Item #M11154 – The Battle of Britain was the first battle to be fought entirely in the air and the longest aerial bombing campaign in history.

Battle of Britain Ends

On October 31, 1940, the nearly four-month-long Battle of Britain came to an end.

By the summer of 1940, the German Army had pushed the Allied forces to the coast of France, and England was the next target. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill refused to consider a peace agreement with Germany, and Britain braced for an attack. In the words of Churchill, “The Battle of France is over, the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”

U.S. #1264 – Prior to the battle, Churchill delivered his inspiring “Finest Hour” speech, which you can listen to here.

On July 16, 1940, German Chancellor Adolph Hitler issued Directive Number 16, which stated, “The objective of this operation is to eliminate the English home country as a base for the continuation of the war against Germany.” The invasion plan was code-named “Operation Sea Lion.” Hitler knew the first step was to destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF) so German ships could cross the English Channel without being attacked from the air. Once the RAF was rendered incapable of defending England, 160,000 German soldiers were to invade a 40-mile stretch of Great Britain’s coastline. Hitler’s generals estimated Operation Sea Lion would take four days to defeat the RAF, followed by four weeks to destroy England’s military installations and aircraft industry. The plan was intended to force Great Britain into agreeing to an armistice or surrender.

On August 13, 1940, called “Eagle Day” by the German High Command, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) began bombing raids on English air bases. When the Royal Air Force runways were bombed, the pilots used private airfields. The servicemen on the ground worked tirelessly to gather supplies and repair the planes.

British Antarctic Territory #16-19 – In August, Churchill commended the RAF, stating “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

The German bombers began to fly around the clock so repairs couldn’t be made on the airfields. The outskirts of London were hit during a night raid, and English planes bombed Berlin in retaliation. Hitler ordered his air force to change their focus from airfields to industries and cities. He hoped the Royal Air Force would gather to protect the cities, making them easy targets.

Instead, the change in tactics worked in England’s favor. Without the constant bombing, the air bases and planes were repaired. The new German flight path was closer to another British base that engaged the German planes. By October, increased German losses led to Operation Sea Lion being postponed indefinitely. Germany abandoned Britain on October 31.

The victory of the British Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain was the first defeat for Germany’s military. It boosted the morale of those who were valiantly fighting the advance of Nazism.

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  1. We don’t realize how perilously close Hitler came to invading and conquering England. The Royal Air Force won the Battle of Britain. What if the other way around? We sat over here in America with many people saying, “It’s their war, not for us to get involved.” We learned otherwise. Let us not forget!

  2. In the mix of Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton, Nimitz, Halsey, Doolittle, et al, standing head and shoulder above them all was Winston Churchill.

    1. While Prime Minister Winston Churchill was one of my WWII heroes, to say he stood “head and shoulder above them all” is way off the mark. Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton Nimitz, Doolittle and whom ever you included in you et, al, were men of action and fought in the trenches, in the sky and in the tanks. These men were men of action and not just words. Churchill was a great man and helped the British and even the Americans by standing tall in their “Finest hour”, but he never fought a single battle. Even Churchill gave Allied Supreme Commander General Dwight Eisenhower a bow for the Normandy evasion, (Overlord). There wasn’t a greater Tank Commander in the world than General Patton. You even left out Sir Hon. Bernard Montgomery, one of Britain’s finest leaders and a great Tank commander also. MacArthur in the Pacific was untouched in his dogged determination to rid the Pacific of the Japanese. So, while I agree that Winston Churchill was a great leader, he stood shoulder to shoulder with the greatest, not above!

  3. Sir Winston Curchill,was a grear Prime Minseter of Engkland.
    He did a lot of good things for England during WW2.

  4. As Churchill remarked about the Battle of Britain, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Re. Gene McKight’s comment, if you try to list the all of the heroes of World War II, you will have a long list. But I have to add one that has not been mentioned: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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