After a tragic start to their war, and the death of their old Squadron Leader, Hornet Squadron embarks for France.
September 1939. A group of young men in PT gear are running through woodland and over streams. They are the pilots of Hornet Squadron, an RAF Fighter squadron. As the runners near the end of the run, a pair of Spitfires fly low overhead, as Squadron Leader Hector G Ramsey - aka 'The Ram' - is leading Pilot Officer 'Dicky' Starr on a formation practice flight. Meanwhile, Flying Officer 'Skull' Skelton is discussing the pilot's poor aircraft recognition skills with the adjutant, Flight Lieutenant 'Uncle' Kellaway. Kellaway responds by pointing out things are different in the air, before suggesting that Skull should try flying, only for Skelton to describe flying as unnatural. Shortly afterwards, Ramsey and Starr land after the practice flight, only for The Ram to taxi into a newly dug slit trench in full view of Skelton and Kellaway. The Ram's tirade at the ground crew - and Starr - is cut short when, after the canopy closes on his fingers, Ramsey slips and falls to the ground, dying from a broken neck.[N 2]
Later that morning, the pilots listen to Neville Chamberlain's declaration of war, while the adjutant is on the phone to Group HQ to inform them about the Ram's death. After completing the call, Kellaway and Skelton discuss the suitability of the senior pilot, Flight Lieutenant 'Fanny' Barton, to take over as Acting CO. Just after Skelton describes him as 'a bit dull', Barton enters the Adj's office, to be informed by Kellaway of his appointment. On hearing that his first job will be to write to Ramsey's next of kin, Barton remarks that he's not very good at that sort of thing.
Shortly afterwards, Barton calls a briefing, only for some of the pilots to arrive late after visiting the local pub in response to the declaration of war. Barton lambasts the pilots for their attitude, before informing them that have 24 hours to memorise a list of Polish phrases. While the pilots are collecting the lists, Barton and Kellaway discuss the mentality of fighter pilots.
In the dispersal room, the pilots are discussing the Polish tests, prompting Pilot Officer 'Moggy' Cattermole to remark that he has no time for anyone who can't speak English, before signing a fellow pilot's paper with the name Anthony Eden. At this point Barton walks in, just in time to answer a phone call from Group, clearing Hornet for a training flight. While in the air, Hornet are directed to intercept a formation of aircraft, which are initially assumed to be hostile.
- ↑ Filmed using MH434, flown by Ray Hanna 
- ↑ The impact snapped his third and forth cervical vertebrae.