Battle of Britain (film)
|Battle of Britain|
American release poster
|Directed by||Guy Hamilton|
|Produced by||Harry Saltzman
|Written by||James Kennaway
|Music by||Ron Goodwin
|Edited by||Bert Bates|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||133 minutes|
|Box office||$2 million (US/ Canada rentals)|
Battle of Britain is a 1969 British World War II film directed by Guy Hamilton, and produced by Harry Saltzman and S. Benjamin Fisz. The film broadly relates the events of the Battle of Britain. The script by James Kennaway and Wilfred Greatorex was based on the book The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster.
The film endeavoured to be an accurate account of the Battle of Britain, when in the summer and autumn of 1940 the British RAF inflicted a strategic defeat on the Luftwaffe and so ensured the cancellation of Operation Sea Lion – Adolf Hitler's plan to invade Britain. The film is notable for its spectacular flying sequences, in contrast with the unsatisfactory model work seen in Angels One Five (1952) and on a far grander scale than had been seen on film before; these made the film's production very expensive.
The film opens during the Battle of France in May 1940, with RAF pilots evacuating a small airfield in advance of the German Blitzkrieg. The pilots, along with British and French military, leave just as German aircraft arrive and execute a heavy strafing attack. RAF Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding (Laurence Olivier), realizing that an imminent invasion of Great Britain will require every available aircraft and airman to counter it, stops additional aircraft being deployed to France so that they are available to defend Britain. In the next dramatic scene, French civilians watch in awe as a convoy of German troops march into France and take control.
The camera looks over of the deserted beaches of Dunkirk while the BBC relays British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's declaration that "what General Weygand called the battle of France is over, the Battle of Britain is about to begin". While the opening credits roll, Albert Kesselring arrives to inspect a large German airfield in captured France. Hundreds of Heinkel bomber aircraft are stationed under his command.
Luftwaffe commanders are stunned when the Führer informs them that the British are not their "natural enemy" and delays their attack while attempting a diplomatic settlement. In neutral Switzerland, the German ambassador (Curt Jürgens) officially proposes new peace terms to his British counterpart (Ralph Richardson), stating that continuing to fight the "masters" of Europe is hopeless. The Briton replies that his country will fight on, but privately admits to his wife that the German is likely correct. In England, commanders celebrate their good fortune, using the delay to build up their strength and continually train their pilots and ground controllers.
The wait finally ends when Luftwaffe pilots receive orders to move to the front, where troops are preparing for a sea-borne invasion. The campaign begins with the Luftwaffe launching an early morning assault on "Eagle Day". The plan is to destroy the RAF on the ground before they have time to launch their Spitfire and Hurricane fighters. The Luftwaffe is aware of the British radar installations, and plan to attack them with their Stuka dive bombers. The fighter pilots question this, wondering if it is better if the British are warned by radar and come up to fight, where they can be shot down.
Eagle Day proves highly successful, knocking two radar stations out of action and heavily bombing a number of the British airfields. British losses are relatively light, but the RAF is in the process of building its strength, and many of the pilots who lack combat experience are shot down. The airfields are heavily damaged, with many aircraft destroyed on the ground, and their ability to repair and rearm seriously effected. A gruelling battle of attrition ensues, with the RAF airfields under repeated attack while the Spitfires inflict heavy, but non-critical, damage on the attacking forces.
Adding to the RAF's problems is a battle between the commanding officers of 11 Group, Keith Park (Trevor Howard), and 12 Group, Trafford Leigh-Mallory (Patrick Wymark). 12 Group is tasked with protecting 11 Group's airfields while 11 Group meets the enemy, but in raid after raid 12 Group aircraft are nowhere to be seen. Called to meet Dowding, Leigh-Mallory explains that the "Big Wing" tactic takes time for form up, while Park complains that the tactic simply isn't working. Dowding ends the debate by pointing out it makes little difference; the problem is not the tactics but a critical shortage of pilots. Dowding wearily remarks, "We're fighting for survival, and losing".
The turning point occurs when a squadron of German bombers becomes lost in bad weather at night and drops bombs on London. In retaliation, the RAF launches an attack on Berlin. Though the damage is negligible, Adolf Hitler is enraged, and publicly orders London to be razed. Hermann Göring (Hein Riess) arrives in France to personally lead the attack, confident that the end of the battle nears. Their first attack skirts the RAF, who are still defending their airfields to the south, and they bomb unopposed. Night time attacks follow, and London burns.
