British ACES WW II

At the beginning of World War II, the Royal Air Force had a sizable force of modern fighter ai rcraft. Most units were equipped with Spitfires and Hurricanes, but some still flew the older Gladiators. In addition to airplanes, the British also had the first radar defense system. This system would prove invaluable in the dark days of the Battle of Britain.

At the outbreak of the war, the RAF accompanied the British Expeditionary Force to France. Then, when Norway was invaded, RAF Gladiators were rushed to aid in the resistance. With the invasion of the low countries and France, RAF activity increased immediately, producing the first RAF ace since World War I-E. J. "Cobber" Kain. The conflict that had begun would produce many RAF aces in many farflung battle areas: Africa, Greece, Sicily, Crete and Malta, Burma, the Pacific, and, of course, Western Europe. It was, however, the RAF's gallant defense of its homeland - the Battle of Britain - that won the world's respect.

The battle for Britain began in August 1940, when the mighty German Luftwaffe was launched to soften up the airfields and British southern defenses. Britain now stood alone against the foe. Hitler had to have control of the air before he could launch an invasion. Only the Royal Navy and the RAF, now including foreign volunteer pilots of many nations - Poland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, France, and the U.S.A. - stood in the way. The battle was fought with a fury never before seen, with great losses on both sides and great suffering by the British people during the bombing of their cities.

By mid-September 1940, the RAF had forestalled the invasion and initiated an offensive, but the battle over Britain represented its finest hour. Churchill expressed the nation's gratitude with this tribute:

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

Group Captain DOUGLAS R. S. BADER

Perhaps more than than any other individual, with the exception of Winston Churchill, Douglas Bader symbolized the courage and indomitable spirit of the British during World War II. Having lost both of his legs in the crash of his Bristol Bulldog fighter in 1931, he refused to accept the restrictions inherent in this tragedy. By the time he was officially removed from flight status, he had again mastered flying. When war broke out in Europe, he managed to get assigned to a Spitfire squadron.

By 1940, Bader was serving as a flight leader. He scored the first of 23 victories while covering the beaches during the Dunkirk evacuation. Then came the Battle of Britain. Bader, now flying Hurricanes, proved himself a fine leader and tactician, gaining 10 more kills. As the offensive over France began in the spring of 1941, he was given command of the Tangmere Wing.

Bader fought his last engagement on a sweep into France on August 9, 1941. Leading an attack on a formation of JG26 Bf.109s, he shot down two, then collided with a Bf.109 that sheared off his aft fuselage. As he fought to free himself of his stricken airplane, one of his artificial legs was pulled off. After he was taken prisoner, his comrades dropped him a new leg, which he put to good use by escaping. Recaptured, he spent the remainder of the war in a high-security prison.

Group Captain JAMES E. JOHNSON

Afler flying a few missions in the Battle of Britain, "Johnny" Johnson was grounded for a shoulder operation and did not return to combat until 1941 , when he was assigned to Bader's command. An eager pupil of Bader's, he soon became an ace himself, downing 6 aircraft in the summer of 1941. One of these, a Bf.109, was shot down on the sortie in which Bader fell. In the raid on Dieppe, Johnson gained one viclory and shared another. Early in 1943, he was moved from the 610 Squadron, which he had commanded, to lead the Kenley Wing of Spitfires, which included two Canadian units.
By September 1943, Johnson had 25 victories and the Wing had 60 more.

By September 1944, Johnson had flown 515 sorties and downed 38 confirmed aircraft to become the RAF's official top scorer. He remained in the RAF after the war and flew with the USAF as an air tactics observer in Korea.


Irish-born "Paddy" Finucane entered the RAF at age 18 .and flew his first combat missions in the fateful summer of 1940. Although his unit did not bear the brunt of combat, Finucane downed five aircraft and won the Distinguished Flying Cross during this period. By mid 1941, he had become the leader of an Australian squadron of Spitfires and had downed his 24th enemy before his 21st birthday.

Leading a fighter sweep across the English Channel on July 17,1942, Finucane's aircraft was hit by ground fire on the way home. He radioed that he would have to ditch in the Channel because his ship, the "Flying Shamrock," was losing glycol and heating up.

He was seen to set down in the water but never got out of his aircraft. He was the RAF's third-ranking ace with a score of 32.


Clive Cauldwell first saw action in 1941 flying Kittyhawks with No. 250 Squadron in the Middle East. The first of the many victories which earned him the name "Killer" occurred on June 26 when he shot down a Bf.109 near Tobruk. On the 30th he added two Stukas and shared in downing a Bf.110. Wounded in the chest and legs in August he nevertheless attacked and shot down another 109 on the way back to his base. In December his flight jumped a formation of Stukas and their escort and in the ensuing battle Cauldwell downed five aircraft. With his score at 20,5 he was sent back to Australia as an instructor in 1942.

By January 1943 he was back in action again as Wing Commander of No.1 Fighter Wing. Flying Spitfires out of Darwin, Cauldwell soon developed his own tactics for dealing with the elusive Zero and added another eight victories to his tally before the war ended.

Squadron leader MARMADUKE PATTlE

Because "Pat" Pattie's records were lost in the Allied evacuation from Greece, he can never be officially ranked, but unofficially he ranks as the RAF's topscoring ace. Pattie, who flew biplane Gladiators with 80 Squadron in the Middle East, had scored 13 victories over Italian aircraft by January 1941. His first two victories were a Breda 10 bomber and a C.R.42 fighter; he was hit in the same battle and had to bail out. Equipped with a Hurricane in February 1941, he raised his score to 24 confirmed kills by early March. He fought daily in the battle against the German invasion of Greece, and his score rose rapidly until his death. He was killed in the Battle of Athens by two Bf.110 pilots. 

He had just downed what was believed to be his 49th, 50th, and 51st enemy aircraft.

The leading RAF Aces:

Squadron Leader M. T. St. J. Pattie (South African) ………
Group Captain J. E. Johnson (English) ……………………..

Wing Commander B. Finucane (Irish) ………………………

Group Captain A. G. Malan (South African) ………………..

Flight Lieutenant G. F. Beurling (Canadian) ………………..

Wing Commander J. R. D. Braham (English) ………………

Wing Commander R. R. S. Tuck (English) …………………

Wing Commander C. R. Caldwell (Australian) ……………..

Group Captain F. R. Carey (English) ………………………..

Squadron Leader N. F. Duke (English) ……………………..

Squadron Leader J. H. Lacey (English) …………………….

Wing Commander C. F. Gray (New Zealander) ……………

Flight Lieutenant E. G. Lock (English) ………………………

Wing Commander B. Drake (English) ………………………
Flight Lieutenant G. Allard (English) ………………………..

Group Captain D. R. S. Bader (English) ……………………

51 (est.)








28 (est.)








Hawker Hurricane

Supermarine Spitfire

Robert Cunningham