Dunkirk Question
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Thread: Dunkirk Question

  1. #1
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    Dunkirk Question

    OK, I'm probably the last person on the forum to see this movie, but I finally did; I got it as a gift last week. One question: Why were the Spits flying in their Vic only 500 feet above the English Channel? It would seem like this is screaming to any hotshot 109 pilot "Come shoot me". Is this something historical or just showbiz? I don't know enough about the air battle over Dunkirk to know the difference. Thanks in advance.



    JAMES


    PS Is that Michael Caine's voice as Fortis Leader?
    "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

    -William Munny
    Unforgiven (1992)

  2. #2
    Sounds like Michael Caine to me

  3. #3
    Early in the war, during the Norway and France campaign, the Brits would fly in tight formation, assuming that this would increase their fire "punch". GAF, with the experience gained in Spain, was already using loose formations of two (rotte) or four (schwarm) aircraft, Dunkirk was the end of the battle of France and, progressively, the RAF would adopt similar formations for the BoB.
    Torture numbers and they'll say anything.


    Hubbabubba, Touche à tout.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by hubbabubba View Post
    Early in the war, during the Norway and France campaign, the Brits would fly in tight formation, assuming that this would increase their fire "punch". GAF, with the experience gained in Spain, was already using loose formations of two (rotte) or four (schwarm) aircraft, Dunkirk was the end of the battle of France and, progressively, the RAF would adopt similar formations for the BoB.


    Hubbabubba,
    It seemed odd to me that they put on and kept their oxygen masks on nearly all time. Even at very low altitudes. I thought most engagements were fought in mid altitudes and oxygen masks were not necessary. Or was wearing the masks done for dramatic effects for the movie?

    ..."He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose" -Jim Elliot

  5. #5
    SOH Staff .."Bartender" AussieMan's Avatar
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    The masks also contained the microphone for the radio.


    Cheers
    Pat


    "Some people might say that freedom is being alone in the bush with the only sounds being the murmurs from the birds ... but I believe freedom is at 5000 feet with no other sound than the engine roaring."- William Hutchison, a young man taken from us far too young (16).

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    SOH-CM-2018 MrZippy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AussieMan View Post
    The masks also contained the microphone for the radio.
    It would have been simpler if these came about earlier in the war. I remember many movies where the pilots wore their masks off to the side of their face and moved it into position to talk. 12 O'clock High got it right with the use of throat mikes for the b-17 crews.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hubbabubba View Post
    Early in the war, during the Norway and France campaign, the Brits would fly in tight formation, assuming that this would increase their fire "punch". GAF, with the experience gained in Spain, was already using loose formations of two (rotte) or four (schwarm) aircraft, Dunkirk was the end of the battle of France and, progressively, the RAF would adopt similar formations for the BoB.
    Thank you for answering. I knew that part, hubba. What I was wondering was why they were flying at such a low altitude. Was there a reason for that? It seems they'd be really disadvantaged.

    JAMES
    "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

    -William Munny
    Unforgiven (1992)

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by MrZippy View Post
    It would have been simpler if these came about earlier in the war. I remember many movies where the pilots wore their masks off to the side of their face and moved it into position to talk. 12 O'clock High got it right with the use of throat mikes for the b-17 crews.
    I know the throat mike was pretty big in WWII, BUT: The B-17's flew pretty high most of the time, so the crews had to be wearing their masks for most of the mission, no?
    The fighter pilots tended to change altitude rather dramatically during a dogfight. I would think they'd keep their masks on so they didn't accidentally go above the hypoxia ceiling, movies be darned. Masks always get removed in the movies so they can hear the pilots say their lines.
    Think Top Gun...

    Nowadays, yes, the mike is in the mask, but more importantly, they keep their masks on from engine start to shut-down. It's an ejection thing. If the canopy fails to jettison before the seat does, the mask, and visor, help protect their faces from severe laceration. And yes, they can go out right through the canopy. Will, even if it fails to jettison, too. That seat is leaving the plane once the handles are yanked, one way or another.

    Keep those masks on, gang! You never know when you have to eject from behind your computer, after all

    Pat☺
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Eoraptor1 View Post
    Thank you for answering. I knew that part, hubba. What I was wondering was why they were flying at such a low altitude. Was there a reason for that? It seems they'd be really disadvantaged.

    JAMES
    I think it has much to do with artistic license here. But who really knows? Much aerial combat took place at 10+ along the Belgian border to intercept the bombers. But we can imagine a few late-comers deciding to fly low to catch-up with the fight. Climbing was time (an fuel) consuming.

