Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 'Spitfire Summer' of 1940

Spitfire on display at the Imperial War Museum Main Hall
(Photograph: J. Ritson)

After the German breakthrough on the Western Front in the spring of 1940 the summertime in Britain that year later became known as 'Spitfire Summer'. This was because of the 'Battle of Britain' with the RAF battling against the German Luftwaffe to control the skies above Britain. While there were other aircraft in combat against the Luftwaffe at this stage in the war (notably the 'Hurricane') it was the 'Spitfire', and the young pilots in control of them, that most people remember.

For additional information click on 'Coments' below'.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Below is a brief 'timeline' of some of the events of WW2 war in 1939 / 1940, either side of the 'Spitfire Summer'.

A timeline of events in 1939 - 1940

1 September 1939:

Germany invades Poland
First evacuees arrive in West Cumberland

3 September 1939:
Britain & France declare war on Germany

29 September 1939:
Poland surrenders

11 October 1939:
Strength of the B.E.F. in France reaches 158,000

8 January 1940:
Wartime rationing begins in Britain

6 April 1940:
Germany invades Greece and Yugoslavia

8 April 1940:
Germany invades Norway and Denmark.

10 April 1940:
Battle of Narvik (Norway) between German and Allied troops

1 May 1940:
Norway surrenders. British troops evacuated from Norway.

10 May 1940:
“Britain’s Darkest Hour”:
The first German planes bomb Britain in this war
Germany attacks Belgium and the Netherlands
Neville Chamberlain resigns as British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill becomes British Prime Minister

13 May 1940:
Winston Churchill makes his “Blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech

14 May 1940:
Anthony Eden appeals for L.D.V. (later known as ‘Home Guard’)

26 May 1940:
‘Operation Dynamo’ begins (evacuation of troops from Dunkirk)

4 June 1940:
German forces finally capture Dunkirk

18 June 1940:
Winston Churchill makes his “Finest Hour” speech
Charles de Gaulle makes his famous ‘Appeal’ to the French

10 July 1940:
The ‘Battle of Britain’ begins (lasts until September)

9 October 1940:
German invasion of Britain (‘Operation Sealion’) postponed indefinitely.

Sunday, 18 April, 2010  
Blogger Cathie said...

It looks rather small in the picture, but sleek!
Does anyone remember that the same name was given to a small Triumph (!) sportscar in the sixties? And I sort of remember that its pilots were quite dashing too!

Sunday, 18 April, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Catherine - I think this is actually a scaled down model, and not actual size! I do have a few photos of the 'Battle of Britain Memorial Flight' (including the Spitfire) but this photograph shows the aircraft in more detail.

By all accounts, it was a dreadful time. Mainly, I tend to think of the events in France ad Belgium at this time. If the 'Battle of Britain' had been lost then how long would it have taken to be liberated in mainland Europe?

Sunday, 18 April, 2010  
Blogger Cathie said...

Thanks for the time line, it is clear and useful.
Just one addition: It is little known that evacuation went on until June 17/18 1940, with the last British forces being evacuated from St Malo - among them my pet company from the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps....
This was called Operation Ariel, conducted between the ports of Cherbourg and St Malo. The men were shipped to Weymouth, under the orders of Brig. G. Rush (of the appropriate name...) - before being sent to the Middle East, where they had come from to begin with.

Sunday, 18 April, 2010  
Blogger Cathie said...

--a scaled down model - indeed!
I thought it looked rather like a toy!
I agree with you about the rest, of course.
Have you ever read Roalh Dahl's stories that relate his experience as a pilot? I think the collection was called "Someone like you".

Sunday, 18 April, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

There is a book sponsored by the Imperial War Museum about the ‘Spitfire Summer’ of 1940, written by Malcolm Brown. The content draws upon the archives of the IWM and provides a good summary about this period of the war.

The book can be purchased from the IWM bookshop. Click on the link below to access the IWM bookshop information about it:

Wednesday, 28 April, 2010  
Anonymous Ady B-) said...

Below is a brief 'timeline' of some of the events of WW2 war in 1939 / 1940, either side of the 'Spitfire Summer'.

A timeline of events in 1939 - 1940

Could you include Operation Aerial in that list please

Sunday, 26 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Ady B - Thanks for your comment. No doubt you have alredy noted one of Catherine's 'Comments' above that mentions Operation Ariel (or 'Aerial' as it is sometimes written). Catherine also briefly explains what it involved.

If you have information you would like to share about 'Operation Ariel' please add another comment. It certainly merits further discussion.

Few people seem to remember that in June 1940 some of the BEF and the French Army continued to oppose the advancing Germans after the Dunkirk evacuation. The period tends not to be considered to anything like the same extent as the Dunkirk evacuation or the Battle of Britain. For example, the 'timeline' for 1940 on the BBC "People's War" website highlights 'Operation Dynamo' but not 'Operation Ariel'.

To view the BBC "People's War" timeline, click on the following link:

BBC People's War Timeline

For a more detailed summary of 'Operation Arial', click on the following Wikipedia pages:

Wikpedia Operation Ariel

Sunday, 26 June, 2011  

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