Battle of Britain: Remembering all the foreign pilots who fought for the RAF

Louis Dor
Thursday 15 September 2016 14:15
An RAF fighter station in England during the Battle of Britain, World War II, 16th August 1940. Two Polish pilots stationed with the RAF give the OK sign. On the left is Sergeant Glowacki, who has shot down one aircraft, whilst his companion has shot down two.(Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Seventy-six years ago, on September 15 1940, the Royal Air Force (RAF) claimed victory over the German Luftwaffe following a fierce aerial battle that came to be known as the Battle of Britain.

Thursday represented the 76th anniversary of the end of the battle, and ceremonial flights of Spitfires marked the occassion.

What many people forget about the battle is the huge influence that foreign pilots had on the outcome.

The RAF Roll of Honour recognises 574 pilots, from countries other than the United Kingdom, as flying at least one mission between 10 July to 31 October 1940, alongside 2,353 British pilots.

As the below chart by Statista shows, the largest contingent of these came from Polish people.


During the Battle of Britain, 544 RAF airmen lost their lives and a further 795 died before the end of the war.

Their names are listed on the Battle of Britain Memorial on the Victoria Embankment, in London.

2,500 Luftwaffe aircrew were killed in the battle, leaving military commanders to rethink their strategy, after which would follow 'The Blitz'.

Although the eight-month bombing campaign failed to significantly damage Britain's military operations, more than 40,000 civilians were killed, with huge damage done to some British cities, such as Coventry.

More: The moving reason you might have seen a soldier on your commute

More: This video shows the scale of losses in WWII