Battle of britain💣 By libby✏️

The war started in 1939 and ended at 1949💣

On July 10, 1940, Nazi Germany launched a surprise airborne raid against a British shipping convoy in the English Channel. The strike is now considered the opening thrust of the Battle of Britain, a prolonged aerial duel that saw the German Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force struggle for domination of the skies over England. From July to October, British airmen stubbornly faced down German bombers and fighter planes and stymied a planned invasion, prompting Winston Churchill to say that “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Check out 10 fascinating facts about the battle that decided the fate of Great Britain during World War II.

The stage for the battle was set in May 1940, when Nazi Germany launched a massive blitzkrieg against Western Europe. Hitler’s armies overran Belgium, the Netherlands and France in only a matter of weeks, leaving Britain as the lone standing Allied power. During a June 18 speech, Prime Minister Winston Churchill predicted a showdown with Germany when he said, “The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”

Despite being fresh off his lightning conquest of France, Hitler was wary of invading Britain. The island nation was protected by the English Channel, and its Royal Navy was superior to the German Kriegsmarine. He instead hoped that Britain would acknowledge “her militarily hopeless situation” and sue for peace. A small contingent of British politicians also favored a compromise, but Winston Churchill brushed off talk of surrender and announced that Britain was determined to fight on. He rallied the public by characterizing the coming battle as a struggle for national survival, and when the Nazis dangled the prospect of a peace treaty in early July 1940, he rejected it outright. It was only then that Hitler reluctantly approved plans for Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious invasion originally scheduled to unfold in mid-August.

It was the first battle in history waged almost exclusively in the air.

A Supermarine Spitfire (foreground) and a Hawker Hurricane. (Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images)

A Supermarine Spitfire (foreground) and a Hawker Hurricane. (Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Hitler’s plan to invade the British mainland hinged on Germany first annihilating the Royal Air Force and winning air superiority over England. With this in mind, the fight for Britain transformed into an all-air contest between the Luftwaffe’s bombers and Messerschmitt Bf109s and British Fighter Command’s Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires. Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering initially believed he would easily sweep the RAF aside in just a few days, but the dogfights dragged on for three and a half long months. By the time the battle ended in late-October, Germany had lost more than 1,700 planes—nearly twice as many as the British.

The battle included one of the earliest uses of radar in combat.

While the Luftwaffe enjoyed an edge in total aircraft during the early stages of the battle, the RAF had a secret weapon in the form of Radio Direction Finding, better known as radar. Shortly after the technology was developed in the 1930s, the British built a ring of radar stations along their coastline. These “Chain Home” stations were still primitive—a civilian Observer Corps was required to spot low-flying aircraft—but they nevertheless became a crucial part of Britain’s strategy. By pinging approaching Luftwaffe raiders with radio waves, the RAF could pin down their location and scramble fighters to intercept them, thereby robbing the Germans of the element of surprise. Nazi leaders never appreciated the importance of British radar, and their failure to degrade it allowed the RAF to consistently remain a step ahead of the Luftwaffe.

The Royal Air Force’s squadrons included many foreign fighter pilots.

Polish pilots from the 303 squadron.

Polish pilots from the 303 squadron.

Of the more than 2,900 RAF pilots who served in the Battle of Britain, only around 2,350 were British. The rest were natives of Commonwealth territories such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as expatriates from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and other countries under Nazi occupation. There were even a handful of American pilots, most notably Billy Fiske, a 29-year-old sportsman who had previously won a gold medal for bobsledding at the Winter Olympics. The international contingent proved especially deadly in the cockpit. The Polish No. 303 fighter squadron downed 126 German planes during the battle—more than any Allied unit—and the RAF’s top scoring ace was Josef Frantisek, a Czech aviator who singlehandedly claimed 17 aerial victories.

Pilot exhaustion and personnel shortages plagued both sides.

For men on both sides of the Battle of Britain, combat fatigue was as persistent a foe as enemy Spitfires and Messerschmitts. German morale sank to dangerous lows as the battle wore on, and British airmen were beaten down by grueling 15-hour shifts and constant Luftwaffe bombing raids on their airfields. Pilots often flew several missions a day on only a few hours of sleep, and many took amphetamine pills just to keep themselves awake. In a bid to bolster its used up fighter force, the RAF eventually cut the training time for new pilots from six months to just two weeks. Some recruits even ended up on the front lines with as little as nine hours’ experience in modern fighter planes.

A British pilot famously rammed a German bomber to prevent the destruction of Buckingham Palace.

Wreckage of the bomber that Ray Holmes brought down. (Credit: Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

Wreckage of the bomber that Ray Holmes brought down. (Credit: Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

During one of the battle’s most frantic periods of fighting over London, RAF Sergeant Ray Holmes spotted a German Dornier bomber headed in the direction of Buckingham Palace. Holmes had already used up all his ammunition in an earlier dogfight, but rather than retiring, he steered his Hawker Hurricane straight at the enemy aircraft and rammed it with his wing. The blow sliced the Dornier’s tail clean off and sent it plummeting into nearby Victoria Station. Holmes’ Hurricane was also wrecked, but he managed to bail out and land dangling from the roof of an apartment complex. The astonishing incident was partially captured on film, and Holmes was hailed as a national hero for having saved the royal residence from potential disaster.

