THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
"Battle of Britain - The Movie", by Robert J.
Rudhall, book excerpt #1
All text by the late Robert J. Rudhall, circa 2000
Why write a book about a film which was premiered over 30 years ago? That is a question I have been asked many times over the past few years. My answer has always been, surely the film deserves it! After all, several vintage aircraft owe their current existence to this feature film. While it may not have made much, or any, money at the box office, the historic aircraft movement throughout the world would be much the poorer today had it not been for Messrs Fisz and Saltzman's endeavours to re-create for the silver screen one of the most crucial periods of Britain's history.
Back in 1940 this country stood alone, and why it fought to beat off the Nazi invader has been well documented in many books on the subject over the years.Battle of Britain was the first major film to deal with the aerial conflicts above Britain during 1940 in its entirety. Previous films had looked at certain areas of the Battle or at some of the personalities, but the whole story of the epic struggle of 1940 had not been tackled by the film industry until Saltzman and Fisz came along.
Leonard Mosley's book on the making of the film, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1969 is still looked on by many, including myself, as 'the bible' when it comes to the film's production. While I do not attempt to imitate this much thumbed tome, my effort seeks to deal more with the aircraft hardware, the locations and to give it deserved credit for the effect it had on the preservation of old aircraft in the UK, and indeed, worldwide.
I can vividly remember going to seeBattle of Britain at the Odeon, New Street, Birmingham, on October 2, 1969, just a couple of weeks after it was premiered. I gazed in wonderment at the impressive foyer display, where a whole host of large-scale models were suspended from the ceiling in mock dogfights. A sales area in one corner was selling copies of Mosley's aforementioned book, a souvenir programme of the film, the long playing soundtrack record (no CDs in those days) and a set of 32 colour postcards, complete with boxed album (I still have in my possession all of these now much treasured items).
On entering the cinema's lavish auditorium the screen curtains were bathed in the red, white and blue colours of the Royal Air Force, giving the feeling that what was to come was something special. Before long the lights dimmed and the curtains opened to the unmistakable sound of a Merlin engine as a lone Hurricane zoomed out of the clouds. Within minutes I was totally immersed in a motion picture which has dominated my life for the past 30 years.
While I look on myself as aBattle of Britain film 'enthusiast', I am very aware that I am not alone in this 'affliction', and that really is the main reason for writing this book. Many fans of the film were not even born when it was released in 1969, and do not know fully of the immense struggle, which took place to get the production up onto the silver screen. This tome is a tribute to a fine piece of film-making and a movie, which, in many aircraft enthusiasts' eyes, is an icon of the cinema screen. It is also worth reflecting upon that had the film not been made, would we, today, be able to gaze upon the world's only airworthy Spitfire I (AR213) and the sole airworthy Spitfire (P7350) which took part in the real Battle of Britain? For just those two airframes alone, we have to thank Battle of Britain.
I am always happy to receive new information and/or photographs taken during the making of the film and can be contacted at the address below.
Robert J Rudhall
Downwind,24 Gainsborough Road, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England
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