Meanwhile, to supplement Commonwealth forces, the RAF has been forming units of foreign pilots who have escaped German-occupied countries; the main difficulty is their lack of English-language skills. While on a training flight, a Free Polish squadron accidentally runs into an unescorted flight of German bombers. Ignoring the commands of their British training officer, they peel off one by one and shoot down several of the bombers. Park rewards them by elevating them to operational status, leading Dowding to do the same for the Canadian and Czech squadrons as well.
While discussing the day's events, Park and Dowding examine the German switch to London. Given a respite, Park notes that he will be able repair his airfields and bring his squadrons back to full strength. Dowding adds that 12 Group units north of London are now all within range, while enemy fighters are at the extreme edge of their own range. He concludes that "turning on London could be the German's biggest blunder."
The next German daytime raid is met by a massive response; watching his formations build up in 11 Group's operations room, Wing Commander Willoughby (Robert Flemyng) wryly states "this should give them something to think about." RAF fighters are arranged into large groups and attack en masse, overwhelming the Germans and breaking up their raid. Göring is incensed, ordering his fighters remain with the bombers, an order the pilots hate. Losses continue to mount on both sides.
The climactic air battle of 15 September 1940 arrives, with Winston Churchill in attendance at 11 Group's operations room. In the underground bunker, British ground control personnel order every squadron into the air to meet the massive attack. Intense combat over the London sky follows, with both sides taking heavy losses. The outcome is so confused that Dowding refuses to pass comment on the events.
The next day the RAF anxiously await a raid that never comes. Two German anti-aircraft gunners, who had earlier protected a French port teeming with Kriegsmarine vessels and landing barges, now observe a deserted harbour basin. Göring leaves the front, accusing his commanders of betrayal. As the campaign draws to a close, the words of Winston Churchill appear onscreen: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
The Battle of Britain has a large all-star international cast. The film was notable for its attempt to accurately portray the role of the Germans, with participants in the battle including Adolf Galland and Robert Stanford Tuck involved as consultants. Subtitled German-speaking actors were utilised, a departure from other English language British films in the postwar period, where Germans were often played by Anglophone actors.
- Laurence Olivier as Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief RAF Fighter Command.
- Trevor Howard as Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park, Air Officer commanding No. 11 Group RAF.
- Patrick Wymark as Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Air Officer commanding No. 12 Group RAF.
- Christopher Plummer as Canadian fighter pilot, Squadron Leader Colin Harvey. Since Plummer is Canadian, he asked for his character's RAF uniform to display the "Canada" shoulder flashes.
- Susannah York as Section Officer Maggie Harvey, Colin's wife.
- Michael Caine as Squadron Leader Canfield
- Ralph Richardson as the British ambassador to Switzerland, Sir David Kelly.
- Robert Shaw as an unnamed Squadron Leader, referred to as "Skipper": RAF slang for a commanding officer. The only other appellation he is known by is his call sign, "Rabbit Leader". Skipper could be inspired by Sailor Malan.
- Ian McShane as Sergeant Pilot Andy
- Kenneth More (who had portrayed Douglas Bader in Reach for the Sky 12 years before) as Group Captain Barker, Station Commander at RAF Duxford.
- Edward Fox as Pilot Officer Archie.
- Michael Redgrave as Air Vice-Marshal Evill
- Harry Andrews as Churchill's Military Envoy
- Bill Foxley as Squadron Leader Evans
- Jean Wladon as Jean-Jacques
- Curt Jürgens as Baron von Richter, a role inspired by Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop had been Ambassador to Great Britain 1936–38. When Ralph Richardson as the British Ambassador in Switzerland, David Victor Kelly, argues with von Richter over Hitler's appeal to reason, Richardson tells von Richter that von Richter's years in England had left him none the wiser.
