Even though it was called The Battle Of Britain it’s a popular misconception to think the pilots who flew for Britain were entirely British. Even though the vast majority were indeed British (2,500) they did get a great deal of help from 147 Poles, 101 New Zealanders, 94 Canadians, 87 Czechs, 29 Belgians, 22 South Africans, 22 Australians, 14 members of the Free French, 10 Irish, 7 Americans, 2 Rhodesians, 1 Jamaican, and 1 Palestinian. The Palestinian came from what is now Israel. So in all 3237 pilots flew to preserve democracy. The British were very uneasy about the various language barriers, but more uneasy about pilots who had not been trained in the British way of doing things.
The Canadians were rather difficult to re-train. The main reason is the RAF didn’t care for the manner in which the RCAF trained their pilots. The RAF had a more difficult time re-training pilots from New Zealand. The RAF thought their method was the best in the world, and that every other method left room for improvement. The Canadian pilots resented being re-taught things they already knew, as did the New Zealanders. Even though the British did win the battle they did waste time and money re-training pilots when some did not need to be.
Poland was the first country to fall. In the book “Wind in My Face” written by a polish squadron leader and ace (It wasn’t published by any reputable publisher. The author paid for the publishing) claimed that one fifth of all kills in the actual Battle of Britain belonged to Polish pilots. I am somewhat skeptical about this figure as the Poles did not enter the air war until relatively late in 1940. However, some of the tactics used by Polish pilots were adopted by by the RAF. One tactic the Poles brought to the air war that scared the hell out of the German pilots was flying straight at German fighters at top speed and not firing till they were approximately one hundred yards away. This tactic allowed for very little room for maneuvering. The Poles also dove with the sun behind them thus blinding the German pilot.
But in the film…
The Poles were used for comedy relief. A British pilot, who gave me the impression he thought he was gods gift to mankind, and I thought was an ass, was in charge of a training squadron consisting of Polish pilots. We’re never told just exactly what the training squadron was doing, but when the pilots see German fighters they break formation and go charging after the Germans. The British pilot orders everybody to stay in formation, but nobody listens to him. They manage to kill a few, but just as many are shot down. I got the impression the British pilot highly resented the Poles, and was a bit of a bigot.
“Get back in formation – in Polish !”
A Polish pilot suffered the indignity of being arrested by a farmer armed with a very pointy looking pitch fork. The RAF wanted nothing to do with the polish language, but wanted all Polish pilots to learn English.
Farmer meets Pole – Pole meets pitchfork
The ass with wings, and the British accent, gives his squadron a severe talking to – which hardly anybody listens to. He also gets a notice from Air Marshal Dowding saying he impressed by their actions, and activates the Polish squadron. The training is over.
“ No Polish chit-chat ! “
The primary reason for this incident was the language barrier. After orders were given to stay in formation, and not engage the German fighters, the Polish pilots all said “repeat please” before breaking formation and shooting began. After they had returned to the ground one Polish pilot thinks it might be wise to learn a wee bit more English.
…and his choice of reading material makes his blond haired commanding officer uneasy.
Herman Goring, the head of the Luftwaffe, the man who told Hitler he would erase the RAF from existence, tells his underlings that they failed. He rails at them then very quickly his temper changes, and asks them if they need any help.
The German pilot named Falke answers that the Luftwaffe need a squadron of Spitfires. Goring almost explodes. At first you might think this conversation was nothing but dramatic license. It would help if the film told you that Falke actually said this, and was modeled on German ace Adolf Galland. Adolf Galland was awarded the Knights Cross by Hitler. Hitler was reluctant to award the medal because he thought he “looked Jewish”. Galland was also promoted to General at the age of 30. He was the youngest General in the Luftwaffe. He also served as a technical advisor on the film. When the German High Command evaluated “Eagle Day” they found the leadership of Air Fleets 2,3 ,and 5 somewhat lacking. At their suggestion Goring then removed the commanders from the Air Fleets and replaced them with younger and more eager pilots into the roles. During filming Galland objected to a number of shots. He tried his best to spoil the shooting of the scenes. He was even escorted off the set. His efforts to spoil the shooting stopped when his lawyer was summoned. After Galland and he had a short chat Galland ceased being an irritant to the producers and the camera man.
The real Adolph Galland. In the film Galland was portrayed as a cigar smoking, cigar chomping pilot who always flew with a cigar in the pocket of his flying uniform.