Andrew Cumming: Historian says Battle of Britain pilots 'could not shoot straight'

Historians in the News

Most Battle of Britain pilots were so badly trained they could not shoot straight, according to new research.

Some went into combat after just 10 hours of solo flying and without ever having fired their guns. Lack of training facilities, time and recruits severely hampered Fighter Command's efforts in the air, claims historian Andrew Cumming.

Historical documents show the "kill/loss ratio" for the key air battle between 24 Aug 24 and September 6, 1940 was "unimpressive", Dr Cumming found.

He said the Battle of Britain pilots – ''The Few" – have become legendary figures, not because of reality but because they helped form a heroic national identity. The truth is, he claims, that the RAF's performance against German fighters and bombers in late 1940 was "ineffectual" and we owe far more to the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy than we are prepared to acknowledge.

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