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Piece of Cake is a six-part 1988 television series, depicting the life of a Royal Air Force fighter squadron from the day of the British entry into World War II through to one of the toughest days in the Battle of Britain. The series was produced by Holmes Associates for London Weekend Television and had a budget of 5 million pounds.
The series is based on the 1983 novel Piece of Cake, by Derek Robinson. In the book, the squadron is equipped with Hurricanes. The relative rarity of airworthy Hurricanes in the late 1980s precluded their use in the television series.
The squadron depicted was the fictional Hornet Squadron, which was equipped with Supermarine Spitfire fighters, and deployed to France, where it waited out the Phoney War in comfort and elegance, until the German attack on Western Europe in May 1940. One by one, nearly all of the original pilots were killed and as losses mounted, the character of the squadron changed from a casual nonchalance to a fight for survival. By the end of the series, only four of the original fourteen officers had survived.
Some of the major themes explored in the script include: the snobbery and class-consciousness that existed in the RAF during the era; the belief cherished by many of the pilots that the war would be fought as a sporting gentleman’s contest; the inflexibility and in-effectiveness of the tactics used by RAF Fighter Command in early 1940 and the poor gunnery skills and in-adequate training of many of the British pilots. Like in Robinson’s original novel, the storyline spans from the beginning of the war in September 1939 and climaxes with the German Luftwaffe’s first massed aerial assault on London on 7 September 1940.