- Hein Riess as Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe [N 1]
- Manfred Reddemann as the cigar-chomping Major Falke, a role inspired by wartime Luftwaffe ace Adolf Galland, who at the age of 30 was to become the youngest man to hold the rank of general in the Luftwaffe. One scene in the film is said to have been based on a meeting between Galland and Göring: when Göring asks Falke what he needs, Falke answers: "A squadron of Spitfires!"[N 2]
- Wilfried von Aacken as Gen. Osterkamp
- Karl-Otto Alberty as Gen. Jeschonnek (Luftwaffe chief of staff) (as Karl Otto Alberty)
- Helmut Kircher as Boehm
- Alexander Allerson as Major Brandt
- Paul Neuhaus as Major Föehn
- Dietrich Frauboes as Field Marshal Milch (Inspector General, Luftwaffe)
- Malte Petzel as Colonel Beppo Schmid (Luftwaffe Intelligence)
- Alf Jungermann as Brandt's navigator
- Peter Hager as Field Marshal Albert Kesselring
- Wolf Harnisch as General Fink (as Wolf Harnish)
- Rolf Stiefel as Adolf Hitler
The film required a large number of period aircraft. In September 1965 producers Harry Saltzman and S. Benjamin Fisz contacted former RAF Bomber Command Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie to find the aircraft and arrange their use. Eventually 100 aircraft were employed, called the "35th largest air force in the world". With Mahaddie's help, the producers located 109 Spitfires in the UK, of which 27 were available although only 12 could be made flyable. Mahaddie negotiated use of six Hawker Hurricanes, of which three were flying. The film helped preserve these aircraft, including a rare Spitfire Mk II which had been a gate guardian at RAF Colerne.
During the actual aerial conflict, all RAF Spitfires were Spitfire Mk I and Mark II variants. However, only one Mk Ia and one Mk IIa (the latter with a Battle of Britain combat record) could be made airworthy, so the producers had to use seven other different marks, all of them built after the battle. To achieve commonality, the production made some modifications to "standardise" the Spitfires, including adding elliptical wingtips, period canopies and other changes. To classic aircraft fans, they became known as "Mark Haddies" (a play on Grp. Capt. Mahaddie's name). A pair of two-seat trainer Spitfires were camera platforms to achieve realistic aerial footage inside the battle scenes. A rare Hawker Hurricane XII had been restored by Canadian Bob Diemert, who flew the aircraft in the film. Eight non-flying Spitfires and two Hurricanes were set dressing, with one Hurricane able to taxi.
A North American B-25 Mitchell N6578D, flown by pilots John "Jeff" Hawke and Duane Egli, was the primary aerial platform for aerial sequences. It was fitted with camera positions in what were formerly the aircraft's nose, tail and waist gun positions. An additional camera, on an articulating arm, was mounted in the aircraft's bomb bay and allowed 360-degree shots from below the aircraft. The top gun turret was replaced with a clear dome for the aerial director, who would co-ordinate the other aircraft by radio.
N6578D was painted garishly for line-up references and to make it easier for pilots to determine which way it was manoeuvring. When the brightly coloured aircraft arrived at Tablada airbase in Spain in early afternoon of 18 March 1968, the comment from Derek Cracknell, the assistant director, was "It's a bloody great psychedelic monster!" The aircraft was henceforth dubbed the Psychedelic Monster. I
For the German aircraft, the producers obtained 32 CASA 2.111 twin-engined bombers, a Spanish-built version of the German Heinkel He 111H-16. They also located 27 Hispano Aviación HA-1112 M1L 'Buchon' single-engined fighters, a Spanish version of the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. The Buchons were altered to look more like correct Bf 109Es, adding mock machine guns and cannon, redundant tailplane struts, and removing the rounded wingtips. The Spanish aircraft were powered by British Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, and thus almost all the aircraft used, British and German alike, were Merlin-powered. [N 3] After the film, one HA-1112 was donated to the German Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr, and converted to a Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2 variant, depicting the insignias of German ace Gustav Rödel.
Two Heinkels and the 17 flyable Messerschmitts (including one dual-controlled HA-1112-M4L two-seater, used for conversion training and as a camera ship), were flown to England to complete the shoot. In the scene where the Polish training squadron breaks off to attack, ("Repeat, please"), the three most distant Hurricanes were Buchons marked as Hurricanes, as there were not enough flyable Hurricanes. In addition to the combat aircraft, two Spanish-built Junkers Ju 52 transports were used.
