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Battle of Britain Day: Remembering Lord Willoughby de Broke

It's never an easy decision to send men into battle, knowing that some of them will not return from the mission. Yet this was a decision made daily – and often many times each day – by then Group Captain John Verney, 20th Baron Willoughby de Broke.

Lord Willoughby de Broke served as Senior Controller at the Uxbridge bunker, making split second decisions to scramble pilots in response to incoming reports of enemy aircraft approaching.

Lord Willoughby de Broke

As intelligence reports were received from Bentley Priory, plotters at RAF Uxbridge moved props representing enemy and British fighters across a mapping table of the Southeast and London.

This visual representation of the air war allowed the Controller, who sat in a separate room overlooking the mapping table, to track the battle in process and scramble fighters as needed from the stations under No. 11 Group's command.

Lord Willoughby de Broke was Controller during key moments of the Battle of Britain, including the day when the most enemy aircraft were destroyed and during Winston Churchill's visit on 16 August 1940.

It was upon leaving the bunker that day, that Churchill first said, "Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few."

Likewise, it was Lord Willoughby de Broke in the Controller's chair on 15 September, Battle of Britain Day.

The Luftwaffe sent 200 aircraft over at 11:30am and an additional 400 aircraft at 2:00pm, seeking to destroy Fighter Command all together.

Lord Willoughby de Broke scrambled every squadron in No. 11 Group and all met their intended targets.

No. 12 Group's famous 'Big Wing' formation flew into battle and the Luftwaffe failed to beat Fighter Command. The Luftwaffe lost 56 aircraft, Fighter Command lost 26.

Just two days later, Hitler postponed Operation Sealion and Britain maintained its air superiority.

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