Shop H.E. Bates Online
"The Night Interception Battle 1940-1941."
Page Count
Word Count
Publication Year
Document Types
Organizations, Writings on Behalf of
Unpublished Writings
Original Typescript (tss)
Pilots, War

One of two unpublished essays commissioned and owned by the Royal Air Force. A statement accompanying a photocopy of the essays in typescript form (the other being "The Battle of the Flying-Bomb") reads: "The original material in this book is the property of the Royal Air Force on whose behalf it was prepared by H.E. Bates whilst commissioned as a Flying Officer (Later Squadron Leader). The original material forms exhibition material, itself part of a wider exhibition entitled "H.E., Give Them Their Life."

Concerning this, the first of the two essays, the statement continues: "Story One, The Night Battle of Britain. In 1942 Air Marshall Portal R.A.F. (later Lord Portal) personally instructed H.E. Bates to write the story of the Night Battle of Britain, and the account is a harrowing tale of the major switch in German Luftwaffe tactics from the day war of the Battle of Britain to the night horrors of the Blitz. Having read Flying Officer Bates's story, Air Marshall Portal decided that R.A.F. interests would not be best served by publication, and for half a century it has remained in official archives, unpublished."

Bates wrote in The World in Ripeness (pp. 35-37) of being invited to lunch by Portal and of being asked to write a history of this "perilous affair whose near catastrophic events had already been allowed to slip back into a darkness as Stygian as that in which it had in fact been fought in the winter of 1941...The pamphlet was duly finished but, though approved in high places, was never published. Today it is safely filed away in the Public Records Office, from which it will doubtless never emerge."

Eads (1990) lists the title "The Night Interception Battle 1940-1941," and describes it as "approximately 30,600 words...typed on eighty-four sheets of foolscap paper and [containing] thirteen chapters," with location "Public Record Office, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, filed in AIR 20/4870. It is dated, with corrections and amendments, April and October 1944." The photocopy examined for this entry is called "The Night Battle of Britain," has 67 pages, ten chapters, no corrections, amendments, or dates, and with an estimated 36,500 words; it also bears the stamp of the East Northamptonshire District Council.

Although the essay opens with colorful examples of wartime events, somewhat in the style of the Flying Officer X stories, it then is a history of war strategy, the blitzes of 1940-1941, the Observer Corps, scientific work on new technologies (such as searchlights, radiolocation, radar, and improved aircraft), and of the evolution of piloting during the war. Neither a technical nor a bureaucratic report, but an engaging account for Bates's fellow-countrymen, and with sections that Bates would cover elsewhere in published pieces such as The Battle of Britain, 1940, "Escape," and There's Freedom in the Air.