Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain, also known in German as the Luftschlacht um Großbritannien or Luftschlacht um England, occurred from July 10th, 1940, to October 31st, 1940, by the German Luftwaffe against the United Kingdom. The primary objective of the Luftwaffe was to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF) and would be the first major war campaign to be fought entirely by air forces of opposing nations before that date. At the beginning of the German offensive, the primary targets would be shipping centers and convoys in places such as Portsmouth, England, with targets later shifting to RAF airfields and infrastructure. Later in the campaign, the Luftwaffe would target ground factories, infrastructure, and civilian targets used for terror bombing tactics.
Why Did the Battle of Britain Occur?
After the Dunkirk evacuation occurred and the French surrendered on June 22nd, 1940, Adolf Hitler focused on invading the Soviet Union. He believed that the British would quickly come to terms and did not make the invasion of Great Britain a priority at the time. Despite the UK Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, preferring a negotiated peace with Germany, the new British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, refused to consider an armistice with Hitler. On July 11th, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, told Hitler that an eventual invasion of Great Britain would require complete air superiority and should only be considered a last resort with many of the German Navy ships being sunk during the Norwegian Campaign. Less than a week later, Hitler prepared a plan to invade Britain that would frighten the country into coming to the peace table. All preparations were to be completed by August and resulting in the Battle of Britain commencing in July of that year.
Battle of Britain Commanders
- Hugh Dowding
- Keith Park
- Trafford Leigh-Mallory
- CJ Quintin Brand
- Richard Saul
- Hermann Göring
- Albert Kesselring
- Hugo Sperrle
- Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
- Rino Corso Fougier(Italy)
Battle of Britain Order of Battle
- Great Britain: 1,963 serviceable aircraft
- Axis Powers: 2,550 serviceable aircraft.
Battle of Britain Casualties
- 544 aircrew killed
- 422 aircrew wounded
- 1,547 aircraft destroyed
- 2,698 aircrew killed
- 967 captured
- 638 missing bodies identified by British Authorities
- 1,887 aircraft destroyed
Battle of Britain Map
Battle of Britain Video
Battle of Britain Summary
The RAF achieved a decisive victory over the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. At the beginning of the battle, Herman Goring, commander of the German Luftwaffe, believed Britain could be defeated with air power alone. At the commencement of the fight, he had more than 2,000 aircraft in three air fleets or Luftflotten against approximately 700 aircraft in the RAF that were divided across four fighter groups. The significant difference between the two sides was the extensive radar and command and control (C2) system the British had to detect and respond against German incursions into British airspace.
The Battle of Britain is now divided into four stages by war scholars. The first occurred from July 10th to August 12th, 1940. During this battle phase, the Luftwaffe would concentrate on conducting recon missions for more significant attacks later in the campaign. They would also attack the southern ports, shipping, and radar stations around the English Channel. Due to these attacks, the British would be forced to cease all Channel convoys.
The second phase of the battle was from August 13th to September 6th, 1940. During this battle phase, the Luftwaffe would try to destroy RAF planes in the air and on the ground, with the airfields belonging to RAF Group 11 being heavily targeted.
The third phase of the campaign was from September 7th to October 5th, 1940, and became known as the London Blitz. The Germans undertook large-scale bombing against significant cities (including London) and other manufacturing and strategic targets. Hitler hoped to break the British will during this phase of the battle. The Germans did conduct a daytime bombing raid of London to kick off this phase but would be forced to switch to night bombing runs due to heavy casualties received during the daylight.
The final phase of the battle was from October 6th to October 31st, 1940. During this phase, the Germans would conduct heavy raids against London and other cities less frequently due to poor weather. The Battle of Britain officially concluded on 31 October 1940.
Battle of Britain Conclusions
Germany failed to achieve its objective of destroying the RAF and forcing the British government to negotiate. This was considered the first significant defeat for Adolf Hitler and the German government during the war. If Germany had won the Battle of Britain, it is possible that the Nazis could have launched an amphibious invasion of the British Isles, which was prevented.