September 1940


The photograph does not tell the story.

The faces, improbably fresh, betray little but youth. The uniforms are new, the flying boots unbuckled over battledress trousers. One fellow wears a jaunty scarf tied around his neck in the manner of Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks as he leans against the ops shack in an attitude of studied coolness, cigarette poised in his fingers.  Others around him sit in camp chairs balancing tea and cake on little saucers.

The photograph does not show the line of Spitfires parked along the grass, the canvas patches on the wings plugging bullet holes, the mechanics working in fury to get even one more aircraft ready to fly at a minute’s notice despite the strain of six to ten combat sorties a day for weeks on end, the impossible odds of fighting an enemy more than twice your size.

Nor does the picture betray the knots of raw fear in the young pilots’ stomachs, the knowledge that in twenty minutes they might be trapped in a burning plane spiraling to the ground. It shows nothing of the nightly drinking games in the mess, when the men—boys, really—would place mugs of beer atop their heads and dance on the tables trying not to spill, the group getting smaller every night.

No, it is just a photo of pleasant-looking young men in RAF uniforms relaxing in the sun. They seem to be staring at something in the distance.


Sunday Photo Fiction


Here’s a link with more on the subject.



Add Yours
  1. Francesca Smith

    Though the saying goes that a picture/ photo can paint a thousand words, sometimes, they can mislead us into a false sense of what happened. The information you attached is a very interesting read (to this day, Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes are very iconic planes) and having previously studied these events, you really captured the moment and how those men must have felt.
    It is true that “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. Great story!

  2. OnChi

    Very nice story. My first gut feeling was of a young officer taking a short rest between sorties and celebration/relief partying but I couldn’t find the words. You did it perfectly! Nice job!

  3. Sunday Fiction

    That story made me go cold. It is perfectly told and with having lived opposite the aerodrome where a lot of the planes from the Battle of Britain took off from, plus visiting the museum, this is perfection in explanation. (he says with a tear in his eye)

Don't just stand there.