The Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain began in 1940 after the so called phony war between September 1, 1939 and the allied evacuation of Dunkirk at the end of May 1940. At the time, the German blitzkrieg was under way and had swallowed up the Low Countries and was steamrolling towards Paris. After the fall of France on June 22, the British remained the sole challenger to the German occupation of Europe. Initially, Hitler had hoped to avoid war with Britain but Britain’s new prime minister, Winston Churchill was determined to fight the Nazi threat no matter what the cost. Germany responded by organizing an invasion plan of Britain which necessitated air superiority by the Luftwaffe and the destruction of the RAF.


At the time of the German air offensive, both air forces had combat experiences but where suffering from severe airplane losses. Yet Germany’s air forces were more than half as strong as the British. On August 13, 1940, the Germans began their air offensive against RAF air installations, which included air fields, communications outposts and the destruction of the RAF fighter and bomber squadrons. For three months, the German fighters and bombers pounded the RAF inflicting serious damage as they moved their bombing raids further north onto the forward fighter airfields close to London. Had the Germans continued their offensive against the RAF they may have defeated Britain and paved the road for invasion. But an incident involving the accidental dropping of bombs on London, which caused a reaction by Churchill to retaliate on Berlin, caused Hitler to change tactics and begin the bombing of major British cities. The concentration of German bombers focused on bombing London, which was known as the Blitz, gave the RAF a chance to regroup and rebuild its defenses. They inflicted severe losses on the Germans, which convinced them that the Battle of Britain could not be won.