The Battle of Britain

…the Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin

Winston Churchill, 18 June 1940

The Second world War 1939-1945: The Battle of Britain July - September 1940, Supermarine Spitfire

The Battle of Britain was one of the defining moments of 1940. With the fall of France in June 1940, Britain was left facing Nazi Germany alone. Hitler could try to force the British to negotiate a peace or prepare his troops to invade. But before an invasion could succeed, he needed to control the skies; so he ordered his air force - the Luftwaffe - to take down the fighters of the Royal Air Force and, with them, Britain’s ability to defend itself.

The attacks were incessant: July saw German planes target shipping in the Channel, drawing the RAF into combat, before radar stations, communications centres and airfields faced round-the-clock bombing in August at the height of the battle. It seemed to the Germans that the RAF was near defeat, but its defences held. By October, it was clear to both sides that the Luftwaffe had not succeeded in its mission.

The RAF pilots with their skill and courage, a sophisticated command and control system, the use of early-warning radar and the success of Britain’s aircraft production programme won through in the end for a British victory, albeit a defensive one.