Messerschmitt Bf109E-4, Wilhelm Balthasar, 1./JG.1, France 1940
As the savage aerial fighting above the evacuation beaches of Dunkirk was taking a heavy toll on both sides, the airmen of Britain and Germany knew this was just a pre-curser of a more significant battle to come. Having lost valuable fighters during the Battle of France and Operation Dynamo, the RAF knew that they were facing a battle-hardened enemy, equipped with the most feared fighter aircraft in the world, the agile and heavily armed Messerschmitt Bf 109, which had ruthlessly cleared European skies of all opposition air forces sent against it.
Supremely confident and possessing much greater numbers, the fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe would be at a disadvantage for the first time, fighting against an organised RAF, equipped with excellent fighters of their own and having extremely well trained pilots. The Germans would also be fighting over enemy territory with the English Channel acting as a physical and psychological barrier during combat – if they were shot down, or suffered mechanical difficulties, their chances of getting back to France were now looking much less likely. Despite these new challenges, swarms of Messerschmitts crossed the Channel, determined to break the resolve of the Royal Air Force.