Tagged: Royal Air Force

Battle of Britain: Robert Shaw as Squadron Leader Skipper

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader "Skipper" in Battle of Britain (1969)

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader “Skipper” in Battle of Britain (1969)

Vitals

Robert Shaw as “Skipper”, RAF Squadron Leader

England, Summer to Fall 1940

Film: Battle of Britain
Release Date: September 15, 1969
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Background

Although the battle was waged for more than three months in 1940 over British airspace, September 15 has been established as Battle of Britain Day in recognition of the No. 11 Group RAF repelling two waves of German attacks on London. The Germans had instigated their air and sea blockade earlier that summer, followed by Luftwaffe air raids that started with ports and shipping centers, eventually moving further inland to airfields, factories, and ultimately civilian areas. Hitler had intended to gain air superiority over England prior to an invasion dubbed Operation Sea Lion, but a strong national defense from the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy successfully routed the Luftwaffe and prevented this full-scale invasion of the United Kingdom.

This British victory was considered an early turning point in favor of the Allies during World War II that inspired Winston Churchill to famously declare: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

On the 29th anniversary of this famous British defense against Germany in the skies over London, the United Artists war epic Battle of Britain with a star-studded cast including Sir Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Shaw. The latter portrays a talented and brash Squadron Leader, said to be inspired by South African fighter ace Sailor Malan, commander of No. 74 Squadron RAF during the actual Battle of Britain.

Continue reading

Allied Uniforms of The Great Escape

Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, Nigel Stock, and Gordon Jackson in The Great Escape (1963)

Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, Nigel Stock, and Gordon Jackson in The Great Escape (1963)

Today marks the 75th anniversary of “the great escape”, the mass breakout of allied airmen from the Luftwaffe-operated Stalag Luft III in Sagan-Silesia—now Zagan—in Poland on March 24, 1944. Of the 76 men who escaped, only three made it to freedom and 50 of the group were murdered by the Nazis in retaliation.

Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Paul Brickhill, one of the Allied officers who had worked on the various tunnels used for the escape, wrote the definitive account of prison camp life, the famous March 1944 breakout, and the subsequent fallout in The Great Escape, published in 1950.

Thirteen years later, a star-studded cast reenacted the incident in The Great Escape, a now-classic war movie that dramatized this real-life story of heroism, humor, and tragedy.

Today’s post—coinciding both with the 75th anniversary of the escape and the 89th birthday of the film’s star Steve McQueen—examines the uniforms of the Allied airmen, sorted by each major character’s surname. Continue reading

Hendley in The Great Escape

James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Hendley in The Great Escape (1963)

James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Hendley in The Great Escape (1963)

Vitals

James Garner as Robert Hendley, American-born RAF Flight Lieutenant and “scrounger”

Sagan-Silesia (Zagan, Poland), Spring 1944

Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Background

Steve McQueen’s daring Captain Hilts may get all the glory of The Great Escape‘s legacy, but James Garner’s affable and resourceful “scrounger” Hendley remains one of my favorite characters from any war movie.

Continue reading

Sidney Reilly Goes Undercover in Russia

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly in the seventh episode of Reilly: Ace of Spies.

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly in the seventh episode of Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983).

Vitals

Sam Neill as Capt. Sidney Reilly, British secret service agent and Canadian Royal Flying Corps airman

Russia, Spring 1918

Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “Gambit” (Episode 7)
Air Date: October 12, 1983
Director: Jim Goddard
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller

Background

The mini-series Reilly: Ace of Spies, being based on Sidney Reilly’s own exaggerated account of his life, certainly stretches the truth – if not downright fictionalizes – many parts of Reilly’s story. However, the show does a fine job of serializing Reilly’s most important and life-altering adventure: the attempted overthrow of the Bolshevik government. Continue reading