Battle of Britain | World War II

Battle of Britain | World War II

Overview

The Battle of Britain was a World War II military operation in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) defended the UK from large-scale Luftwaffe strikes. It was dubbed "the first significant military battle fully fought by air forces." The British officially recognized the fight as being from July 10 to October 31 1940, which coincides with the Blitz, a period of large-scale night strikes that lasted from September 7 1940, to May 11 1941. German historians disagree with this split, viewing the conflict as a single campaign from July 1940 to June 1941, including the Blitz. The German forces' principal goal was to force Britain to agree to a negotiated peace deal. The Luftwaffe could not sustain daylight raids, but the Blitz grew out of their night-bombing assaults on Britain. According to historian Stephen Bungay, Germany's failure to destroy Britain's air defences to compel a truce (or perhaps outright surrender) was the war's first major German setback and a pivotal turning point. "What General Weygand declared the 'Battle of France' is over," Winston Churchill announced to the House of Commons on June 18, 1940.

Background

During World War I, strategic bombing introduced air strikes meant to frighten civilian targets, resulting in the unification of the British army and navy air units into the Royal Air Force in 1918. (RAF). Hugh Trenchard, the first Chief of the Air Staff, was one of the military strategists of the 1920s, along with Giulio Douhet, who saw air warfare as a new method to break the trench warfare stalemate. However, following the First World War atrocities, widespread pacifism was reluctant to devote resources. Developing aviation strategies: The 1919 Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from the military air force. Thus Civilian and sport flying trained aircrews through civilian and sport flying. The Luftwaffe's "Conduct of Air War" doctrine of 1935 placed air power at the centre of the entire military strategy, with the critical responsibilities of achieving (local and temporary) air superiority and providing battlefield support for the army and naval forces.

Priorities were disputed, but in December 1937, Sir Thomas Inskip, the Minister in Charge of Defence Coordination, agreed with Dowding that "the role of our air force is not to deliver an early knock-out blow," but instead "to prevent the Germans from knocking us out." Those fighter squadrons were just as crucial as bomber squadrons. The Luftwaffe Condor Legion used the Spanish Civil War to put their new planes through their paces. Wolfram von Richthofen became a proponent of airpower, assisting other services on the ground. Due to the difficulty of hitting targets properly, Ernst Udet mandated that all future bombers be dive bombers, which led to the invention of the Knickebein night navigation system. Ernst Udet prioritized the production of vast numbers of smaller planes, and he postponed plans for a long-range, four-engined strategic bomber. World War II in its early stages: The Luftwaffe, which established tactical air superiority with remarkable efficacy in the early stages of the Second World War, was instrumental in successful German assaults on the continent.

Hugh Dowding decided its commander Hugh Dowding's complaints that the diversion of his soldiers would leave home defences understaffed. Following the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk and the surrender of the French on June 22, 1940, Hitler concentrated his efforts on conquering the Soviet Union. He anticipated that the British, defeated on the continent and without European allies, would agree swiftly. The Germans were so confident of an impending ceasefire that they began erecting street decorations for victorious troops' homecoming parades. Although Lord Halifax, the British Foreign Secretary, and some sections of the British people supported a negotiated peace with a rising Germany, Churchill and the bulk of his Cabinet refused to accept a truce. On the other hand, Churchill utilized his deft rhetoric to harden public sentiment against surrender and prepare the British for a lengthy battle. The Battle of Britain is identical because of its name before Britain fought it.

German Objectives and Directives

From his ascent to power, Adolf Hitler proclaimed affection for Britain. He desired neutrality or a peace pact with Britain throughout the Battle era. On May 23 1939, Hitler laid out his somewhat conflicting approach, stating that an attack on Poland was necessary and that it "will only be effective if the Western Powers stay out of it." If this is not practicable, it will be preferable to attack in the west while simultaneously settling Poland" with a surprise attack. It must plan attacks against the English homeland to avoid inconclusive results with insufficient forces under all circumstances. " 6" planned an operation to destroy these allies and "conquer as much territory as possible in Belgium, Netherlands, and northern France to serve as a basis for the effective prosecution of the air and sea battle against England." They were to strike vessels and warships, as well as shore infrastructure and industrial activity, according to OKW "Directive No. An annihilating retaliation for English attacks on the Ruhr Basin will kick off this assault." Hitler now claimed that Britain was holding out in the hope of Russian assistance and that the Soviet Union would be invaded by the middle of 1941. On July 24, Göring met with his air fleet commanders and assigned "Tasks and Goals" to attain air supremacy, defend invasion forces, and destroy Royal Navy ships. On August 1, a directive titled "For the Conduct of Air and Sea Warfare Against England" was issued, attempting to keep all options open. The Luftwaffe's Adlertag campaign began around August 5 to obtain air superiority over southern England as a required precondition for invasion, giving credibility to the threat and allowing Hitler to authorize the attack. The goal was to cripple the RAF so that the UK would feel vulnerable to air assault and commence peace talks. It also isolated the United Kingdom and sabotaged military production, thus launching a blockade. Following significant Luftwaffe losses, Hitler agreed at an OKW meeting on September 14 to intensify the air war regardless of invasion plans.