Filming in England was at Duxford, Debden, North Weald and Hawkinge, all operational stations in 1940 – one surviving First World War "Belfast" hangar at Duxford was blown up and demolished for the Eagle Day sequence. Some filming also took place at Bovingdon, a former wartime bomber airfield. The title-sequence scene, showing a review of German bombers on the ground by Fieldmarshal Milch, was filmed at Tablada Airfield in Spain (now San Pablo Airport). The village of Chilham in Kent became the base of operations for the radio controllers in the film. Denton, another Kent village, and its pub The Jackdaw Inn, feature in the film as the location where Christopher Plummer and his on-screen wife argue about her relocating closer to his posting. The Jackdaw Inn has a room devoted to RAF World War II memorabilia and is a must see for any history buff.
Another early scene was the Dunkirk recreation which was shot at the beachfront in Huelva, Spain. [N 4] To reflect the cloudless skies of summer of 1940, many upward-facing shots were filmed over Spain, while downward-facing shots were almost all below the clouds, over southern England, where farmland is distinctive. However 1940 camouflage made it difficult to see the aircraft against the ground and sky, so a cloud background was used where possible. Only one Spitfire was relocated to Spain to stand in for the RAF defenders. After filming began, the English weather proved too unreliable and filming was moved to Hal Far and Luqa Airfields in Malta to complete the aerial sequences.
Numerous scenes were shot in the preserved operations rooms, illustrating the operation of the Dowding system that controlled the fighter squadrons. Much of this footage takes place in 11 Group's operations room, today preserved as the Battle of Britain Bunker. Other scenes are show in Fighter Command's central "filter room" as well as recreations of the squadron ops rooms. One scene shows the hit on Biggin Hill's ops room, and another shows its relocation to a local bakery, although this is a recreation of another squadron's backup room in a local butcher's shop.
Location filming in London was carried out mainly in the St Katharine Docks area where older houses were being demolished for housing estates. Partly demolished buildings represented bombed houses and disused buildings were set on fire. St Katharine Docks was one of the few areas of London's East End to survive The Blitz. Many extras were survivors of the Blitz. Aldwych tube station, used as a wartime air-raid shelter, was also used as a filming location. Almost all the period equipment from the London Fire Brigade Museum was used in the film. The night scenes of wartime Berlin were filmed in Donostia-San Sebastian, Basque Country. The scenes at RAF Fighter Command were filmed at RAF Bentley Priory, the headquarters of Fighter Command. Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding's original office, with the original furniture, was used.
Permission was granted to the producers to use the Royal Air Force Museum's Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber (one of only two that survive intact). The 1943 aircraft was repainted and slightly modified to resemble a 1940 model Ju 87. The engine was found to be in excellent condition and there was little difficulty in starting it, but returning the aircraft to airworthiness was ultimately too costly for the filmmakers. Instead, two Percival Proctor training aircraft were converted into half-scale Stukas, with a cranked wing, as "Proctukas". To duplicate the steep dive of Ju 87 attacks, large models were flown by radio control.
To recreate airfield scenes in the film, with the limited number of period aircraft available for the film, large scale models were used. The first requirement was for "set decoration" replicas. Production of full-size wood and fibreglass Hurricanes, Spitfires and Bf 109s commenced in a sort of production line set up at Pinewood Studios. A number of the replicas were fitted with motorcycle engines to enable them to taxi. Although most of these replicas were destroyed during filming, a small number were made available to museums in the UK.
The other need was for models in aerial sequences, and art director and model maker John Siddall was asked by the producer to create and head a team specifically for this because of his contacts in the modelling community. [N 5] A test flight was arranged at Lasham Airfield in the UK and a model was flown down the runway close behind a large American estate car with a cameraman in the rear. This test proved successful, leading to many radio-controlled models being constructed in the band rehearsal room at Pinewood Studios. Over a period of two years, a total of 82 Spitfires, Hurricanes, Messerschmitts and He 111s were built. Radio-controlled Heinkel He 111 models were flown to depict bombers being destroyed over the English Channel. When reviewing the footage of the first crash, the producers noticed a trailing-wire antenna; this was explained by an added cutaway in which the control wires of a Heinkel are seen shot loose.
