Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain was the air campaign launched against Britain by Germany in the summer and autumn of 1940 and was intended as a prequel to a full-scale invasion. It was the first battle in history that was fought almost entirely by air forces. Following the Fall of France, the Luftwaffe began operations against Britain, with the intention of gaining air superiority before an actual invasion, codenamed Sea Lion. The first part of the battle took place in the English Channel, where convoys and ports were subject to air attack. From the middle of August, the Luftwaffe mounted a sustained attack on Britain’s airforce and infrastructure, which came close to overwhelming the RAF. Then in retaliation for the RAF bombing of Berlin, German attacks switched to bombing major cities and the civilian population in an attempt to undermine morale. The critical battle took place on 15th September when two large waves of German aircraft were comprehensively defeated by the RAF. As a result, Sea Lion was postponed and the Luftwaffe switched to night time bombing. In effect, the battle was over.
The summer of 1940 had been characterised by intense air battles over southern England and the largest aerial bombing campaign conducted to date. It had also seen the famous duel between two exceptional fighter aircraft: the British Spitfire and the German ME-109. In total over 3000 aircrew from both sides were killed and a similar number of aircraft destroyed. The results of the battle were of international significance. The German failure meant that the planned invasion of Britain, Operation Sea Lion, could not take place and so Britain remained in the war. This was to prove crucial as it forced Germany to maintain troops and military resources in western Europe and Britain was later to provide the springboard for Operation Overlord in 1944 and the opening of the second front.
The Luftwaffe carried out raids on British urban targets for two months prior to the start of the Blitz, with the loss of over 1,000 civilian lives. Germany bombs British coastal airfields
11 July -18 August 1940
The first phase of the Battle of Britain focused on the English Channel, where the Luftwaffe attacked convoys and English ports.
24 August - 4 September 1940
From mid-August, as the Battle of the Channel faded, the Luftwaffe stepped up attacks on RAF infrastructure. These intense raids almost overwhelmed the British air force.
On 25 August 1940, the RAF launched its first raid on Berlin in retaliation for the German bombing of London the previous day.
7-15 September 1940
On 7 September 1940,the Luftwaffe unleashed a merciless bombing campaign against London and Britain's major cities. Instead of breaking morale, however, the raids only galvanised the will of the British people for the rest of the war.
15 September 1940
The most decisive confrontation of the Battle of Britain took place in the skies above London on 15 September.
17 September 1940
The RAF had denied the Luftwaffe air superiority over the south of England. Now Hitler could not invade Britain and, on 17 September 1940, he postponed Operation Sealion.
The Battle of Britain was the German air force's attempt to gain air superiority over the RAF from July to September 1940. Their ultimate failure was one of the turning points of World War Two and prevented Germany from invading Britain.