The Battle of Britain was a war of the sky between the German Luftwaffe and the British Royal Air force which lit up the sky with flames and noise over Britain between July and October 1940. The battle, which was a first for fighter planes of this type, was the result of a German plan to rule the sky’s over Britain and the English Channel by destroying the RAF and aircraft industry. Hitler and Nazi Germany saw this as the prime opportunity to take their advantage and win the war.
In 1940, German forces had overrun Holland, Belgium and parts of France using Blitzkrieg tactics – commonly known as ‘The Lightning Wars’. Yet as Hitler turned his attention to Great Britain in the summer of 1940, directing a force of over 1,300 bombers and 1,000 fighters first against us it became apparent that the Luftwaffe was fighting a losing battle.
The Luftwaffe’s first problem was that it was not properly equipped for the long range operations overseas which became part of the battle. Its remit was close air support for ground forces; they were not properly suited to the new campaign at all.
The technical differences between the fighter aircraft used by two sides were unimportant: Great Britain’s fighter planes were the Spitfire and the Hurricane, whilst the Nazi’s relied heavily on Messerschmitt fighters and Junkers dive bombers.
During the battle, the Britain and the RAF enjoyed the advantage of defending against attacks launched from airfields that were widely apart, thus profiting from what army strategists call ‘interior lines’.
The final part of the battle came on 15 September, 1940 – a day in which the Luftwaffe lost 56 planes and the RAF 28. During this epic battle that lasted for over 12 weeks, 1,733 German aircraft had been destroyed, compared with only 915 British fighters. On 17 September, realising the odds was stacked against him and that he was fighting a losing battle, Hitler postponed the invasion of Britain. Yet this did not mean an end to the bombing terror unfortunately. Nazi tactics were changed again and the Luftwaffe resorted to bombing of larger cities such as London, Birmingham and Coventry.
Fighting continued for another few weeks, but 15 September was seen as an overwhelming defeat for the Luftwaffe. And now it is for this reason, this date is celebrated in Great Britain as ‘Battle of Britain Day’.
Sir Winston Churchill who had lead Great Britain to victory said “Never, in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”