The film is generally faithful to events and although merging some characters, it sticks to the orthodox view – that the Germans threw away strategic advantage by switching bombing from RAF airfields to London in revenge for RAF raids on Berlin. Some later scholarship has cast doubt on one or another aspect of the orthodox view, arguing either: (a) that the switch to bombing London was made not for reasons of revenge but because the Germans thought they had already defeated RAF Fighter Command, or (b) that accelerated British aircraft production meant that the prospect of a German victory was never likely (this view seems doubtful, however, in part because the key issue was the number of available pilots).
The film includes a sequence which relates the events of 15 August 1940, in which the Luftwaffe attempted to overwhelm fighter defences by simultaneous attacks on northern and southern England, the Luftwaffe reasoning that "even a Spitfire can't be in two places at once." North East England was attacked by 65 Heinkel He 111s escorted by 34 Messerschmitt Bf 110s, and RAF Driffield was attacked by 50 unescorted Junkers Ju. 88s. Out of 115 bombers and 35 fighters sent, 16 bombers and seven fighters were lost. As a result of these casualties, Luftflotte 5 did not appear in strength again in the campaign. [N 6]
The Robert Shaw character "Squadron Leader Skipper" is based loosely on Squadron Leader Sailor Malan, a South African fighter ace and No. 74 Squadron RAF commander during the Battle of Britain. The scene in the operation room in which the British listen to their fighters' wireless transmissions is for dramatic reasons only. In reality, the operations room received information by telephone from the sector airfields. The scenes at the end, where the RAF pilots are seen suddenly idle and left awaiting the return of the Luftwaffe raids, are more licence; the fighting fizzled out through late September, although daylight raids continued for some weeks after the 15 September engagement. 31 October 1940 is regarded as the official end on the British side.
The confrontation between Dowding and Keith Park, on one side, and Trafford Leigh-Mallory on the other is fictitious, though there were undoubted tensions between the two sides. The film doesn't mention that, following the Battle of Britain, Dowding and Park were replaced by Sholto Douglas and Leigh-Mallory, despite Dowding and Park having demonstrated that Leigh-Mallory's "Big Wing" theories were unworkable.
One omission is at the end of the film, when casualties are listed. The film does not mention losses by Corpo Aereo Italiano, an Italian expeditionary force that took part, nor is its participation mentioned during the film. One anomalous entry in the list of pilots who served with the RAF is a pilot described by the credits as Israeli although the state of Israel was only created in 1948. This referred to George Goodman, a Jewish ace born in the British mandate in Palestine, who was killed in action in 1941.
There was no attempt to recreate tracer rounds.
Göring's train in the film is Spanish rather than French (the RENFE markings are just visible on its tender), and the steam locomotive shown did not come into service on Spanish National Railways (RENFE) until 1951.
The role of Falke was inspired by Adolf Galland, a famous ace during the Second World War, who did ask the Reichmarshall Göring for "an outfit of Spitfires for my squadron". Galland, however explained in his autobiography that his request was only a way to upset Göring, because he was "unbelievably vexed at the lack of understanding and stubbornness with the command (i.e. Göring) gave us orders we could not execute". Personally, Galland did feel that the Spitfire was more manoeuvrable than the Bf 109, which he felt made it more suitable as a defensive fighter, but he also states that "fundamentally I preferred the ME-109."
During filming, Galland, who was acting as a German technical advisor, took exception to a scene where Kesselring is shown giving the Nazi salute, rather than the standard military salute. Journalist Leonard Mosley witnessed Galland spoiling the shooting and having to be escorted off the set. Galland subsequently threatened to withdraw from the production, warning "dire consequences for the film if the scene stayed in." However, when the finished scene was screened before Galland and his lawyer, he was persuaded to accept the scene after all.
The quote from the August 20, 1940 speech was changed when the movie was released on DVD in 2003. Onscreen, instead of the quote about "The Few," this Churchill quote appears: "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
As recounted in Mervyn Cooke's A History of Film Music (2008), the film has two musical scores. The first was written by Sir William Walton, then in his late 60s, and conducted by Malcolm Arnold, who also assisted Walton with the orchestration - notably the music accompanying the Blitz sequences and some sections of "Battle in the Air", which may have involved some compositional "patches" by Arnold. Aside from the undoubted originality and impact of "The Battle in the Air" sequence, and an opening march (conducted at the sessions by Walton) which was described by a journalist present at its recording as "a grand patriotic tune to out-type and out-glory any that Sir William has yet written, whether for films or coronations", much of Walton's score involves parodies of the horncall from Wagner's Siegfried.
