July 22, 2005

Live-Blogging the Battle of Britain

A few weeks back, Right Wing Nuthouse "live-blogged" the Battle of Gettysburg. It was an interesting exercise - showing how much activity, bloodshed, and world-changing history was packed into three fateful summer days in 1863.

Never being one to let a foolish, over-committing challenge get in my way, I'm going to try to "live-blog" the Battle of Britain. What Gettysburg was for America, the Battle of Britain was for Western Civilization; before the Battle, the fate of Britain hung in the balance; Hitler was actively planning and preparing to launch an invasion across the English Channel as soon as air superiority could be won. The British Army in the home islands was a battered mess; most of the Army had been withdrawn from France in the chaotic evacuation at Dunkirk in early June, leaving behind practically all their artillery, tanks - really, every weapon heavier than a rifle. The Continent was under Nazi rule, and if the Germans could gain air superiority over the invasion beaches to shoulder aside the mighty (but overstretched) Royal Navy, Britain - and European civilization - would be finished.

We'll join the story on July 22, 1940.

The opening moves of the Battle had been underway for nearly two weeks. We'll meet our liveblogger, Sergeant Geoffrey Campbell. 30 years old, an eight year veteran of the Royal Air Force, Campbell was a native of Dunfermline, Scotland. During the Depression, he'd worked for a railroad as a laborer and then mechanic, until the line went out of business. He joined the RAF as a mechanic at age 22, in 1932. [1] His RAF career had taken him around the Isles - three years as a mechanic on old biplanes in various squadrons around the UK - and the world, including five years maintaining Vickers Vildebeest torpedo bombers in Singapore and at Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The beginning of the war brought him back to the UK, where he'd spent the previous year training other mechanics as the RAF frantically built up strength - and, after the Battle of France, rebuilt its strength. As the air campaign picked up its pace, he was transferred to a fighter squadron, 85 Squadron, based at Debden, in southeast England - in the thick of things.

Campbell has been married for two years to Kate, and has a daughter, Vera. They used to live near his base; he's sent them to stay with his parents in Scotland, thinking - hoping - that it'll be safer.

We'll join Sergeant Campbell shortly.

[1] If you want to be picky, he also never existed. Call him my dramatis persona, if you prefer.

Also please note that part of this project, for me, involves researching British, Scottish and UK Military slang of the era. That, I admit in advance, is going to be a work in progress. Feedback is welcomed.

Posted by Mitch at July 22, 2005 07:35 PM | TrackBack