Life and Death in the Battle of Britain

Life and Death in the Battle of Britain

Previously unpublished wartime diary reveals a moving insight into life on a Battle of Britain airfield and the young men who risked their lives in aerial battle.

Life and Death in the Battle of Britain is the powerful and moving unpublished diary of Guy Mayfield, Chaplain at RAF Duxford during the Battle of Britain, a defining moment of the Second World War and one of the greatest aerial battles ever fought.

Through Mayfield’s engaging and evocative writing, readers are transported to life in early 1940s Britain, as the Battle of Britain raged in the skies above.

Guy Mayfield arrived at RAF Duxford on 2 February 1940 and wrote regular entries in his diary until his last day at Duxford, prior to a posting to Gibraltar, on 2 December 1941.

Through the emotive and insightful entries in his diary, the reader accompanies Mayfield as he describes the hectic nature of airfield operations and the constant call to scramble interspersed with off-duty time and high jinks in the Officers’ Mess. Mayfield’s intense grief is felt as he describes the loss of friends and colleagues who became so dear to him, while his gentle and endearing humour show why he was such a trusted friend to these young airmen and an integral part of life on this famous Battle of Britain fighter station.

Mayfield spoke, at length and in intimate detail, to pilots who knew they might not survive the next 24 hours. His documenting of these conversations in his diary provides a unique, never before published, insight into the lives of the young men who risked their lives daily in defence of Great Britain – their innermost thoughts, hopes and fears. Years after he wrote his wartime diaries, Guy returned to them, adding retrospective observations and remembrances which have been added to the original diary entries in this publication.

Guy Mayfield’s powerful words are accompanied by poignant photographs of the airmen he lovingly describes. Many of the images are from his personal photograph album and will be published for the very first time. In an introductory section, IWM historian Carl Warner explains why Mayfield’s diary is so remarkable in bringing a compelling and direct new perspective to the Battle of Britain:

“In the pages of his [Guy Mayfield’s] diary, we find one of the finest accounts of a fighter station at ar. It is full of insight into the mind of a man who made an enormous, unsung contribution to victory and into those of others on the station whose mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing he cared about so deeply.”

“Much has been written of Duxford’s role in this defining conflict, but there are few accounts as honest, open and revealing as this.”

“For scholars of the Battle of Britain, and of the Second World War RAF, Mayfield’s account is unique in that it provides us with access to the most heartfelt, deep and meaningful conversations that took place in 1940 as ‘the few’ faced the most monumental challenge of their young lives. It gives rare insight into the thoughts and feelings of young men who, underneath the famous ‘Brylcreem Boys’ exterior, were real people who overcame their own fears day after day – the very epitome of courage.”

‘Life & Death in the Battle of Britain is published by IWM on 19 April and can be pre-ordered here:

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