However, Arnold and David Picker - the brothers in charge of United Artists - insisted on having the music tracks sent to them in New York; their verdict on hearing the music, unaccompanied by the film, was that it was unsuitable and that a composer known to them should be hired to write a replacement score. The music department at United Artists furthermore objected that the score was too short to fill an LP recording which was intended to be marketed with the film. As a result, John Barry - who had scored several James Bond films - was approached, but he declined. The job was finally accepted by Ron Goodwin, who also served as conductor. Producer S. Benjamin Fisz and actor Sir Laurence Olivier protested against this decision, and Olivier threatened to take his name from the credits. In the end, one segment of the Walton score, titled "Battle in the Air", which depicted the climactic air battles of 15 September 1940, was retained in the final cut, as well as a few bars of his March rather clumsily edited into the final scene before the credits roll. The Walton score was played with no sound effects of aircraft engines or gunfire, giving the "Battle" sequence a transcendent, lyrical quality.
Prime Minister Edward Heath retrieved Walton's manuscript from United Artists in 1972, presenting it to the composer at Walton's 70th birthday party held at 10 Downing Street. Tapes of the Walton score were believed lost forever until being rediscovered in 1990 from the sound mixer's garage. Since then the score has been restored and released on compact disc. The option to watch the film with the complete Walton score was included on the Region 2 Special Edition DVD of the film, which was released in June 2004.
Ron Goodwin's score opens with the "Luftwaffe March", later retitled "Aces High", in the style of a traditional German military march in 6/8 time. The march places heavy emphasis on the "oom-pah" sound of tubas and lower-pitched horns on the first and second beats and has the glockenspiel double the horns in the melody. Because of the great length of this sequence, which shows a Luftwaffe general's inspection of a Heinkel squadron in occupied France, the "Aces High" has three separate bridges between choruses of the main theme, one of which recurs several times in a gently sentimental variation. Despite its origin in a representation of a tyrannical threat to democracy, the march has become a popular British march tune, like the Dambusters March; an adaptation was first played by a British military band in 1974 by the Corps of Drums of the Royal Pioneer Corps and is now frequently played at military parades and by marching bands in Northern Ireland. American radio personality and convicted Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy has used the march as bumper music on his syndicated radio programme.
Reporting on the film's premiere, The Times commented: "Handsomely shot, soberly put together, it is weighed down somewhat by a platitudinous score from Ron Goodwin. The only sequence of the rejected Walton score, the Battle in the Air, turned down allegedly because it was not long enough to fill an LP, is not perhaps vintage Walton, but at least lifts the film with moments of sharp excitement."
The film, released at a time when anti-war feeling was high, mainly due to the Vietnam War, together with cynicism among post-war generations about the heroism of those who participated in the historic Battle of Britain, resulted in box office failure, and the film being generally dismissed by critics. The film lost $10 million worldwide, making it a huge financial failure. The Battle of Britain currently scores 63% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Both a hardcover and paperback book on the making of the movie were published in 1969.
The use of actual aircraft in flying sequences has led to a number of subsequent productions utilising stock footage derived from Battle of Britain including the following, albeit incomplete list of productions:
- The scene of a damaged Heinkel bomber emitting smoke and losing altitude was used in the Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall (1972).
- Much aerial footage was cut into the American film Midway (1976), with Spitfires and Hurricanes masquerading as F2A Buffaloes and F4F Wildcats.
- Short clips from the main "Battle in the air" sequence were used in the Baa Baa Black Sheep television series (1976–1978).
- A fragment of the soundtrack of one of the dogfights is used on the album The Wall (1979) by Pink Floyd, right at the start of the track "Vera".
- Footage of Bf-109s exploding and crashing into the English Channel was inserted into the opening "Skeet Surfing" music video in the parody film Top Secret! (1984).
- "Newsreel" footage shown in the cinema in the film Hope and Glory (1987) was air combat footage from Battle of Britain.
