The Royal Air Force's (RAF) Fighter Command was established in 1936. Its most well-known campaign was the Battle of Britain, when Germany sought to destroy the RAF in preparation for a seaborne invasion of England in 1940. Up to 35 Australians served in Fighter Command during the battle, which one remembered as 'a blur of twisting machines and tracer bullets'.
After defeating the German Air Force – the Luftwaffe – over England, Fighter Command began offensive sweeps to occupied France and continued to defend against German raids on Britain’s south coast. In the second half of 1942, its aircraft began escorting United States bombers on daylight raids, but their limited range restricted British fighters to the English Channel and a small area of western Europe.
In 1943, Fighter Command was disbanded and divided into the Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) and the Second Tactical Air Force. In June 1944, ADGB supported Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of German-occupied France. In October, it was renamed Fighter Command. The new Fighter Command’s operations included risky attacks on German flying-bomb launch sites in western Europe. A pilot wrote about the dangerous raids:
We charged, skimming the ground at ten or twelve feet … the flak had … our range … Five posts immediately caught me in their cross fire … I got three direct hits … All I could hope for was to save my own skin.
Fighter Command raided German airfields both day and night. After Overlord the command's aircraft began operating from north-west Europe, remaining in action until Germany's surrender.
Almost 4000 members of Fighter Command were killed and some 1200 were wounded during the war. After the war, Fighter Command took on a defensive role against the possibility of a Soviet air attack on England. In 1968 Fighter Command was combined with Bomber Command to form Strike Command.