Battle of Britain Fighter Pilots

“RAF Battle of Britain fighter pilots were mostly upper-class former public schoolboys.” – In fact, of the 2900 fighter pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain, (“The Few”), only 200 went to public (i.e. private) school. The bulk came from humble or grammar school backgrounds and 20 per cent were of foreign nationality – including Czechs, Poles, Americans and Canadians.
[The origins of this myth go back to the early days of the RAF. In the 1920s and 1930s it was widely believed that only public schoolboys provided the right material for military officers and the RAF recruited accordingly. When the Auxiliary Air Force was established in 1924 for reservist pilots, the only people who could afford to join where wealthy young men who didn’t need to spend six days every week at work. Thus the Aux AF became a social club for a certain class of people. With the rapid expansion of the RAF in the 1930s, the formation of the Volunteer Reserve introduced a new social class of pilots – the non-commissioned officer, (NCO). The VR strongly attracted young working men who wanted to learn how to fly – for free. With the coming of war, the initial strength of the RAF was built around a core of experienced regular officers, supplemented by the members of the Auxiliary Air Force and large numbers of Volunteer Reserve ‘Seargent Pilots’. The popular British wartime propaganda film ‘The First of the Few’, about the origins of the Spitfire and its role in the Battle of Britain, made with the help of Auxiliary and Regular Air Force pilots, was one of the first vehicles for the public schoolboy heroes myth.]

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