- Aerial sequences from the film depicted the Battle of Midway in the television mini-series War and Remembrance (1988)
- Some footage and out-takes were used for the 1988 ITV mini-series Piece of Cake, an aerial drama about a fictional Second World War RAF fighter squadron in 1940.
- Some of the Stuka footage was re-used in the BBC drama series No Bananas (1996).
- Footage from the film was incorporated in the Czech film Dark Blue World (2001).
- The BBC drama First Light (2010) makes significant use of footage from the film.
The formative strategy war-game Empire was notably inspired by the RAF Fighter Command scenes in Battle of Britain in which staff move counters representing friendly and enemy aircraft and ships over the large map of Britain, from which tactical decisions are made by the air commanders.
Dinky Toys produced a pair of diecast model aircraft based on the film. A Spitfire Mk II (Dinky Toys 719) in 1/65 scale and Junkers Ju 87B Stuka (Dinky Toys 721) in 1/72 scale were released in special boxes with Battle of Britain logo on the box and photographs from the film included.[N 7]
- According to a booklet publicising the movie, Riess had allegedly once met Göring himself during the war. Galland himself acted as a technical adviser for the movie.
- In his autobiography, Galland said he actually told Göring, "I should like an outfit of Spitfires for my squadron."
- The Merlin in the Spanish-built variant, is not an "inverted" engine like the actual Bf 109E's Daimler-Benz DB-601, so the nose profile of the "Spanish Messerschmitts" is distinctly different.
- Only later did the directors find out this was where The Man Who Never Was deception had been carried out, in which the Germans were deceived by counterfeit documents purporting that the Allies were to invade Sardinia rather than Sicily, planted on a drowned man dressed as Royal Marines "Major Martin", allowed to wash up on the beach in 1943.
- Modellers included Mick Charles, Jack Morton and Chris Ohlson. Siddall was told by production that the models would not get any credit because they didn't want it generally known that models were used in the film.
- The film's producers did not have access to real or replica Bf 110 or Junkers Ju 88 aircraft, so the Junkers were not mentioned and the Heinkels are described as unescorted.
- One of the first examples of "tie-in" merchandising.
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 272
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- Battle of Britain DVD, MGM Home Entertainment, Inc., 2003; minute 130, just before the credits roll
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- Crump, Bill. "Bandits on Film." FlyPast October 2007.
- Galland, Adolf. Die Ersten und die Letzten (The First and the Last) (in German). Munich: Franz Schneekluth-Verlag Darmstadt, First edition, 1953. ISBN 978-2-905643-00-1.
- Galland, Adolf. The First and the Last: Germany's Fighter Force in WWII (Fortunes of War). South Miami, Florida: Cerberus Press, 2005. ISBN 1-84145-020-0.
- Hankin, Raymond. "Filming the Battle." Flying Review International, Vol. 24, no. 2, October 1968.
- Kennedy, Michael. Portrait of Walton. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1989.
- MacCarron, Donald. "Mahaddie's Air Force." FlyPast September 1999. ISBN 978-0-19816-705-1.
- Mackenzie, S. P. The Battle of Britain on Screen: 'The Few' in British Film and Television Drama. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7486-2390-7.
- Mosley, Leonard. Battle of Britain: The Story of a Film. London: Pan Books, 1969. ISBN 0-330-02357-8.
- Prins, François. "Battle of Britain: Making an epic." FlyPast August 2009.
- Robinson, Anthony. RAF Squadrons in the Battle of Britain. London: Arms and Armour Press Ltd., 1987 (republished 1999 by Brockhampton Press). ISBN 1-86019-907-0.
- Rudhall, Robert. "The Battle of Britain: The Movie, Part one: Opening Shots." Warbirds Worldwide, Number 5, Volume Two, No. 1, May 1988.
- Rudhall, Robert. "The Battle of Britain: The Movie, Part two: Lights, Camera's,(sic) Action." Warbirds Worldwide, Number 6, Volume Two, No. 2, August 1988.
- Schnepf, Ed, ed. "The Few: Making the Battle of Britain." Air Classics Vol. 6, No. 4, April 1970.
- Battle of Britain at the Internet Movie Database
- Battle of Britain at the TCM Movie Database
- Battle of Britain at AllMovie
- Battle of Britain at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Battle of Britain" a 1969 Flight article