    In the movie, they paid dearly for that mistake.

    I would think that, in a combat zone, the wearing of the mask was mandatory for RAF crew as they had no laryngophones/throat mikes.
    Torture numbers and they'll say anything.


    Hubbabubba, Touche à tout.

  10. #10
    Senior Administrator huub vink's Avatar
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    Most aircraft present in the Dunkirk area were there for ground support. Strafing and tactical bombing was of course done from a much lower altitude than strategic bombing. So I think flying below 3000 ft must have been quite common.

    There are many "comparisons" between the movie and what really happened. This is one of them: http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/dunkirk/

    The shots in the city were actually taken in current Dunkirk. In the movie there wasn't much damage, in reality the city was severely damaged. I general I think it was much busier, both in the air as at sea, at Dunkirk than shown in the movie.

    just my 2 cents,
    Huub

  11. #11
    The Spit near the end that ran out of fuel had a glide slope ratio that would be the envy of any sailplane manufacturer. I was waiting for him to gain altitude and head back to England but I guess they thought that would be a bit much.

  12. #12
    Fortis Leader does indeed sound like Michael Caine , perhaps a small cameo for his role in The Battle of Britain movie .... Mike

  13. #13
    SOH-CM-2018 dhasdell's Avatar
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    Yes, it is:
    http://www.vulture.com/2017/07/michael-caine-voice-cameo-dunkirk.html


    I've a dim memory of reading of someone, possibly Johnnie Johnson, scrounging a US throat mike, but that was later in the war.
    Rats - why won't anything work properly first time?

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Flyboy208 View Post
    Fortis Leader does indeed sound like Michael Caine , perhaps a small cameo for his role in The Battle of Britain movie .... Mike

    As for flying across at 500' that would be foolish in the extreme.

    It is indeed Michael Caine in an uncredited cameo.
    Jim
    NAVIGATION; The art of knowing where you are without having to hit it first.

  15. #15
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    My sincere thanks to everyone who answered.

    JAMES
    "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

    -William Munny
    Unforgiven (1992)

  16. #16
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    Dunkirk movie

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry View Post
    The Spit near the end that ran out of fuel had a glide slope ratio that would be the envy of any sailplane manufacturer. I was waiting for him to gain altitude and head back to England but I guess they thought that would be a bit much.
    Hi all, I'm a bit late to the party but here is my 2 AUS cents worth - yes can't agree more with the above quote. As hubbabubba said "I think it has much to do with artistic license here".

    Most of the aerial sequences were a bit of a laugh if you analyse them a bit - (spoilers alert if you haven't seen it yet)

    - no, they wouldn't have flown over that low if they could help it, you would gained height over England where you wouldn't be attacked by Bf 109s as you did it, not wait until you reached the combat zone
    - yes most of the actual air-to-air combat took place well away from the beaches at greater heights than shown in the movie
    - no, you wouldn't have closed your canopy before ditching as you wouldn't want to be trapped in your cockpit (!)
    - no, you wouldn't have a made a wheels down landing on a Channel coast beach where the "puddles" on the beach could easily be 3' deep (and you would have opened your canopy)
    - no, you wouldn't have been able to see the detail looking down at your ditched wingman or a ship as you flew over them at well above stalling speed, as opposed to the movie shots from the drone at 20 mph
    - if you look at the trailer given in the first post you'll notice the Spitfires go from sea level to above the clouds and back to see level in a few seconds
    - I haven't spent the time to look it up, but I suspect the guns of a gliding Spitfire would not have fired at all? Not sure ...
    - etc etc etc

    So the one thing that really rings true is yes they would have worn the masks in order to use the radios.

    Having said all that, I didn't let any of the above spoil my enjoyment of the movie and I hope everyone here at SOH enjoyed it too - after all it's a work of fiction, it's not a documentary.

    Cheers,

    SW

  17. #17
    I was surprised about misuse of correct canopy procedures myself.
    The "endless glide" at the end made me howl with laughter but as you say, ignore the catastrophic lack of realism and just enjoy the film.
    Jim
    NAVIGATION; The art of knowing where you are without having to hit it first.

  18. #18
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    I just found this new PBS Nova video about Dunkirk at their website. I missed it when it was on television, but fortunately they made the video available. Enjoy.

    http://www.pbs.org/video/great-escap...unkirk-qb5qcr/

    JAMES
    "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

    -William Munny
    Unforgiven (1992)

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