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Legion Magazine - Battle of Britain 30th Anniversary
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 A Battle of Britain Memory
From the Legion Magazine, September 1970
By Strome Galloway

On Sunday, September 20, the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Britain will be marked with ceremonies by Canadian Forces servicemen to honour those airmen who died In the great aerial battle over England in 1940. The Battle of Britain was the name Winston Churchill gave to the 114 days of aerial dogfights in the skies over Britain and the English Channel from July to October 1940. The destruction of 1763 German aircraft, 120 by Canadian flyers, resulted in one of the first major victories for the allies.

It was September 1940 – thirty summers ago. The Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force were testing their strength and their courage, their skill and their luck in the skies over that "green and pleasant land" which men call England, In the end the Battle of Britain, for so this testing was called, was won by the fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force, nine tenths of whom were Englishmen.

Some 95 Canadian aircrew took part in the battle. Of these, 26 were with the RCAF's No. 1 Fighter Squadron, 16 with the RAF'S No. 242 Squadron and the remaining 53 with miscellaneous aircrews in Fighter, Bomber and Coastal Commands. I was one of the few Canadians who might be called "participating spectators". We were army types who provided the ground and antiaircraft defences at RAF airfields. One of these airfields was RAF Station Odiham, in Hampshire.

Two years before, General Erhard Milch, Inspector-General of the Luftwaffe had opened officially the modem Hore-Belisha luxury air station at Odiham as the RAF's special guest. To commemorate the event a life sized oil portrait of the Nazi air chief had been hung over the mantelpiece in the main ante-room of the officers' mess. In August 1940, with the war almost a year in progress, the portrait still hung in Its place of honour. Meanwhile, Milch,who had been appointed Director of Aircraft Production in Germany and was soon to be promoted to Field Marshal
was doing everything in his power to destroy the RAF and thus help in


General Adolph Galland (second from left), director of Goering's fighter assaults during the Battle of Britain, is shown with the author (light uniform) at a social event in post-war Germany.   
the conquest of Britain.

One incident in the Battle of Britain occurred during a heavy raid on the Odlham area on September 7. The village was hit with some loss of life. The airfield also received a few bombs. The raid was brief, taking place shortly after dusk. The power went off, windows were shattered, the blackouts in the mess were knocked out of their frames. But it only took a few minutes to get things in order once the raiders had passed.
When the lights came on again, and the spelled whiskies scattered newspapers and magazines had been replenished or retrieved, a young RAF pilot suddenly noticed that the portrait of General Milch had been knocked askew by the  force of the blasts. I watched this slim youngster, wearing the up-to-then rarely seen DFC ribbon, rise out of a deep leather chair and cross the thick blue carpet to the fireplace. There, with gentle hands be straightened the crooked picture and then returned to his seat. A faint crackling of applause condoned his action. Then English heads bent down again deep into The Times, or Country Life, or Flight magazine.

Twenty-five years later I recalled this incident with Lieutenant-General Adolf Galland, then a Bonn businessman, and formerly Hitler's chief of Fighter aircraft during the Battle of Britain. Galland was one of Germany's greatest aces, totalling 70 "kill’s" before being promoted to the job of directing all  fighter activity over Britain in that fateful summer. Galland was responsible only to Hermann Goering, and in-extremis to Der Fuehrer himself. No other warlords interposed themselves.

When the Nazi air armada began to disappear under the British aerial counterattack, Goering stood on the  coast of occupied France gazing across the English Channel. Watching his  vaunted Luftwaffe being knocked out of the skies, he turned to Galland, suggesting with sarcasm that he must need something more to win the battle. "What do you want, Galland ?" he queried. "Perhaps a squadron of Spitfires, Herr Relchsmarschall", replied Galland in biting tones.


Despite his saucy answer, which undoubtedly wounded Goering's pride in his beloved Messerschmitts. Galland remained at his post. He soon became the first officer of the entire Wehrmacht to receive from Hitler's own hands the Oak Leaves with Swords badge to augment his already rare Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

Galland survived the war. In its very last days he left his desk and took to the air again as a fighter pilot, personally shooting it out once more with his country's aerial opponents as he had done in Poland and in the West five to six years before. His war memoirs, "The First and the Last" proved a bestseller during the 1950's. Today, an aircraft sales executive, he flies himself from appointment to appointment using a light aircraft and through the same skies where he once fought so gaily, then so desperately, many years ago.


When I recounted the incident of General Milch's portrait to "Dolfo" Galland, to use the nickname he gained during his days with the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War, he smiled and in his best English said, “Only in England, of course, is such chivalry possible."


Incidentally Galland will be a guest at the British Commonwealth Aircrew Reunion being held in Winnipeg this month. The event, bringing together flyers of all ranks who flew in any war for any British Commonwealth country, is being organized by a unique band of Winnipeggers called the Wartime Pilots and Observers Association. Other fighter aces of World War II attending are Britain's Air Vice-Marshal J .E. Johnson and Douglas Bader, the celebrated legless ace of the Battle of Britain who dined with Galland after being shot down and taken prisoner during the early part of the war. Another guest will be Air Commodore J. E. Fauquier of Toronto who knocked out Germany's V-I rocket sites at Peenemunde.