In the summer of 1940 the Battle of Britain – the greatest air battle in history – was fought over the skies of southern England between the RAF and the Luftwaffe. The first battle in history to be decided solely by air power, it had a profound effect on progress and outcome of the Second World War.
By June 1940 Nazi forces were poised on the Channel coast ready to invade England. But in their way stood heavily outnumbered squadrons of RAF – the ‘Few’ – and ground, intelligence and operations crew – the ‘Many’. Between 10 July and 31 October 1940, the Battle of Britain was played out against the blue skies of one of the hottest British summers on record. The battle reached a climax on 15 September before finally coming to a conclusion in October 1940 when the ‘Few’ successfully defeated the numerically superior Luftwaffe. Had Britain lost the battle, then the country would have almost certainly been invaded by Nazi Germany.
Every year the battle is commemorated on 15 September with ‘Battle of Britain Day’, which marks the large-scale aerial battle that took place on 15 September 1940. This day saw the largest military air strike against the UK by the Luftwaffe, with two major attacks launched on London and smaller assaults on the southern coast, although little damage was done. In a day of heavy and sustained fighting, the Germans suffered their highest losses since 18 August and it soon became clear that Hitler had indefinitely postponed his plan to invade Britain.
“In the early stages of the fight Mr. Winston Churchill spoke with affectionate raillery of me and my ‘Chicks’ [Britain’s fighter aircraft]. He could have said nothing to make me more proud; every Chick was needed before the end.”Commander-in-Chief, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding