Today, 18th August, is the 80th anniversary of the hardest day in the Battle of Britain fought in the skies over England between July and October 1940.

While the decisive turning point in the Battle of Britain was not until a month later, on 15th September, the 18th August will always be remembered as the day the Luftwaffe tried its utmost to destroy Britain’s fighter airfields, flying three big afternoon raids of 850 sorties involving 2,200 aircrew. The RAF resisted with equal vigour flying 927 sorties involving 600 aircraft.

The targets were airfields at Kenley, Biggin Hill, the Fleet Air Arm airfields at Gosport and Ford, Thorney Island, Hornchurch and North Weald, and the radar station at Poling. RNAS Ford (HMS Peregrine) came under attack from a formation of German Stuka dive bombers causing extensive damage. 28 naval personnel died and many more were injured.

It is not generally known that Naval Air Squadrons also took part in the Battle of Britain. On 18th August, the RAF and Fleet Air Arm lost 68 aircraft, 31 in air combat. 69 German aircraft were destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

Sub Lt Arthur Blake Royal Navy, No 19 Squadron RAF 1917-1940

Arthur was seconded to 19 Squadron flying Spitfires throughout the Battle of Britain. Recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross, sadly it wasn’t awarded as he was shot down over the Thames Estuary just two days before the end of the Battle. He was 23 years old.

The young naval aviators who flew in the Battle of Britain – The Few of the Few – saw some of the fiercest aerial combat of the Battle. 23 naval pilots served with twelve RAF Fighter Command Squadrons, flying Spitfires and Hurricanes, and a further 33 served with 804 and 808, the two Fleet Air Arm Battle of Britain Squadrons who provided Dockyard defence.

Four naval pilots became fighter ‘aces’ and although rarely acknowledged, three naval pilots also flew with famous 242 Squadron commanded by the legendary Douglas Bader, including Sub Lt Dickie Cork DFC, who was Douglas Bader’s wingman.

It was not just officers who became Battle of Britain pilots, five Petty Officers also flew with the Naval Squadrons.

Today’s anniversary is a reminder of the bravery of everyone who took part in the Battle of Britain and especially those who gave their lives on The Hardest Day.

Spitfire Mk 1 from 19 Squadron, of the type flown by Sub Lt Arthur Blake during the Battle of Britain in 1940.