Becoming ‘a Man’ During the Battle of Britain: Combat, Masculinity and Rites of Passage in the Memoirs of ‘the Few’
This chapter examines a number of autobiographical accounts published by veterans of ‘the Few’ who believed that they had transitioned from ‘boys’ to ‘men’ in the cockpits of their Spitfires and Hurricanes in mid-1940. It explores interpretations of combat as a rite of initiation into ‘manhood’. Post-war memoirs of ex-fighter pilots were particularly insistent that aerial combat functioned as a meaningful ceremony in which the pilot traversed the boundary between boyhood and manhood. Fighting in the Battle of Britain, they collectively asserted, made ‘men’ out of ‘boys’, and this chapter examines how the veteran-memoirists of ‘the Few’ deployed the unique privileges of reflective auto/biographical writing to map these subjective shifts in their masculine identity.