10 September 2010
On Wednesday 15 September the Royal New Zealand Air Force, together with the wider Defence Community, Diplomatic Corps, Government and members of the public, will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
A Commemorative Service at the National War Memorial at 11.00am will commence with a fly past by a Supermarine Spitfire (weather permitting).
Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Graham Lintott said the Battle of Britain was arguably the defining moment of World War II and one that had a significant New Zealand contribution.
“Many young New Zealanders fought with courage and determination during the Battle of Britain. Alongside the well-known heroes such as Sir Keith Park, over a hundred New Zealand aircrew fought alongside their British and Commonwealth counterparts. On Wednesday we remember them.”
Twenty young New Zealand airmen lost their lives with Fighter Command during the Battle.
Following the service is the opportunity to view for the first time at Te Papa, the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel. The panel, measuring 4.5 meters long and 1.62 meters wide, was one of 38 panels created to commemorate the battle. It will be on display at the museum for one day only.
It depicts aircraft and airmen descending down the middle of the panel, with key London buildings on either side. Due to its fragility the panel is usually kept under wraps, but will be on display especially for this significant day. After viewing the lace panel, veterans will be invited to the Air Force’s Air Movements terminal at Rongotai for a close up view of the Spitfire.
For visitors to the Air Force Museum at Wigram, an identical lace panel is on display until November as part of the 'Woven in War' exhibition, together with a Weta Workshop maqette of the Sir Keith Park statue set to be unveiled in London.
For more information please contact Anna Sussmilch, Defence Communications Group on 04 496 0286 or 021 676 338.
Media wishing to come out to the Air Movements terminal should please register with Anna Sussmilch on 04 496 0286 or 021 676 338 prior to Monday 13 September, or with Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki on 04 496 0294 or 021 420 899 after 13 September.
Photo id will be required on the day.
The Battle of Britain
During the summer and autumn of 1940, the German Luftwaffe embarked on a campaign to win air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF). The Germans saw victory over the RAF as crucial if they wanted to mount an invasion of the United Kingdom.
The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces. From July 1940 the Luftwaffe was ordered to attack coastal convoys and radar stations along England’s south coast. The attacks then shifted to RAF airfields, aircraft factories, infrastructure and, finally, civilian targets. This change in strategy meant a dilution of force and is seen as one of the principal reasons for the Luftwaffe losing the battle.
The mainstays of the RAF during the Battle of Britain were their two high performance fighters, the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire.
In addition the RAF also flew the Boulton Paul Defiant and Bristol Blenheim.
The primary fighter aircraft used by the Germans were the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Bf 110. Bombers consisted of the Junkers Ju 87 ‘Stuka’, Junkers Ju 88, Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17.
New Zealand’s Contribution
The RAF recognises around 130 Fighter Command aircrew from New Zealand who served in the Battle of Britain. Notable flying aces included pilots Colin Gray, Alan Deere and Brian Carbury.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) was established in 1937 and under the Empire Air Training Scheme (BCATP) contributed over 2500 fully trained pilots to serve with the RAF in Europe and the Middle East.
Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park
The most prominent New Zealander in the Battle of Britain for the RAF was Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park. As Air Officer Commanding 11 Group he was tasked with the defence of London and south-east England and played an integral role in the RAF’s success.
“If any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I do not believe it is realised how much that one man, with his leadership, his calm judgement and his skill, did to save, not only this country, but the world.”
Lord Tedder, Chief of the Royal Air Force, February 1947.
The Lace Panel
From 1942 to 1946, after two years of design and development, 38 lace panels were manufactured by Dobsons and M Browne and Co. Ltd in England to commemorate the Battle of Britain and to be a tribute to all those who fought in the Battle.
After the 38 panels were produced the jacquards (looms) were destroyed.
The panels were given to King George VI, Sir Winston Churchill, RAF units, Westminster Abby, the City of Nottingham (where the panels were woven), the City of London and personnel from Dobsons and Browne.
Panels were also gifted to New Zealand, Canada, Australia and South Africa who contributed to the RAF during the Battle.