The Spitfire was not Britain’s main aircraft.

Thanks to its sleek lines and blistering speed, the Supermarine Spitfire has gone down in popular lore as the plane that saved England during the Battle of Britain. Yet Spitfires only made up a third of the British fighters during the campaign. The bulk of the RAF force consisted of the less glamorous Hawker Hurricane, an older wood-and-fabric fighter that was slower than the Spitfire but reportedly sturdier and more forgiving in combat. While the two planes carried the same armaments, the Hurricane’s superior numbers meant that it was responsible for the vast majority of Luftwaffe losses during the battle.

Hitler’s decision to bomb London turned the battle in Britain’s favor.

Damage in Balham, London, following a nighttime air raid on October 14, 1940. (Credit: William Vandivert/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Damage in Balham, London, following a nighttime air raid on October 14, 1940. (Credit: William Vandivert/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

The Luftwaffe’s bombing campaigns in England were initially restricted to military and industrial targets, but the strategy changed in September 1940, after the RAF launched a retaliatory raid against Berlin. The strike sent Hitler into a fit of rage. Ignoring the progress the Luftwaffe was making in attacking RAF air bases, he demanded they shift their focus toward “erasing” British cities from the map. The bombing campaign now known as the Blitz began on September 7 with a raid on London, and dozens more attacks followed over the next several weeks. While the bombings took a sobering toll on British civilians, they also temporarily relieved pressure on the RAF, allowing it to repair its crippled airfields and refresh its pilots. The respite proved critical. When the Luftwaffe tried to score a knockout blow with a massive air attack on September 15, a resilient RAF intercepted them and downed roughly 60 aircraft. Hitler was forced to shelve Operation Sea Lion only a few days later.

German bombing raids continued long after the battle had ended.

The Battle of Britain fizzled out in late-October 1940, when Hitler abandoned his quest for control of British airspace and turned his attention toward attacking the Soviet Union. The campaign was Germany’s first major defeat in World War II, but it didn’t mark the end of the Blitz against Britain. The Luftwaffe continued to conduct nighttime bombing raids over London, Coventry and other cities for several more months in a futile attempt to break Britain’s fighting spirit. By the time the campaign finally ended in May 1941, some 40,000 people had been killed.

The Battle of Britain was ultimately a test of strength between the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the RAF. The RAF had become an independent branch of the British armed forces in 1918. Although it developed slowly in the years following the First World War, it went through a period of rapid expansion in the latter half of the 1930s – largely in response to the growing threat from Nazi Germany. In July 1936, RAF Fighter Command was established under the leadership of Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. Germany had been banned from having an air force after the First World War, but the Luftwaffe was re-established by the Nazi government and by 1940 it was the largest and most formidable air force in the world. It had suffered heavy losses in the Battle of France, but by August the three air fleets (Luftflotten) that would carry out the assault on Britain were at full readiness. The RAF met this challenge with some of the best fighter aircraft in the world – the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire.

The British developed an air defence network that would give them a critical advantage in the Battle of Britain. The Dowding System – named for Fighter Command’s Commander-in-Chief Sir Hugh Dowding – brought together technology, ground defences and fighter aircraft into a unified system of defence. The RAF organised the defence of Britain into four geographical areas, called ‘Groups’, which were further divided into sectors. The main fighter airfield in each sector – the ‘Sector Station’ – was equipped with an operations room from which the fighters were directed into combat. Radar gave early warning of Luftwaffe raids, which were also tracked by the Observer Corps. Information on incoming raids was passed to the Filter Room at Fighter Command Headquarters at Bentley Priory. Once the direction of the raid was clearly established, the information was sent to the relevant Group’s headquarters. From there it was sent to the Sector Stations, which would ‘scramble’ fighters into action. The Sector Stations received updated information as it became available and further directed airborne fighters by radio. The operations rooms also directed other elements of the defence network, including anti-aircraft guns, searchlights and barrage balloons. The Dowding System could process huge amounts of information in a short period of time. It allowed Fighter Command to manage its valuable – and relatively limited – resources, making sure they were not wasted.

The Battle of Britain took place between July and October 1940. The Germans began by attacking coastal targets and British shipping operating in the English Channel. They launched their main offensive on 13 August. Attacks moved inland, concentrating on airfields and communications centres. Fighter Command offered stiff resistance, despite coming under enormous pressure. During the last week of August and the first week of September, in what would be the critical phase of the battle, the Germans intensified their efforts to destroy Fighter Command. Airfields, particularly those in the south-east, were significantly damaged but most remained operational. On 31 August, Fighter Command suffered its worst day of the entire battle. But the Luftwaffe was overestimating the damage it was inflicting and wrongly came to the conclusion that the RAF was on its last legs. Fighter Command was bruised but not broken. On 7 September, the Germans shifted the weight of their attacks away from RAF targets and onto London. This would be an error of critical importance. The raids had devastating effects on London’s residents, but they also gave Britain’s defences time to recover. On 15 September Fighter Command repelled another massive Luftwaffe assault, inflicting severe losses that were becoming increasingly unsustainable for the Germans. Although fighting would continue for several more weeks, it had become clear that the Luftwaffe had failed to secure the air superiority needed for invasion. Hitler indefinitely postponed Operation ‘Sealion’.

