"What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over.
The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Hitler knows that he
will have to break us in this island, or lose the war. If we can
stand up to him, all Europe may be free. The light of the world
may move forward, to broad Sunlit uplands. But if we fail... then
the whole world will sink into the abyss of a new dark age. Let
us therefore brace ourselves to our duty... So bear ourselves,
that if the British Empire and Commonwealth lasts for a thousand
years, men will still say 'This was their finest hour'!"
After the fall of France only Britain remained
to face the Nazis. The British expected and planned for immediate
invasion, with the evacuation of children from the cities to the
countryside. British coastal defences were built up in an attempt
to cause any invasion difficult. But during the month of July
1940, Hitler believed that he could negotiate a peace with Britain,
and this gave Britain time to prepare.
But Britain remained defiant,
although alone, and this defiance caused Hitler to plan for the
invasion of Britain, which was scheduled for mid-September 1940.
On 14th July 1940, Churchill made a radio broadcast. : "This
is a War of the Unknown Warriors; but let all strive without failing
in faith or in duty, and the dark curse of Hitler will be lifted
from our age." (The
Before the invasion of Britain could commence
the Nazis' control of the skies over southern England would be
paramount. The Luftwaffe began its offensive on August 12th, two
days later than planned. Code name 'Operation Sealion', the invasion
of Britain would prove to be more difficult than first expected.
At first the Luftwaffe targeted shipping in the
English channel, ports and factories. It also targeted the radar
(RDF) installations, which were the ears and eyes of Fighter Command
(RAF), without it the RAF would have been completely blind to
any Luftwaffe raids. Goering hoped that these attacks would lure
the RAF out and set up a confrontation. But the RAF refused to
be baited and waited for the Luftwaffe to venture further inland.
But this would be the first time that the Nazi
war machine would have come across a well trained and organized
opposition, in the shape of the Royal Air Force (RAF) led by its
commander-in-Chief, Air Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding. Fighter Command
would spearhead Britain's defence against a Nazi invasion. If
the RDF were the eyes and ears of the RAF, then the Spitfire and
Hurricane fighter planes would be its teeth. Especially the Hurricane.
The RAF had already lost many planes and pilots
during the French campaign which led to the fall of France, and
had bravely defended the Allied forces that had retreated to the
beaches of Dunkirk. This meant that Fighter Command would have
to defend England and face the Luftwaffe with a much depleted
force. Efforts to re-equip the force for the coming battle were
frantically stepped up.
The situation would get worse before it got better.
During the first weeks of the Battle Of Britain the RAF would
suffer more loses. By the last week of August and the first week
of September, 1940, fighter command lost over 200 planes and pilots,
either killed or injured.
The Luftwaffe then concentrated its full force
on the air fields, and by destroying the air fields would effectively
kill off any opposition from the RAF. This would then had given
the Luftwaffe control of the skies and 'Operation Sealion' could
go ahead unopposed from the sky.
But while the air fields were constantly being
pounded, and slowly but surely the RAF were being dragged to its
knees, Hitler changed his tactics. For retaliation against a bombing
raid by Bomber Command on Berlin, Hitler instructed that the city
of London should be bombed in revenge. This would prove to be
a decisive moment in the battle, for although the people of London
suffered its first raid, it was in fact a welcomed breathing space
for Fighter Command. This valuable time was used to rebuild the
air fields, rest and regroup the over stretched defenders. The
respite would allow the RAF to regain its capability to reach
for the skies, and so face its enemy.
On the 15th September 1940, the Luftwaffe mounted
a massive daylight raid. Thinking that the air fields were destroyed
they did not expect any opposition from the RAF. Instead of no
opposition they came face to face with a regrouped RAF, who then
went onto seriously maul the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe suffered
serious loses, and with the RAF victory, it showed that the Nazis
could not gain control of the skies over England. This resulted
in Hitler abandoning his plans to invade Britain.
Britain had been saved from
being invaded and Churchill heaped great praise on those people
who were responsible for this great victory. Churchill said of
the pilots and crews of Fighter Command: "Never
has so much been owed by so many to so few."
It would be the first time that Hitler had been
halted, and the defeat also stopped any more daylight raids for
fear of suffering even more loses at the hands of the RAF. Hitler
would command the Luftwaffe to night time raids only, and to target
British cities with systematic terror bombing, especially London.
Hitler hoped to pound the British people into submission, and
so the British people then entered into a dark period known as