Neutrality or Negotiated Peace

Hitler's Mein Kampf, published in 1923, broadly outlined his animosities: he only respected regular German World War I troops and Britain, which he considered a potential partner in the fight against communism. On July 19, Hitler delivered this speech to the German Parliament in Berlin, invoking "reason and common sense" and stating that he "sees no reason why this war should continue." His solemn conclusion was met with silence, but he made no suggestions for negotiations. Thus this was practically an injunction, which the British government rejected. Nevertheless, Halifax continued to make peace until he was moved to Washington as ambassador in December, and Hitler professed ongoing interest in negotiating peace with Britain in January 1941.

Blockade and Siege

A Luftflotte 3 planning exercise in May 1939 discovered that the Luftwaffe could not cause significant damage to the British war economy beyond laying naval mines. On November 22, 1939, Luftwaffe intelligence chief Joseph Schmid released a report declaring, "Of all Germany's probable foes, Britain is the most threatening." The "Proposal for the Conduct of Air Warfare" urged a counter-offensive to the British blockade, stating that "the key is to paralyze British trade." Instead of assaulting the French, the Luftwaffe was ordered to impede shipments to Britain and attack seaports with naval support. Attacks on blockade objectives were authorized, as was a reprisal for the RAF bombing of industrial targets in the Ruhr. The OKW believed they had won the war after defeating France and that more significant pressure would force Britain to surrender.

Invasion Plans

In November 1939, the OKW considered the possibility of air and seaborne invasion of Britain: the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) was confronted with the threat posed by the Royal Navy's more extensive Home Fleet to a crossing of the English Channel and the German army saw control of airspace as a necessary precondition. OKW requested preliminary plans on July 2. "The big invasion scare" had a "fundamental purpose" in Britain, according to Churchill, by keeping all man and woman tuned to a top pitch of readiness." He told the War Cabinet on July 10 that it could avoid invasion since it "would be an extremely hazardous and suicidal operation." On July 11, Hitler and Raeder decided that invasion was the last resort, and the Luftwaffe estimated that establishing air superiority would take 14 to 28 days. Seventeen for increased air and sea warfare, starting with Adlertag on or after August 5, weather permitting, while maintaining the choices of negotiated peace or blockade and siege open.

Independent Air Attack

The Luftwaffe command (including Göring) concentrated attacks to eliminate enemy armed formations on the battlefield by the influence of the 1935 "Conduct of the Air War" concept and "blitzkrieg" close air assist of the army succeeded spectacularly. Göring believed that strategic bombing could achieve objectives that the army and navy couldn't and give the Luftwaffe and himself political advantages in the Third Reich. Moreover, as everyone in the OKW hoped, air warfare would drive Britain to talk, and the Luftwaffe had little interest in planning to assist an invasion.

Forces in Opposition

The Luftwaffe was up against a more capable foe than it had ever encountered before: a large, well-coordinated, well-equipped modern air.

