This is perhaps the most impressive collection of pictures yet identified, as it shows my grandfather and his colleagues at work in Pinewood Studios' model shop, and also the finished models of various aircraft depicted in this film. Battle of Britain (Guy Hamilton, 1969) was an "all-star" film, including Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Susannah York, Michael Caine and Trevor Howard. The film makes extensive use of dogfight sequences, as the battle for air supremacy is fought in the skies over Britain in the summer of 1940. At this time, Hitler's armies were literally twenty-one miles from Dover. If the Luftwaffe had gained air supremacy, then nothing could have stopped a subsequent invasion of Britain. Those very few weeks were maybe THE most important, pivotal time in the entire Second World War.
Many of the photographs feature the Messerschmitt Bf 110. Their poor acceleration and wide turning circle made them no match for the Spitfire in the Battle of Britain. However, they were 40 mph faster than most Hurricanes, and if given the chance to dive from high level for a single attacking pass before breaking away, were very effective. Bf 110s were in service throughout the war, running through six production series, B to G. Later models were used as night-fighters, in an attempt to stem the increasing Allied bomber offensive over Germany.
It was originally intended to use real aircraft wherever possible, however in the case of the Junkers JU-87s, this proved impossible. From The Battle of Britain 1968: "Three Percival Proctors were to be modified to be look alike Junkers Ju-87, after a brief test flight in G-AIEY the only fully converted ‘Proctuka’ Vivian Bellamy decide that the conversion was deemed unsuitable for the film role and large scale radio controlled models made by Pinewood Studio’s model shop were used instead".
Another relevant quote from The Battle of Britain 1968: "One Real Spitfire BM597 and Hurricane LF751 were firstly taken to the Battle of Britain filming unit at RAF Henlow and then shipped to Pinewood studios to be used as a mould model for replicas being built. Most of these were subsequently destroyed during filming noticeable in one scene where a Spitfire careered into a petrol browser both being engulfed in a fiery explosion." This webpage is a fascinating account and well worth a visit.
In addition to building the model aircraft, my grandfather made the full-size cockpit mock-ups used in the live-action sequences of the film. Click on the photos to see larger versions.