The Biggin Hill Wing by Nicolas Trudgian

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The Biggin Hill Wing

by Nicolas Trudgian

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On an early misty morning, the legendary South African fighter pilot Adolph Gysbert ‘Sailor’ Malan, leads the Biggin Hill Wing Spitfire V’s of 74, 92 and 609 Squadrons out over the Kent countryside, on another sweep across the English Channel into occupied Northern France.

With the Battle of Britain won and the threat of Nazi invasion halted, by early 1941 the Royal Air Force High Command issued orders to take the fight back across the Channel against Adolf Hitler’s occupying forces in Northern Europe. By March, Air Chief Marshal William Sholto-Douglas had replaced Sir Hugh Dowding as Air Officer Commander of Fighter Command and had appointed Wing Leaders at each fighter station in 11 Group to lead offensive operations over France.

Among those chosen to lead the offensive operations were some of the top RAF squadron commanders, Wing Commander Harry Broadhurst DFC, AFC (Hornchurch), Squadron Leader Douglas Bader DSO, DFC (Tangmere), Squadron Leader John Peel DFC (Kenley) Wing Commander Victor Beamish DSO, DFC, AFC (North Weald) and Squadron Leader ‘Sailor’ Malan DSO, DFC who had been appointed to Biggin Hill. It was Malan above any other who re-wrote the rules of air combat tactics during this period; his ‘Ten Rules of Air Fighting’ became avid reading in every crew-room in Fighter Command.

The wings normally consisted of three squadrons of Spitfires, Hurricanes or mixed formations. The new fighter sweeps it was hoped would entice the German Air Force up to fight, which in many cases it did. Another role for which the wings were used was to provide escort cover for light-bomber incursions to attack German installations and airfields. By late May and early June, the number of fighter sweeps had increased as the fine spring weather improved and daily combat with the Luftwaffe raged in the skies along the Channel Front.




  • Wing Commander John Freeborn - DFC 74 Squadro
  • Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum - DFC 92 Squadron
  • Flight Lt. Sir Joe Atkinson - KCB CB DFC 609 Squadron

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