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All Posts, Military History

Guest Post: Geoff Simpson

The first edition of Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn was published by Gliddon Books in 1989. It was quickly established as a standard work of reference, though, as a senior RAF officer stressed to me recently, it is considerably more than that. A supplementary volume followed in 1992 and a second edition appeared from CCB in 1999.

In early 2010 Ken Wynn had completed the manuscript for a third edition but was seeking a publisher. A benefactor came forward who acquired the rights from CCB and immediately donated them to the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. “Wynn 3” appeared in 2015 from Frontline Books in association with the Memorial Trust. Its contents formed the basis of the Battle of Britain aircrew database which can be consulted electronically by visitors to the National Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne.

Ken Wynn, from his base in New Zealand, made an enormous contribution to recording the history of the Battle of Britain as did those who assisted him, including the late Bruce Burton who spent many hours immersed in the official records. The Memorial Trust salutes all that effort and achievement. It is determined to ensure that not only is the information preserved for future generations but that it is expanded and improved with the benefit of all the research carried out in recent years and the release of more records.

Entries continue to be revised and expanded and the Capel-le-Ferne database is updated from time to time. Now that space is not such a limiting factor it is possible to expand many of the entries to include more information on the family background of the subjects, their education, civilian careers and interests and other members of the family with military service.

Many people are contributing to this work. The Few themselves did so in the past and their families still do. Those who take a keen interest in the Battle often provide information and photographs. Special mention has to be made of the contributions made by Edward McManus, Gerry Burke and the genealogist, Gladys Armstrong. Support comes from individual Memorial Trust trustees, led by Richard Hunting, CBE, the Chairman.

Now Frontline Books, with the Memorial Trust, is publishing a further supplementary volume, the first for 28 years, containing many of the entries re-written since 2015 and newly-acquired photographs.

There is much additional information on RAF service. With the expansion of mini-biographies, readers of the new supplement can learn of two pilots with close links to James Bond (one of whom was related to James Bond). They can find that an obituary of a pilot killed in action in the Battle described him as having “a quiet voice and manner and a slow smile” and suggested that his time at Cranwell was “perhaps his happiest years”. There is the man whose paternal grandfather was a German tailor, the pre-war record clerk at Morris Radiators, the future ace whose introduction to flying was a joyride in an Avro 504 and the pilot, much of whose retirement was spent at the water’s edge, as a member of the fishing club at Leintwardine, Herefordshire. Another pilot, having retired from the RAF, would ride a scooter through London, carrying a rolled umbrella and wearing a bowler hat, while one of the Few boasted an ancestor who served in the Crimean War and went on to take formal possession of Cyprus for the British Crown.

Geoff Simpson

You can preorder a copy here.