Battle of Britain remembered
“Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few.”
The historic words of Sir Winston Churchill will resonate across the country this summer as the United Kingdom commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, one of most pivotal conflicts in World War ll.
It began in July 1940, the first major military campaign ever to be fought entirely in the air, with Hitler’s Luftwaffe, under the command of Herman Goring, and the RAF, led by Fighter Command under Sir Hugh Dowding.
With his forces having overrun Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France, Hitler was ready to invade isolated Britain, with America and Russia opting not to get involved.
He planned to get air supremacy over the British across the south of England, and importantly, the English Channel.
More than 1300 bombers and 1200 fighters were launched against British shipping, airfields and eventually towns and cities.
At the start of the battle, the RAF could only call on around 650 aircraft and 1300 pilots, yet by the time the campaign ended, almost 3000 air crew would have served with Fighter Command, drawn from other units and pilots from other countries in the Commonwealth.
However, the Luftwaffe were neither trained, or equipped, for the long-range operations that became a large part of the battle. The RAF also had a good system of radar tracking and guidance, and defending against attacks on home turf meant that even if a pilot was shot down, he could parachute to safety and return to the fray.
The 12-week battle culminated on September 15, 1940, a day on which the Germans lost 56 planes, the RAF exactly half that.
By that time, 1733 German planes had been destroyed, compared with 915 British aircraft, and Hitler, frustrated by his inability to control the skies over the English Channel, abandoned, or at least, postponed indefinitely, his plans to invade the UK.
The plans changed, as the Luftwaffe resorted to indiscriminate bombing of larger cities like London,
More than 1300 bombers and 1200 fighters were launched against British shipping, airfields and towns
a veteran aircraft from the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial flight