Of Spitfires and Martial Music
Sometimes, I just hate YouTube.
My video on the Collings Mustang elicited some comments and e-mail on the Spitfire being the iconic fighter of World War II, not the Mustang. Well, whatever. My view is that the Mustang might not have been the best air-to-air fighter, but it earned its stripes with its exceptional range, allowing the allies to carry the offensive fight deep into Germany, something the Spitfire never did in force. Feel free to debate this among yourselves.
Meanwhile, clicking around various links looking for a list of Spitfire variants led me to discover that one of the great World War II flying movies of all time, The Battle of Britain, exists in segments on YouTube. Naturally, I had to watch it, and three hours later, I've got squat to show for it, save for this blog. What I found interesting about the film, which I haven't seen in years, is how effectively it tells the story. Some of the air combat scenes are terrific, some are hokey, given the special effects limitations of the day. (The recently released Red Tails is more spectacular in that regard, but not as effective in framing the story.)
The Battle of Britain film makers had an actual air force to work with, specifically Spain's, which, in 1969, was still flying CASA-built variants of the Bf-109 and the Heinkel 111 medium bomber that played central roles in the actual Battle of Britain. The real strength of the story telling happens in supporting scenes on the ground, with dialog illuminating how closely run the entire battle really was. It also highlights the limited range of early World War II aircraft. Operating from forward bases in France, the Bf-109 had 10 minutes of duration over London and in interviews, famed Luftwaffe ace Adolph Galland, said dozens of fighters were lost to fuel exhaustion over the channel on the trip home.
If you've seen the movie, you probably remember that rousing march in the opening scene, which was composed by Ron Goodwin specifically for the film. It's called Aces High March. Evidently, even though it's supposed to evoke German martial music, it was played popularly in the U.K. after the film appeared and may still be. Lost in the links, I found one other interesting fact about music scores for World War II movies. Another classic, The Dam Busters got its own march by the same name. You'll recognize it if you saw the movies and we all have. Improbable as it seems, the rock group Jethro Tull, one of my favorites, covered the song during the 1970s.
Who knew? Thanks to be my lost afternoon, you do now.