All through the long hot summer of 1940 they crossed the Channel from stolen bases in northern France, coming in mighty swarms to deliver their deadly cargo. Bombers and dive-bombers, single-seat fighters and fast twin-engined attack aircraft, their menacing shapes glinting with swastikas and black crosses, blackening the summer sky. Over 3000 aircraft were at the disposal of the boastful Luftwaffe supremo, Hermann Goering. Within just a matter of weeks, he promised Hitler, the RAF would be annihilated, allowing the invasion of Britain to proceed unhindered, and Britain would become the final piece of the jigsaw giving Nazi domination throughout Europe.
Against the might of German airpower stood less than 600 Spitfire and Hurricane fighters, and as many young pilots determined to the man to defend their homeland. And so commenced the battle that was to develop into the greatest aerial conflict in history. Always outnumbered, often flying six sorties a day, the RAF's young fighter boys flew themselves to the point of exhaustion. Pilot losses forced desperate squadron commanders to take youngsters into combat, some with just a few hours on fighters. They flew and fought like tigers and they paid a heavy price, but never did they lose their spirit.
Robert Taylor's wonderfully realistic painting captures the very essence of that epic battle. A Heinkel 111 has been brought down, one of many never to make it home on this bright and sunny day. As the Luftwaffe bomber's crew emerge from their broken aircraft, relieved to have survived the crash-landing, a Mk I Spitfire from No 66 Squadron roars low overhead to verify another victory. In the distance, Hurricanes from No 56 Squadron hurry back to North Weald to refuel and rearm. High above the battle rages, the vapour trails telling their own story.