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Culture Documentary

Fighters in the sky



Fighters in the sky

Spitfire tells the story of the WWII airplane that helped save Britain

A single-propeller Spitfire loops and soars over the green British countryside, its pilot reveling in the craft’s liveliness. Spitfire, a documentary available on Netflix, tells the tale of the last of the fighter planes without a jet engine, a plane that became a symbol of British courage during the Second World War.

By 1940, the Nazi war machine had conquered nearly all of Europe. Adolf Hitler set his sights on the British Isles, and rather than launch an immediate invasion, the German dictator relied on the powerful Luftwaffe and its thousands of bombers and fighters to soften up resistance.

Airplane manufacturer Supermarine had developed a fast, powerful, and responsive fighter plane, the Spitfire. With a unique wing shape, a Rolls-Royce engine, and a narrow fuselage, it became an instant favorite of the Royal Air Force. British pilots were outnumbered 4 to 1 in 1940, although they had the advantage of radar technology.

The documentary lets veteran pilots tell most of the story. From the vantage point of their advancing years, they look back with amazement on the exploits of their late teens and early 20s, shaking their heads at their own youthful courage and naiveté. They describe the intense fear of every mission, when sweat poured down over their eyes and faces as they saw enemy planes all around. Some recall their prayers as they fought. They lost close friends and comrades, and the memories remain near the surface all these decades later. (A few instances of profanity dot the TV-14 film.)

After months of intense aerial fighting, the pilots won the Battle of Britain and the nation lived to fight on. The Spitfire saw 24 different iterations during the war years, becoming more powerful, able to chase and shoot down the hated German V-1 rocket missiles. By the end of the war, jet engines made the Spitfire less relevant. But the plane remains today a powerful reminder of when the freedom of the Western world hung in the balance.


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  • RC
    Posted: Fri, 11/15/2019 11:42 am

    I think the 4 to 1 comparison is over stated and offer the following with the source listed below:

    “Aircraft Numbers and Production

    The Battle of Britain famous as the triumph of the 'few', a small number of RAF fighter pilots who fought off the might of the Luftwaffe. This slightly distorts the reality of the battle in a number of ways. Perhaps the most important is that it underplays the contribution of the 'many' on the British side, including the ground crews who kept the 'few' in the air, the large numbers of men and women working in the control rooms, radar stations and as observers, the men of anti-aircraft and balloon commands and the factory workers who produced the new aircraft that allowed the RAF to continue the fight. The second distortion is that the RAF's fighter pilots were not dramatically outnumbered by their German equivalents. At the start of the battle the two German air fleets in Belgium and north-western France had around 700-800 Bf 109s, 1,000-1,200 bombers, just over 200 twin engined fighters and just under 300 dive bombers (mostly if not all Ju 87s). On 7 July Fighter Command had 644 available fighters and 1,259 pilots. Other parts of the RAF also took part in the battle, further balancing the picture.”