Nearly 3,000 men of the RAF took part in the Battle of Britain – those who Winston Churchill called ‘The Few’. While most of the pilots were British, Fighter Command was an international force. Men came from all over the Commonwealth and occupied Europe – from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Belgium, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia. There were even some pilots from the neutral United States and Ireland. Two of the four Group Commanders, 11 Group’s Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park and 10 Group’s Air Vice-Marshal Sir Quintin Brand, came from New Zealand and South Africa respectively. The War Cabinet created two Polish fighter squadrons, Nos. 302 and 303, in the summer of 1940. These were followed by other national units, including two Czech fighter squadrons. Many of the RAF’s aces were men from the Commonwealth and the highest scoring pilot of the Battle was Josef Frantisek, a Czech pilot flying with No. 303 (Polish) Fighter Squadron. No. 303 entered battle on 31 August, at the peak of the Battle of Britain, but quickly became Fighter Command’s highest claiming squadron with 126 kills.

During the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe was dealt an almost lethal blow from which it never fully recovered. Although Fighter Command suffered heavy losses and was often outnumbered during actual engagements, the British outproduced the Germans and maintained a level of aircraft production that helped them withstand their losses. The Luftwaffe, with its lack of heavy bombers and failure to fully identify critically important targets, never inflicted strategically significant damage. It suffered from constant supply problems, largely as a result of underachievement in aircraft production. Germany’s failure to defeat the RAF and secure control of the skies over southern England made invasion all but impossible. British victory in the Battle of Britain was decisive, but ultimately defensive in nature – in avoiding defeat, Britain secured one of its most significant victories of the Second World War. It was able to stay in the war and lived to fight another day. Victory in the Battle of Britain did not win the war, but it made winning a possibility in the longer term. Four years later, the Allies would launch their invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe – Operation ‘Overlord’ – from British shores, which would prove decisive in ultimately bringing the war against Germany to an end.

The Battle of Britain: Facts and Information

Posted on April 18, 2013 by James • 15 Comments

The Battle of Britain was a series of conflicts between Germany and Britain in World War 2. Having defeated France, Germany wanted to invade Britain, but in order to do this, Germany had to destroy Britain’s RAF (Royal Air Force). They attempted to do this with bombing raids.

Here are some facts about the Battle of Britain:

The name ‘Battle of Britain’ is taken from a Winston Churchill speech in which he said that “…the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin.”

The first German bombing raids took place on 10th July 1940. At first the Luftwaffe (the German Air Force) bombed ships in the English Channel and coastal defences. They then concentrated on destroying the RAF, before turning their attention to the destruction of London (click here to find out more about The Blitz).

A key event in the Battle of Britain (known as Battle of Britain Day) took place on 15th September 1940. On this day, Germany launched a massive assault on London and filled the skies with a large number of bombers and fighter planes. The RAF responded, and British planes successfully scattered the bombers and defended London. Germany continued to bomb Britian after 15th September, but the RAF had clearly demonstrated that it wasn’t close to being defeated.

The code name for the German invasion of Britain was Operation Sea Lion.

The main RAF fighter planes were the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire. The German Luftwaffe fighters were the Messerschmitt Bf110 and Messerschmitt Bf109. The Luftwaffe had more planes than the RAF and their pilots were more experienced. The RAF planes were high performance and they had the advantage of radar, used to detect enemy raids.

Herman Goering was in command of the Luftwaffe. Sir Hugh Dowding was head of the RAF.

Although exact figures are hard to come by, it is thought that about 1000 RAF planes were shot down in the Battle of Britain. The Luftwaffe lost many more planes than this, perhaps as many as 1800.

Great Britain's air force was called the RAF or the Royal Air Force. Germany's air force was called the Luftwaffe. The code name for Hitler's invasion plans was Operation Sea Lion. It is estimated that around 1,000 British planes were shot down during the battle, while over 1,800 German planes were destroyed. The main types of fighter planes used in the battle were the Messerschmitt Bf109 and the Bf110 by the German Luftwaffe and Hurricane Mk and Spitfire Mk by the Royal Air Force. The leader of the German Luftwaffe was Herman Goering. The leader of the Royal Air Force was Sir Hugh Dowding. Germany continued to bomb London at night until May of 1941. This series of bombings was called the Blitz. At one point London was bombed for 57 nights in a row. Hitler finally stopped bombing London because he needed his bombers to invade Russia.

The Battle of Britain started on July 10th, 1940. It lasted many months as the Germans continued to bomb Britain.

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