he beat a brilliant tactical retreat,
he managed to get most of his formation
back across the channel.
12:55 p.m.
"All Clear" sounds over London
and the South East.
When we came out,
we saw that our house and business,
which was a fruiterers and greengrocers
belonging to my father,
was completely ruined.
Everything was smashed to smithereens,
had nothing left at all.
I had a friend at school,
and we'd decided that we'd meet up
at the weekend,
and I would cycle over to his house.
And when I got to the cottage,
there was just a heap of rubble.
There was no The house had gone.
I leapt up and opened my window,
and sure enough, there in the gutter,
was a big, plump chicken.
I shouted to my little, tiny brother
at the time,
"We're going to have
chicken tonight, David!"
It turned out that, um,
what our dead chicken was, was
It was a very plump lady
who was in the houses down the road,
and it was that much of her arm
that had got blown onto our roof.
That was suddenly, um
a little boy growing up very quickly
and thinking war is not much fun.
They asked me to carry mugs of tea
to the firemen
who were still fighting the flames,
the ambulance people
who were still dealing with people
who were trapped
in some of the burnt buildings.
We stayed there, I think,
till most of the day,
until the fires had all calmed down.
But it was an experience
that's impinged on the mind
to such an extent, it'll never go away.
1:00 p.m.
In the operations room of 11 Group,
the plotting map is cleared
of enemy markers.
The Luftwaffe attack
has been heavily disrupted.
They have lost 18 aircraft.
The RAF, 13.
But more hard fighting lies ahead.
The Luftwaffe is gathering its forces
for a second, far greater assault
that will push Fighter Command
to the very limit.
1:05 p.m., 15th of September, 1940.
German bombing raids have shattered
the peace of Sunday morning.
The people of London
and South East England
begin dealing
with the aftermath of the raid.
Some discover more than just debris
and destruction.
We were in our shelter,
and we crept out.
And in the first apple tree
down the garden,
there was a parachute, opened.
No sign of an airman, just the parachute.
This little pickup truck came along,
I think it was a Hillman or an Austin,
um, with four or five home guard
in the back.
Uh, and I think they had one rifle,
and they asked us
where the parachutists had come down.
And so, we told them, and off they went.
We were told to keep them covered
and make them take off their parachute.
When they were captured,
those German pilots,
they were so arrogant,
they couldn't do anything with them
'cause they thought they would be,
uh, released in a few weeks,
the Brits were gonna give in.
I think if someone's
dropping bombs on you,
you don't like those people very much.
You know, they, um
There used to be a saying going around,
that the only good German
was a dead German.
The other thing was,
which lightened it up for us kids,
was searching for shrapnel.
Shrapnel became a sort of currency
amongst small boys.
You could swap cigarette cards
for shrapnel, or the other way around.
You know, a really good conker
would be worth a piece of shrapnel.
Uh, and so, getting out into the streets
first was quite important.
What you got there?
Oh, that will make a good souvenir!
There would be competitions
between other boys
Mostly boys. Girls as well, I suppose.
But mostly boys.
-of how much, um, you collected.
We collected buckets of the stuff.
We did find a live incendiary bomb.
So, I took it along to my friend's house,
who lives a bit further this way,
and, um, he got it on the work bench.
And he's drilling a hole in it,
and, of course, the magnesium
And the drill bit was getting hot,
and there was vivid blue or mauve flame
coming off the bomb,
and I decided to get out of it
as quickly as possible.
And I went and told his mum.
He was rather upset about that.
You know, stopped his fun.
As soon as the, uh, people
had cleared the bomb site, we were on it.
What we were mainly looking for
were pennies
that, you know, might have got buried
in there that somebody--
A little hoard of things, um
Wasn't very nice,
when you come to think of it.
But then, of course, it, uh
There was the sort of lightness
for us as children,
little bit of adventure that, uh
after all the horrors.
1:40 p.m.
Reports are streaming in,
as the electronic eyes
of the radar network
detect another build-up
of enemy aircraft across the channel.
In the afternoon, radar picked up
an even larger formation
forming up and crossing over the channel.
Although it couldn't give an exact number,
it was estimated to be 400 plus aircraft.
Our aircraft, of course,
after morning raid,
had returned to ground
to rearm and refuel,
and were back up in the sky
to meet this threat.
The Luftwaffe
forms three huge columns of aircraft.
This aerial armada is determined
to batter its way through all opposition.
We didn't really know what to expect.
Well, we were all praying
that, um, the Air Force were gonna be
strong enough to hold out.
You adopt
a sort of fatalistic attitude to it.
You just carry on as best you can.
There was a phrase during the war which--
Saying is that if a bomb
has got your name on it,
that's the one to worry about.
But at my age,
you couldn't be killed anyway, could you?
It was, um It was a big adventure.