Fighters

The Luftwaffe's Messerschmitt Bf 110 and BfC109E engaged the RAF's workhorse Hurricane Mk I and the less common Spitfire Mk I; when the war broke out, Hurricanes outnumbered Spitfires in RAF Fighter Command by roughly 2:1. Depending on altitude, the Bf 109E had a higher climb rate and was up to 40 mph faster in level flight than the Hurricane Mk I equipped with a Rotol (constant speed propeller). The speed and climb differences between the original non-Rotol Hurricane and the Rotol Hurricane were significantly more significant. By the mid-1940s, all RAF Spitfire and Hurricane fighter squadrons had switched to 100 octane aviation fuel, allowing their Merlin engines to generate much higher power and a 30 mph improvement in low-altitude speed via an Emergency Boost Override. The more robust Mk IIa series 1 Hurricanes entered service in small numbers in September 1940. This version could reach 342 mph (550 km/h), 20 mph faster than the original (non-Rotol) Mk I, but still 15 to 20 mph slower than a Bf 109. (depending on altitude). The Bf 109E, on the other hand, had a far greater turning radius than its two adversaries. The Bf 109E was also deployed as a Jabo (jag bomber, fighter-bomber). The E-4/B and E-7 variants could carry a 250 kg bomb beneath the fuselage, with the latter model arriving during the battle. The Bf 110 bombed the target with a short drive and then flew away quickly. Erprobungsgruppe 210, originally constituted as a service test unit (Erprobungskommando) for the emerging successor to the 110, the Me 210, demonstrated that the Bf 110 could still be employed effectively against small or "pinpoint" targets. Because of its similarities to the Hurricane, the RAF's Boulton Paul Defiant had initial success over Dunkirk. The RAFVR had trained 6,646 pilots as of September 1, 1939. By the mid-1940s, the RAF had roughly 9,000 pilots to about 5,000 planes, primarily bombers. Fighter Command was never short on pilots, but by mid-August 1940, the challenge of adequately obtaining enough trained fighter pilots had become severe. It introduced only 200 pilots in the same era, despite aircraft production running at 300 planes per week. In addition, squadrons were assigned more pilots than aircraft, allowing units to maintain operational strength despite fatalities while still providing pilot vacation. Another matter was that only about 30% of the 9,000 pilots were employed to operational squadrons; 20% were conducting pilot training. The remaining 20% underwent additional training, similar to Commonwealth trainees Canada and Southern Rhodesia. Despite Churchill's pleas, only 30 pilots were relieved from administrative tasks during the height of the fighting. The RAF had fewer skilled pilots at the commencement of the initial defence of their country because of these factors and the permanent loss of 435 pilots during the Battle of France alone, along with more wounded and others lost in Norway. Commander of Fighter Command, Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, was more concerned about the dearth of trained pilots in the fighting units than the lack of aircraft. On July 1, the British gathered 1,103 fighter pilots from regular RAF units, the Auxiliary Air Force, and the Volunteer Reserve. Replacement pilots, who typically lacked flight and gunnery training, had a high incidence of casualties, compounding the problem.

On the other hand, the Luftwaffe could assemble more experienced fighter pilots (1,450). These pilots, drawn from a pool of Spanish Civil War veterans, already had extensive aerial gunnery training and fighter-versus-fighter combat tactics. It stressed the significance of attacking only when the odds were in the pilot's favour in training manuals, which discouraged heroism. Despite their high levels of expertise, German fighter groups lacked a sufficient reserve of pilots to account for losses and departures. As a result, the Luftwaffe could not create enough pilots to keep operational strength from dwindling as the conflict progressed.

According to the Royal Air Force's Battle of Britain roll of honour, 595 non-British pilots (out of 2,936) flew at least one permitted operational sortie with an eligible RAF or Fleet Air Arm unit between July 10 and October 31 1940. In addition, 145 Poles, 127 New Zealanders, 112 Canadians, 88 Czechoslovaks,32 Australians, 10 Irish, 28 Belgians, 9 Americans,25 South Africans, 13 French, 3 Southern Rhodesians, and people from Jamaica, Barbados, and Newfoundland were among the participants. Between July 10 and October 31 1940, 1495 aircrew were killed in fighter fights, bombing raids, and various patrols conducted by the Royal Air Force, including 449 fighter pilots, 718 Bomber Command aircrew, and 280 Coastal Command aircrew. The 303 Polish Fighter Squadron, for example, was not only the most successful Hurricane squadron, but it also had the highest ratio of enemy aircraft destroyed to losses. "I hesitate to claim that the outcome of the Battle would have been the same if it hadn't been for the outstanding material given by the Polish squadrons and their unequalled courage," wrote Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, chief of RAF Fighter Command.

Luftwaffe Strategy

The Luftwaffe's tactics shifted as a result of OKL's hesitation. The combat began with sporadic naval mine-laying operations that steadily escalated during the engagement. To terminate RAF bombing raids on Germany and facilitate attacks on ports and warehouses in the Luftwaffe blockade of Britain, Göring's operational directive of June 30 ordered the elimination of the RAF, including the aircraft industry. Attacks on Channel shipping began on July 4 and were formalized on July 11, when Hans Jeschonnek issued an order that included the armaments industry as a target. On July 16, Luftwaffe bombers were to fly ahead beyond London without the requirement for fighter escort, hitting military and economic targets once some had beaten the RAF. The command evaluated plans prepared by each Fliegerkorps with varying ideas for targets, including whether or not to bomb airfields, at a meeting on August 1 but failed to decide on a priority. Instead, it gradually extended the bombing of military and commercial objectives to the Midlands until daytime strikes could be rampant across the entire United Kingdom. The bombing of London was to be held off until these nighttime "destroyer" raids took over other cities. Then, towards the end of the campaign, a significant attack on the capital was launched, with refugees fleeing London just as Operation Sea Lion was to start. With hopes of invasion dwindling, Hitler authorized a significant concentrate on day and night attacks on tactical sites, with London as the primary target, which became known as the Blitz. With the Luftwaffe's ability to defend bombers in day raids becoming increasingly problematic, the Luftwaffe turned to a strategic bombing campaign of night attacks to destroy British infrastructure and food supplies, albeit It did not sanction intentional terror bombing of civilians.

