Biplane fighters and bombers held sway at the time of the 1936 Air Exercises, but Britain’s defensive and offensive capabilities needed rapid improvement to meet potential new threats

A scene from Biggin Hill as No 111 Squadron’s Gloster Gauntlets are readied for a sortie during the 1936 Air Exercises.

Overstretch. It was a familiar theme in relation to the RAF of recent years, especially when simultaneous combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq took their toll. Add in the need to replace some ageing equipment, to say nothing of the pressure placed on its personnel, and the service found itself in a very tight spot.

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