1:45 p.m.
A lone Spitfire
is ordered high over the English Channel
to wait for the incoming air fleets
and relay visual reports
to ground controllers.
Meanwhile, Mary is under the impression
that her memorable Sunday is over.
She had a white wedding dress,
and she had some flowers.
Just little, tiny flowers
in her hair, you know.
Anyway, once they'd got married,
they came out the church, right?
Got in their car and disappeared.
My father said,
"Come on, let's go home then!"
We'd never known
anything like this before,
and the only consolation we had
was that everyone was in the same boat.
Twenty-six thousand feet
above the English coast,
the lone, forward-patrolling Spitfire
spots the incoming German formations.
Five minutes later,
more than 450 enemy aircraft
begin to cross the English coast.
As each of his squadrons
returns to combat readiness,
Air Vice Marshal Keith Park
orders them airborne once more.
And again, he requests help
from neighbouring groups.
Okay. Okay, chaps, scramble.
2:05 p.m.,
275 fighters are scrambled
to face more than 100 bombers,
escorted by over 350 enemy fighters.
Throughout South East England,
the air-raid sirens scream their warning.
This is red observer.
We got hostiles, 30 plus.
They herald the approach
of the enemy air fleet
and a battle
fast moving towards its climax.
2:14 p.m.
The first clashes take place
high above Romney Marsh
as three Spitfire squadrons
throw themselves into a steep dive
to attack the enemy formations.
I saw all these hundreds of Germans
coming in
and, uh, we went in as a squadron
to attack the bombers.
So, I went in at this Heinkel,
they were in close formation,
and the gunner never fired back at me.
I always thought
that somebody had been at him first.
But anyway, I got an engine blazing.
So the Spitfires would come down
to, um, see to them,
and the 109s would come down
to attack the Spitfires.
So, by the time we got off the end
of squirting at a whole line of bombers,
uh, all hell was let loose.
Speed and surprise drives them
through the escorting fighters
and onto the bombers.
Had a quick poke at a bomber,
then been bounced
by the 109 escort yourself.
So you would had to concentrate
on saving yourself from the 109s.
German fighters
are hampered by orders
to stick close to the bomber formations
and struggle to beat off
the initial attacks.
I was cycling along when I saw
this aircraft coming towards me.
Very, very low, rooftop height.
I jumped off my bicycle
and quickly ran into the station,
and then realised
the station wasn't a safe place to be
because that could obviously be a target.
The German formations battle
through to the outskirts of London.
We went into the Anderson shelter.
And then, people started to say,
"Look at this!"
And, of course, we all piled out
to see what this was.
And it was just unbelievable to see
so many aircraft.
Never seen so many aircraft.
2:30 p.m.
The first of London's
anti-aircraft batteries open fire.
With little more
than 200 heavy guns available,
London is desperately short
of anti-aircraft artillery.
But the barrage unsettles
the approaching bombers
and acts as a beacon for British fighters.
The first thing we would see
is the cloud of anti-aircraft fire.
We seldom saw aircraft in the air
'cause you could pass 500 aeroplanes
flying in the opposite direction,
two miles away, and not see a thing.
All we used to see
were the anti-aircraft shells bursting,
and we would fly towards them.
And then, in the middle of those,
of course, would be the bombers.
In fact, we used to say
that the only useful thing
that the anti-aircraft did
was to provide the puffs in the air
which enabled us to see the bombers.
My chum came in,
all his clothes had little holes in it,
and it was shrapnel from the big guns,
uh, from the park, you know.
And they-- All the shrapnel
had gone through him,
burnt holes all over his suit.
Stretching out over town
and countryside,
60 miles back to the English coastline,
the sky is dotted
with twisting, turning aircraft
and streaks of vapour and smoke.
What we can remember
is the coming down in smoke,
and screaming,
and that sort of thing, uh,
spiralling down in a column of smoke
and hitting the--
When they hit the ground.
2:33 p.m.
The command system is becoming overloaded
with reports of squadrons engaging
and dogfights underway.
The situation boards
and the plotters' activity
tell a story of total commitment.
One would have the impression
that during the battle,
the operations room
would be calm, controlled, and orderly.
According to one of the ladies
that worked here, when aircraft were up,
it was chaotic and extremely noisy.
X for X-ray, four, two, 12, seven
Churchill observes
the crowded plotting table,
sensing that the action
is approaching a climax.
He looks for signs
of squadrons being held in reserve.
He asked Park,
"How many reserve do we have left?"
And the answer was, "None."
Everything was committed
for the afternoon raid.
Park, later described as a man
who could have lost the war
in an afternoon,
has sent every available squadron
into action.
The decisive hour has arrived.
2:45 p.m., 15th of September, 1940.
The battle rages over South East England.
Every available RAF fighter squadron
is airborne and committed.
