What was the Duxford Big Wing?

The RAF were regularly outnumbered by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, earning them the name of the Few. One solution to this was the Big Wing. The Big Wing strategy involved up to five squadrons of fighter aircraft flying together in one large formation, allowing them to meet the oncoming enemy in strength. This tactic has strong support from 12 Group, based at Duxford, including Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory and Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, as well as from Air Ministry and the government. But the Big Wing was a controversial tactic. Among its critics was Head of Fighter Command Hugh Dowding and Air Officer Commander Keith Park – and this opinion that would eventually lead to their downfall.

So was the Big Wing a good idea or not? We’re going to find out.

Get tickets to the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show, 18 & 19 September 2021.


Sir Hugh Dowding in red superimposed onto a radar station
Second World War

How Hugh Dowding and the RAF won the Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain is often defined by images of Spitfires and Messerschmitts duelling in the skies. But what if the deciding factor in this fight for air supremacy was actually based on the ground? IWM Duxford Curator Craig Murray takes a look at the Dowding System and explains how it turned the battle decisively in Britain's favour.
The Gold Experience at IWM Duxford Air Shows

Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show | Tickets

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Observer Corps thumbnail
Second World War

How did the Observer Corps help win the Battle of Britain?

Just under 3,000 RAF aircrew risked their lives to face the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, yet on the ground, around 30,000 volunteers formed a highly-trained network of aircraft observers working around the clock to support the men in the air.