The Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain took place from July to October 1940. Airmen and ground crew alike who served in the campaign had connections to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has a proud aviation history. During the Second World War, there were several military airfields in operation in the country such as RAF Sydenham and RAF Long Kesh. The USAAF and Polish Squadrons of the Royal Air Force temporarily called Ulster home and the Battle of the Atlantic is well-documented.

From July to October 1940, the Battle of Britain raged in the skies over the United Kingdom. The name “Battle of Britain” was first used on 18th June 1940 in a speech from Winston Churchill to the House of Commons.

What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin.

Hitler’s Luftwaffe increased attacks on the United Kingdom and the Royal Air Force valiantly defended the skies. The British military recognises the campaign as lasting from 10th July 1940 to 31st October 1940. German historians disagree, including the Blitz which means the battle went on until June 1941.

Sergeant Sydney Ireland in Spitfire

Imperial War Museum Photo: (Part of the Air Ministry Official Collection). Supermarine Spitfire Mark IAs (DW-K DW-O), flank the Spitfire DW-Q of Sergeant Sydney Ireland of 610 Squadron, Royal Air Force based at Biggin Hill, Kent, flying in 'vic' formation. Copyright Flight Lieutenant Bertrand John Henry Daventry.

Nazi Germany’s main objective was to force Britain into a peace agreement. The Luftwaffe first targetted convoys and ports. By August, attention had shifted to incapacitating RAF Fighter Command by hitting airfields and manufacturing factories.

The men of Royal Air Force Fighter Command were among the bravest in Britain. On 20th August 1940, British Prime Minister Churchill paid tribute to them:

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

Many of these airmen had connections to Northern Ireland and served in the Battle of Britain. Several perished in the 1940 dogfights while many others would not survive the war. As well as pilots, Northern Irish men and women made up some of the Royal Air Force’s ground crew.

If we hadn’t won the Battle of Britain the Nazis would have invaded England and there’s no doubt about it. We would not have the freedom that we have today and Northern Ireland’s fighter pilots played a key role.

John Hewitt – Aviation Historian in 2010

Killed during the Battle of Britain

The following members of the Royal Air Force with connections to Northern Ireland died during the Battle of Britain.

Last NameFirst Name(s)RankInformation
FenemoreStanley AllenSergeantKilled on 15th October 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
GreenAlexander William ValentinePilot OfficerKilled on 11th September 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
GreenMaurice DavidPilot OfficerKilled on 20th October 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
IrelandSydneySergeantKilled on 12th July 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
ThompsonJoseph BeckettSergeantKilled on 31st July 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
Stanley Allan Fenemore

Stanley Allen Fenemore

Sergeant | 745110

Sergeant Stanley Allen Fenemore of Co. Antrim died on 15th October 1940 having flown in the Battle of Britain with R.A.F. 501 Squadron.

Alexander William Valentine Green

Pilot Officer | 78082

Pilot Officer Alexander William Valentine Green of Lurgan, Co. Armagh died on 11th September 1940. He took part in the Battle of Britain.

Maurice David Green

Pilot Officer | 78263

Pilot Officer Maurice David Green died on 20th October 1940 while on a mission over the Norwegian coast with R.A.F. 248 Squadron.

Sydney Ireland

Sergeant | 745103

Sergeant Sydney Ireland died on 12th July 1940 in a training accident in Spitfire P9502 before having flown an operational sortie in the Battle of Britain.

Joseph Beckett Thompson

Sergeant | 566058

Sergeant Joseph Beckett Thompson died on 31st July 1940 when a pair of Bristol Blenheim fighter planes collided on an exercise over the Bristol Channel.

Killed during the Second World War

The following members of the Royal Air Force with connections to Northern Ireland served in the Battle of Britain and died during the Second World War.

Last NameFirst Name(s)RankInformation
BadgerJohn Vincent ClarenceSquadron LeaderDied on 30th June 1941 of wounds sustained in the Battle of Britain.
BeggsHenry WilliamLieutenantKilled on 15th November 1942.
BerkleyThomas Colqhoun EdmondsSergeantKilled on 14th June 1941.
HaireJohn KeatingeSergeantKilled on 6th November 1940.
HareMaxwell TempletonSergeantKilled on 30th June 1941.
LovellAnthony Desmond JosephWing CommanderKilled on 17th August 1945.
McAdamJohnSergeantKilled on 20th February 1941.
McCannThomas AndrewSergeantKilled on 27th July 1942.
MontgomeryCecil RobertPilot OfficerKilled on 14th August 1941.
SkillenVictor HallSergeantKilled on 11th March 1941.

John Vincent Clarence Badger DFC

Squadron Leader | 33046

Squadron Leader John Vincent Clarence Badger of Lisburn, Co. Antrim died on 30th June 1941, almost a year after sustaining wounds in the Battle of Britain.

Henry William Beggs

Lieutenant

Born in Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh, Henry William Beggs served in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy before his untimely death on 15th November 1942.

Sergeant John Keatinge Haire

John Keatinge Haire

Sergeant

Sergeant John Keatinge Haire was a pilot with RAF 145 Squadron during the Battle of Britain who sacrificed his life to save others on the Isle of Wight.

Wing Commander A.D.J. Lovell

Anthony Desmond Joseph Lovell

Wing Commander

When Wing Commander Anthony Desmond Joseph Lovell of Portrush, Co. Antrim died on 17th August 1945, the Royal Air Force lost a decorated ace.

John McAdam

Sergeant | 748076

Sergeant John McAdam served with the Royal Air Force in 41 Squadron at the height of the Battle of Britain and had many aerial battles with the Luftwaffe.

Cecil Robert Montgomery

Cecil Robert Montgomery

Pilot Officer | 42421

Pilot Officer Cecil Robert Montgomery from Co. Tyrone died on 14th August 1941 when his Hawker Hurricane came down in the Battle of Britain.

Victor Hall Skillen

Sergeant | 745460

Sergeant Victor Hall Skillen of Belfast, Co. Down died on 11th March 1941 when his Bristol Blenheim collided with a Heinkel HE111 over Amiens, France.

Survivors of the Second World War

The following members of the Royal Air Force with connections to Northern Ireland served in the Battle of Britain and survived the Second World War.

Last NameFirst Name(s)RankInformation
BeamishFrancis VictorWing CommanderSurvived the Second World War.
BeattyMarcus AlfredSergeantSurvived the Second World War.
CalderwoodThomas MorrowSergeantSurvived the Second World War.
CameronMatthewFlight LieutenantSurvived the Second World War.
ClarkeHenry ReginaldFlight LieutenantSurvived the Second World War.
CorryNoel HenrySquadron LeaderSurvived the Second World War.
GillenThomas WilliamFlying OfficerSurvived the Second World War.
HarknessHillSquadron LeaderSurvived the Second World War.
IeversNorman LancelotFlight LieutenantSurvived the Second World War.
HughesFrederick DesmondAir Vice MarshallSurvived the Second World War.
MacKenzieKenneth WilliamWing CommanderSurvived the Second World War.
McAllisterPatrick JohnSergeantSurvived the Second World War.
McConnellWilliam WinderSquadron LeaderSurvived the Second World War.
MillsJohn BailieAircraftman 1st ClassSurvived the Second World War.
WrightRobert RonaldSquadron LeaderSurvived the Second World War.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

A Hawker Hurricane, Avro Lancaster, and a Supermarine Spitfire took to the skies over Portrush as part of the Airwaves Airshow on 4th September 2016.