A new documentary on Channel 7 tonight aims to tell the real story of the Battle of Britain. Now that most of the combatants are dead, freshly revealed diaries and secret files can expose what actually happened in the skies during that critical battle of WW2.
Corporal Harry Cross was an airman in Britain's 5th Airborne Pantyhose Division. An entry in his diary for 17th August 1940 read: "It was a wonderful day for flying. I spanked a couple of Jerries without even getting a scratch. I put that down to wearing my best lucky fishnets and high heels. The squadron leader wore a full bridesmaid's dress today. Those Bosch don't stand a chance."
It was a typical day's work for the brave pilots of the RAF. On that same day, Sergeant Edgar Peculiar of the same division wrote, "Today we flew a commando mission over France. The chafing was a bit rough, so I think I'll be going back to wearing my usual set of lace bloomers."
Later on that month, Sergeant Peculiar would be shot down over Belgium and had to parachute to safety. He wrote about the experience: "Got shot up my rear pipe and had to toss myself out of the plane. Thankfully I was wearing my best pair of silk knickers. When I landed, a German patrol was waiting for me after watching my descent - it was broad daylight. The only words of German I knew were '42B cup' - that's my size. Thankfully the Germans understood completely, so after exchanging brassieres, they sent me on my way. Splendid chaps!"
Wing Commander Hector Rump explained in his diary, "This is a true gentleman's war. Particularly a war for gentlemen who like frilly knickers. Most of our airmen, from the 3rd Airborne Lace Division to the Kings Own Corsets, love to wear women's clothes. And we positively encourage it. There's nothing like seeing an airman come back from a tough mission and noticing that his suspenders have come loose."
However, the war was not always so pleasantly transsexual. Although the pilots of the Battle of Britain were having a jolly time, things changed later in the war. Corporal Cross mentioned this in his diaries of 1942: "Those bloody Yanks, I am sick to death of them showing off their shiny new stockings. We were in a bar last night, my regiment and a bunch of Americans. They were the Marines of the 2nd Negligee Reserves I think. I had put gravy browning on my legs to try to look like tights. Not that I could compete with the fabulous ball-gowns the Yanks were wearing, but you have to try don't you. Anyway, the landlord's dog began licking the gravy off my legs. I've never been so embarrassed in all my life!"
He continued. "Of course the war has completely changed now. I don't see how we can continue. What with the Japanese and their kamikaze ladyboys, the competition is getting really tough."
And so it proved. Following the end of the war, Britain was no longer the world leader in transvestitism. It was a decline which continues to this day. But as Churchill said, "If this country survives for a thousand years, people will say of the Battle of Britain - that was their finest underwear."