The Battle of Britain



July to 31


October 1940

The Battle of Britain was a major air campaign fought over southern England in the late summer of 1940. After the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk and the Fall of France, Hitler needed to gain air superiority over the Channel in preparation for an invasion of Great Britain. The German high command recognised the logistical difficulties of a seaborne attack and its impracticality while the Royal Navy controlled the English Channel and the North Sea. "What General Weygand called the 'Battle of France' is over. I expect that the ‘Battle of Britain’ is about to begin." Churchill. 18 June 1940 Hermann Göring, the former WW1 fighter ace, Hitler’s Deputy who was in charge of the Luftwaffe (the Gernam airforce), boasted that “my Luftwaffe will bring England to her knees” .. and make the Invasion Plan (Operation Sea Lion) a relatively bloodless success .. and Hitler, believing him, sat back and waited for it to happen .. ..
German Invasion Plans - Operation 'Sealion'

Those involved

The various stages of the battle

Preparation Britain began the war with several secret weapons: RADAR - the ability to bounce radio waves off incoming aircraft and measure the size of formations, their height and distance: thousands of OBSERVER CORPS stations which continued to trace enemy planes after they had crossed the coast: FCHQ Fighter Command Head Quarters, buried 80 feet underground at Bentley Priory which coordinated the incoming intelligence and ordered the appropriate Squadrons into the air to intercept enemy bombers and fighters at the correct height and location (the “Dowding system”); & ULTRA the intelligence stream from Bletchley Park obtained from intercepts from the Enigma Code, giving insight into German High Command tactics and intentions. Combat 26 June 16 July : Störangriffe (" nuisance raids "), small-scale, scattered, probing attacks both day and night, with armed reconnaissance, mine-laying sorties and, from 4 July , daylight Kanalkampf (" the Channel battles ") against shipping. 17 July 12 August : daylight Kanalkampf attacks on shipping intensify and there are increased attacks on ports and coastal airfields, together with night raids on RAF bases and aircraft-manufacturing factories. 13 August 6 September : Adlerangriff (" Eagle Attack "), the main assault; an attempt to destroy the RAF in southern England including massive daylight attacks on RAF airfields followed, from 19 August , by heavy night bombing of ports and industrial cities including suburbs of London. 7 September – 2 October : the Blitz commences, main focus is now day and night attacks on London. 3–31 October : large scale night bombing raids, mostly on London; daylight attacks now confined to small scale fighter-bomber Störangriffe raids luring RAF fighters into dogfights.
United Kingdom Royal Air Force Canada Royal Canadian Air Force 1,963 serviceable aircraft Casualties and losses: 1,542 aircrew killed 422 aircrew wounded 1,744 aircraft destroyed 14,286 civilians killed 20,325 civilians injured
Germany Luftwaffe Italy Corpo Aereo Italiano 2,550 serviceable aircraft Casualties and losses: 2,585 aircrew killed or missing 925 captured 735 wounded
Bentley Priory_Battle of Britain meusum St. Paul's Cathedral surviving the Blitz
John Gillespie Magee An Anglo-American aviator and poet who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States entered the war. He died in a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire in 1941.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of .. wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air .. .. Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue. I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace where never lark or ever eagle flew and, While with silent, lifting mind, I’ve trod the high un-trespassed sanctity of space; Put out my hand .. .. and touched the face of God. The Spitfire Prelude Organist, Andrew Unsworth, performs "Spitfire Prelude" by Sir William Walton (1942) - arranged by Dennis Morrell.
S/Ldr Peter Townsend - 85 Squadron - waiting to "scramble" "When they ring the bell .. you run like hell !" Spitfire patrol The iconic pair - Spitfire (foreground) and Hurricane
“Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much, owed by so many, to so few” was a wartime speech made by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 20 August 1940. The name stems from this specific line in the speech which refers to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force pilots who were at that time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe. A few months later, with the battle won and German plans postponed, the Allied airmen became known as "The Few" .