Battle of Britain Service
Each year, we commemorate the Battle of Britain, that epic battle which was waged between the Royal Air Force and German Luftwaffe in the skies over England in the summer of 1940. Most people are familiar with Sir Winston Churchill’s immortal words “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” and some will know that of the airmen who are recognised as being among those few, 80% came from Britain and of the rest, 23%, or about 135 men, came from New Zealand.
The New Zealanders came from all walks of life. There were 39 clerks of various types, 20 farmers, three postmen, two sailors, a neon sign erector and a cinema manager. They were public servants and they were tradesmen. Their average age in July 1940 was 23. The youngest was just 18 and the oldest a 32 year old Spitfire pilot. The majority were pilots, but there were also 34 air gunners and four observers. Half were among the 500 New Zealanders already serving in the Royal Air Force when war broke out; some of them veterans of the disastrous campaigns in France. The other half were new arrivals from the early RNZAF wartime training courses. Then, of course, there was World War One ace Air-Vice Marshal Keith Park, who was given scant credit at the time, but is now widely acknowledged as playing the most significant of roles in the British success.
Four New Zealand air gunners and 16 pilots died during the Battle of Britain and of those who survived, one third did not live to see the end of the War.
Contact Café at the Museum will be open from 9.30 am - 4.30 pm.
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