One of the most Iconic years in British History was 1940 when The Battle Of Britain was fought against the Luftwaffe. The reader must remember our parents and grand parents were involved or lived through the war and during my growing up in the 1960’s the war was a very big thing to British families and a lot of my teachers in the 1960’s and 1970’s were in the Army, Royal Navy or RAF during the Second World War.
The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date. From July 1940 until October 13th 1940 coastal shipping convoys and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth were the main targets; one month later the Luftwaffe shifted its attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure. The last true day of The Battle of Britain was on September 15th. 1940. The bombing raids of British cities continued until October 13th 1940.
As the battle progressed the Luftwaffe also targeted aircraft factories and ground infrastructure. Eventually the Luftwaffe resorted to attacking areas of political significance and using terror bombing tactics.
The failure of Germany to achieve its objectives of destroying Britain’s air defences or forcing Britain to negotiate an armistice or an outright surrender is considered its first major defeat and one of the crucial turning points in the war.
While we British were using radar for air defence more effectively than the Germans realised, the Luftwaffe attempted to press its own offensive advantage with advanced radio navigation systems of which we British were initially not aware. One of these was knickebein (“crooked leg”); this system was used at night and for raids where precision was required. It was rarely used during the Battle of Britain.
Towards the end of the Battle of Britain, Britain begun slowly running out of aircraft and pilots. The Germans were targeting airfields and then suddenly changed direction and started to bomb London over a period of days. This gave the RAF time to repair the airfields and replace the damaged aircraft. If Germany had gained air superiority, Adolf Hitler would have launched operation Sea Lion, which was the amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain.
On 15th September two massive waves of German attacks were decisively repulsed by the RAF, with every aircraft of 11 Group being used on that day. The total casualties on this critical day were 60 German and 26 RAF aircraft shot down. The German defeat caused Hitler to order, two days later, the postponement of preparations for the invasion of Britain. Henceforth, in the face of mounting losses in men, aircraft and the lack of adequate replacements, the Luftwaffe switched from daylight to night-time bombing.
If the Germans had invaded and beaten us Brits then the World would have been completely different and instead of English this article would have been in German and the continent of Europe would have been controlled by Germany ( Not like today then!!! ).
On 13th October, Hitler again postponed the invasion “until the spring of 1941”; however, the invasion never happened, and October is regarded as the month regular bombing of Britain ended. It was not until Hitler’s Directive 21 was ordered on 18 December 1940, that the threat of invasion finally dissipated.
The Royal Air Force roll of honour for the Battle of Britain recognises 595 non-British pilots (out of 2,936) as flying at least one authorised operational sortie with an eligible unit of the RAF or Fleet Air Arm between 10 July and 31 October 1940. These included 145 Poles, 127 New Zealanders, 112 Canadians, 88 Czechoslovaks, 32 Australians, 28 Belgians, 25 South Africans, 13 French, 10 Irish, 7 Americans and one each from Jamaica, the British Mandate of Palestine and Southern Rhodesia.
Winston Churchill summed up the effect of the battle and the contribution of Fighter Command with the words, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. Pilots who fought in the Battle have been known as The Few ever since.
Battle of Britain Day is commemorated in the United Kingdom on 15th September. Within the Commonwealth, Battle of Britain Day is usually observed on the third Sunday in September. In some areas in the British Channel Islands, it is celebrated on the second Thursday in September.
Please visit my WW1 and WW2 War Planes on my Art Prints Collection @ http://www.fabprints.com
My other website is called Directory of British Icons: http://fabprints.webs.com
The Chinese call Britain ‘The Island of Hero’s’ which I think sums up what we British are all about. We British are inquisitive and competitive and are always looking over the horizon to the next adventure and discovery.
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