British pilots are pushing themselves
to the very limit.
But inevitably, bombs begin to fall
on the capital.
By the time they arrived over the city,
London was covered in cloud.
They could not see their targets,
so they just threw
their bombs out indiscriminately.
All of a sudden,
there was this tremendous thump.
And the house shook.
And I heard a bomb drop quite close,
and then another one much closer.
And I remember thinking to myself,
I hope there's not a third, but there was.
All the lights went out,
it was pitch dark,
all the dirt and dust
came up from the floor.
Everyone was choking,
but fortunately, we were alive.
Right next door to us
was the pickle factory.
Well, that got hit,
and there was pickles flying everywhere.
There were bottles bursting,
and, oh, everywhere, it goes.
And we went home with the bikes, you know.
There was pickles flying everywhere.
Bombs dropped,
and they dropped with a hell of a bang.
And windows got blown in,
and roofs got blown off.
And very strange things
happened to houses.
You'd get them sliced right through.
And there'd be a gap,
and you would see all the wallpaper
of all the rooms
of that house that was still standing,
but these were the ghosts
of the house that had gone.
I remember coming out of the church
and realising that we was being bombed.
Well, my dad said, "Under cover!"
There was so many bombs falling then,
and they were falling down, believe me.
'Cause the bombs was falling down,
we was running here,
there, and everywhere,
trying to get out the way.
We went into the shelter,
except my brother who wanted to go home
with his wife and the baby.
The bomb came down
at the front of the shelter
and pushed him down
on top of his wife and the baby.
So they were saved, but he was gone.
And that was the last time I see him.
During the war, people got killed,
but you never looked at it
from that point of view.
I suppose the fighter pilots
were the same, really.
They're just glad
that they shot someone down.
It was either them or us.
Bombs have been scattered
over a wide area of South East London.
Now, the raiders turn for home.
Their escort fighters have already left,
with barely enough fuel
for the return flight.
And then, they were sitting ducks.
And that's why there were
so many German bombers shot down.
3:15 p.m.
As the retreating bombers
reach the channel,
they are met by fresh German fighters,
hastily dispatched from bases in France.
Fresh British fighters,
racing towards the battle
from bases in Exeter, engage them.
But British fighters are forced
to abandon the chase.
They are low on fuel and ammunition,
and forbidden to pursue the enemy
out across the sea.
With ominous clouds piling in the skies,
the threat
of further aerial action recedes,
much to the relief of all who have fought
and lived through this day.
5:25 p.m.
One last Luftwaffe daylight raid
is plotted.
In spite of a gruelling day's fighting,
several RAF squadrons
again take to the air.
The enemy raiders are a fast
hit-and-run force of fighter-bombers
targeting the Spitfire works
at Southampton.
But they are driven off
without loss to either side.
For Fighter Command,
it is their last major action of the day.
Today was the most costly
for the German Air Force
for nearly a month.
In daylight raids, between 350
and 400 enemy aircraft were launched
in two attacks against London
and South East England.
About half of them were shot down.
In the heat of battle,
RAF pilots believe they've shot down
many more aircraft than they have.
Actual German losses
are more down-to-earth.
The Luftwaffe has lost 79 aircraft
and more than 130 aircrew,
compared to RAF losses of 29 aircraft
with 12 pilots killed.
Nonetheless, it represents
a stunning victory.
It was a defining point in the war.
Two days later,
Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion.
He realised that the Luftwaffe
had not defeated the Royal Air Force,
therefore, the invasion
could not go ahead.
And you felt so proud
of these wonderful young men
who was defending us.
Yes, I mean, you, um
They were, in that sense, heroes to us.
These were people giving their lives
and protecting us.
And if I could have, you know,
learnt how to fly an aeroplane,
I'd have been up there.
I wouldn't, of course.
My mother wouldn't let me.
The 15th of September, 1940
was the finest hour in our history
because we came so near to defeat.
It was a time when Hitler thought
he would be able to bring us to our knees,
and he failed.
It was just, you know,
a remarkable outcome,
and here we are to tell the story.
We were at an air-raid shelter,
when an RAF pilot came in.
-And people stood up
-Yes, oh, yes.
-and applauded him.
-Yes, yeah.
He was only a young chaplain, but
No medals,
but he had his, you know, wings.
He was waiting, I think,
to do great things.
But he looked so young,
but everyone stood up in that shelter.
And rather like a theatre performance,
they applauded him.
The fighter squadrons,
a highly-organised defence system,
and the national spirit of resilience
have taught the Nazi regime
an abrupt lesson.
It is their first military defeat.
There will be bombing raids
on British cities
under the cover of night.
There will be four more years
of hard fighting.
But Britain itself has been saved.
The British people have maintained
their freedom
and secured their island home
from invasion.