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Bader’s Spitfire Wing (Hardback)

Tangmere 1941

Aviation > Aircraft > Spitfires & Hurricanes Aviation > Royal Air Force Aviation > WWII > Luftwaffe

By Dilip Sarkar MBE
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 312
Illustrations: 170 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399017053
Published: 4th April 2022


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On 30 August 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, the pilots of RAF Fighter Command’s No.12 Group were requested to reinforce 11 Group and intercept a Luftwaffe raid on an aircraft factory at Hatfield. The events that day led the swashbuckling, legless, fighter pilot Douglas Bader to submit a report arguing that the more fighters he had at his disposal, the greater would be the execution of the enemy that could be achieved.

It was a concept that received support from 12 Group’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Leigh-Mallory. In Bader’s proposal, Leigh-Mallory saw an opportunity for 12 Group to play a greater part in what was clearly an historic battle. Leigh-Mallory authorised Bader to lead three, then five, squadrons – a controversial formation that came to be known as the ‘Duxford Wing’ or ‘Big Wing’.

For the rest of 1940, Bader and the ‘Big Wing’, then based at Duxford, played its part in the defence of Britain’s skies. Then, in March 1941, the role of ‘Wing Commander (Flying)’ was created. This was the fighter pilot’s dream appointment because the Wing Leader’s sole responsibility was leading his wing in action, unfettered by tedious administration and logistical matters.

Needless to say, Douglas Bader was amongst the first wing leaders. He was even given the choice of which Wing he preferred. He chose to take command of that based at Tangmere on the South Coast – right at the fore of the RAF’s battle against the Luftwaffe.

In Bader’s Spitfire Wing, Dilip Sarkar not only explores the full story of the men and machines of the Tangmere Wing in 1941, as well as the controversy that surrounds their use, he also fully investigates the part that they played in the RAF’s efforts to take the offensive to the Luftwaffe on the opposite side of the English Channel. It was in one such sortie in August 1941 that the Tangmere Wing lost its famous leader. Bader went on to spend the rest of the war in captivity.

"Whether you have feelings about Bader or not, this is an excellent book to gain insight into the summer of 1941 when, ready or not, the RAF went on the offensive."

The Journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation

"I found the book fascinating and thoroughly commend it to you all."

AeroModeller 1027 - December 2022

As Featured In

Sussex Life, October 2022

Read the review here

 Dilip Sarkar MBE

About Dilip Sarkar MBE

Dilip Sarkar has now written over sixty well-received books. Having enjoyed a privileged relationship with many of The Few, he is a globally acknowledged expert on the Battle of Britain, currently working on a career-topping eight volume official history for The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and National Memorial to The Few. Described by the late Dr Gordon Mitchell, son of the Spitfire’s designer RJ Mitchell, as an ‘aviation detective’, Dilip Sarkar did actually begin his professional life as just that – a police detective. His evidence-based approach and ability to discover new material is well-known – in 2023, for example, he was responsible for having Air Chief-Marshal Sir Keith Park, a New Zealander, officially recognised as one of The Few. Made an MBE for ‘services to aviation history’ in 2003, Dilip was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society in 2006, achieved First Class Honours in Modern History as a mature student in 2010, and in 2024 was made both a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and member of London’s Royal Air Force Club. During his long career, Dilip has exhibited and spoken internationally at such prestigious venues as Oxford University, the RAF Museum, IWM Museum, and Airborne Museum, Oosterbeek; he has worked on many TV documentaries, on and off screen, again internationally, and has an engaging presence on YouTube and Facebook in particular.

Perfect Partner

Bader’s Big Wing Controversy Duxford 1940 (Hardback)

Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader remains one of the most famous RAF fighter pilots to date, perhaps even the most famous of all, thanks to Paul Brickhill’s best-selling 1950s yarn Reach for the Sky and Dany Angel’s box office hit of the same name, starring Kenneth Moore. Bader, a graduate of the RAF College Cranwell and a professional, career officer, was a gifted sportsman and aerobatic pilot – but headstrong. After a crash that led to the amputation of both of his legs, the Second World War was this man of action’s salvation: passing a flying test, he returned to the RAF, first flying…

By Dilip Sarkar MBE

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