Royal Air Force 1939–1945

Volume 1: The Fight At Odds

By Dennis Richards


Crown Copyright Reserved

Printed and Published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office

Table of Contents


Prologue: The Awakening

Chapter 1: The ‘Dreadful Note of Preparation’

Chapter 2: La Drôle de Guerre: Bomber Command

Chapter 3: La Drôle de Guerre: Fighter and Coastal Commands. Training

Chapter 4: Scandinavian Misadventure

Chapter 5: Collapse in the West

Chapter 6: The Battle of Britain

Chapter 7: ‘The Blitz’

Chapter 8: German Blockade, British Bombing

Chapter 9: Middle East: The Opening Rounds

Chapter 10: Middle East: The Loss of Cyrenaica and Greece

Chapter 11: Middle East: Iraq, Crete and Syria

Chapter 12: The Struggle at Sea: the First Battle of the Convoy Routes, the Anti-Shipping Offensive, and the Escape of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau

Chapter 13: Towards the Offensive


Appendix 1. Members of the Air Council, 1934–1941

Appendix 2. Air Officers Commanding-in-Chief, 1936–1941

Appendix 3. Royal Air Force Command Organization, September 1939

Appendix 4. Royal Air Force Command Organization, January 1941

Appendix 5. First-Line Aircraft of the British, German and Italian Air Force, September 1938, September 1939 and August 1940

Appendix 6. Principal Operational Aircraft of the Royal Air Force, 1939–1941

Appendix 7. Principal Operational Aircraft of the German Air Force, 1939–1941

Appendix 8. Principal Operational Aircraft of the Italian Air Force, 1939–1941

Appendix 9. Royal Air Force Middle East, Subordinate Commands, 1940–1941

Appendix 10. Order of Battle, Fighter Command, August 1940

Appendix 11. Glossary of Code Names and Abbreviations


Maps and Diagrams

The Battle of the Atlantic (1), 3 September 1939–May 1940

The Norwegian Campaign, 1940

The German Assault in the West, May–June 1940

Radar Cover, September 1939 and September 1940

The Air Defences of England and Wales, August 1940

The Main German Attacks, 15 August 1940

Production and Wastage of Spitfires and Hurricanes, July–October 1940

The Battle of the Atlantic (2), June 1940–Mid-March 1941

Action of the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, 20 May–1 June 1941

Principal Targets Attacked by Bomber Command, 3 September 1939–31 December 1941

The Mediterranean

Aircraft Reinforcement Routes to the Middle East, 1941

Cyrenaica and the Western Desert, December 1940–April 1941

The German Invasion of Greece, April 1941

The Capture of Italian East Africa, January–April 1941

Habbaniya and Falluja, 30 April–19 May 1941

Crete, May 1941

Syria and Iraq, May–July 1941

The Battle of the Atlantic (3), Mid-March–December 1941

Coastal Command Group Boundaries

The Escape of the Brest Group to Germany, 11–13 February 1942


Air Chief Marshal Sir Cyril Newall—Bomber Airfield at Dusk—Hurricanes on Patrol—The Altmark Spotted—Seven Years Afterwards—Dunkirk—Some of the Few—Aircraft Cemetery—Night Fighters—the Top-Scoring Team—St. Clement Danes, 10th May 1941—Malta—Gladiators over the Western Desert—Wellesley over Italian East Africa—Tobruk, January 1941—Wrecked Italian Aircraft at El Adem—The U-Boat which Surrendered to an Aircraft—Shipping ‘Strike’