Perhaps the essential myth of the Battle of Britain can be summed up in the idea that this was a victory gained by young British officer pilots flying Spitfires.
Many were far from young. Teenagers fought in the Battle, but so did men in their 20, 30s and 40s. One air gunner was 51.
Many were not from the United Kingdom. The countries represented in Fighter Command in 1940 included Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Ireland, Jamaica, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Poland, the Rhodesias, South Africa and the United States. Many were not officers – among the high scoring NCO pilots of the Battle were Sergeant “Ginger” Lacey (501 Squadron), Sergeant Jim Hallowes (43 Squadron) and Flight Sergeant “Grumpy” Unwin (19 Squadron).
Multi-crewed aircraft, such as the Blenheim and Defiant, took part in the Battle, so not all the aircrew were pilots.
The Hurricane flew in much greater numbers in the Battle than the Spitfire and shot down far more enemy aircraft.
After the Battle it was decided that every Allied airman who took part should be entitled to the “immediate” award of the 1939-45 Star with Battle of Britain clasp. The qualification that was decided on for this award was that an airman must have made one authorised operational flight with a designated unit (of which there were 71 under the control of Fighter Command) between 10 July and 31 October 1940.