Last week and I spent a fascinating few days interviewing former Battle of Britain pilots in Germany and Austria. As soon as they are all transcribed I shall post them up on the Oral History Archive, but I learnt much from them.
When I first thought about doing a book about the Battle of Britain from both sides I felt certain that including the German perspective would lead to a very different overall view of the battle, and so far I have not been proved wrong. Among the things of interest that emerged were the obvious problems of stress and battle fatigue that affected a number of the pilots, and also that the nuisance raids on their airfields by Blenheims of Bomber Command also got under their skin. There was also a problem of aircraft shortages – one fighter pilot had to wait three weeks after joining his staffel before there was a Me 109 for him to fly.
They also painted the view that RAF Fighter Command was a considerable enemy worthy of respect. Most fighter pilots complained of having to fly escort missions at ridiculously low speeds and that there were always swarms of Spitfires, waiting high above them, for the moment they turned for home, at which point they would pounce. The impression was that they felt they had achieved much despite the odds stacked against them, which is obviously always rather how we viewed them. Anyway, among those whose interviews will appear in the fullness of time are: GÃ¼nther Rall, Julius Neumann, Johannes Naumann, Hajo Herrmann, Karl Spreitzer and Rudolf Mieser.