Luftwaffe Reorganization into Luftflotten

Following the Battle of France, the Luftwaffe reorganized into three Luftflotten (Air Fleets) facing Britain's southern and eastern shores. As the fight continued, command responsibility switched, with Luftflotte 3 being in charge of night bombing and Luftflotte 2 being in the order of the direct daylight operations. The Luftwaffe estimated that defeating the RAF Fighter Command in southern England would take four days. However, later reassessments gave the Luftwaffe five weeks to acquire temporary air superiority over England, from August 8 to September 15. Fighter Command had to be ruined, either on the ground or in the air, to achieve this goal, but the Luftwaffe had to maintain its strength to support the invasion; During the early phases of the war, Göring did nothing to resolve the conflict between his commanders, instead of issuing only ambiguous commands, as though unable to decide which plan to pursue.

Tactics

Fighter Formations: Luftwaffe formations used a loose section of two, with a leader followed by his wingman, Rottenhund pack dog or Katschmarek, at a distance of around 200 m (220 yds), the turning radius of a Bf 109, allowing both aircraft to turn together at high speed. The Katschmarek flew a little higher and was taught to stay with his commander at all times. The Bf 110s used the same Schwarm formation as the 109s, although they rarely took advantage of it. In a futile attempt to boost morale, Göring ordered that they be renamed "attack circles." However, these evident formations often successfully attracted RAF aircraft, which were occasionally "bounced" by high-flying Bf 109s.

As a result, the common idea that Bf 109s escorted the Bf 110s arose. Because the Bf 110 was too vulnerable against the RAF's quick single-engined fighters, the Bf 109 took over the majority of fighter escort missions. Göring ordered that as many fighters as could be left free for Freie Jagd (a free-roaming fighter sweep preceding a raid to try to sweep defenders out of the attack's way). The Ju 87 units, which had sustained high losses, were deployed only in favourable conditions. In early September, Göring ordered an increase in close escort duties after bomber aircrew complained about RAF fighters getting past the escort screen. Many Bf 109s were enslaved to the bombers due to this decision. While they were more successful in protecting the bombers, the fighters suffered more casualties due to flying and manoeuvre at slower speeds. To defeat Fighter Command, the Luftwaffe used a variety of strategies. It was more successful, but escort duty made the fighters more vulnerable by tying them to the slower bombers. By September, typical raid tactics had devolved into a jumble of methods. If a threat came from above, the top part went to work while the side sections gained height so they could track down RAF fighters as they broke away.

The Luftwaffe was handicapped by a lack of military intelligence regarding the British defences. The German intelligence services were splintered and riven by rivalry; the Luftwaffe had heard about a British radar system from intelligence obtained before the war, but the highly developed "Dowding system" linked to fighter control had remained a well-guarded secret. Even when good information was available, like an Abwehr evaluation of Fighter Command strengths and capabilities by Abteilung V in November 1939, it was dismissed if it did not conform to preconceived notions. Abteilung V, led by Oberstleutnant "Beppo" Schmid, issued a study on the RAF and Britain's defensive capabilities on July 16, 1940, which frontline commanders used as the foundation for their operational plans. It is projected that if air warfare becomes more intense, the RAF's current strength will dwindle, and further production cuts would exacerbate this reduction. Because of this assertion, which was backed up by a more detailed assessment provided on August 10, there was a belief among Luftwaffe officers that the RAF would run out of frontline fighters. At three times the actual attrition rate, the Luftwaffe feared weakening Fighter Command. The leadership often thought Fighter Command's power had deteriorated, only to learn that the RAF could summon defensive formations at will. The Luftwaffe had to fly multiple reconnaissance sorties throughout the fight to compensate for the lack of intelligence. The Luftwaffe only used it a few times during the Battle of Britain.

Air-Sea Rescue

The Luftwaffe was far more prepared than the RAF for the duty of air-sea rescue, tasked with picking up fallen personnel from the North Sea, the English Channel, and Dover Straits by the Seenotdienst unit, which was equipped with roughly 30 Heinkel He 59 floatplanes. In addition, Luftwaffe planes were outfitted with survival rafts, and the crews were given sachets of fluorescein, a chemical that, when mixed with water, produced a big, visible bright green area. Furthermore, the He 59s were unarmed and painted white with civilian registration insignia and red crosses in compliance with the Geneva Convention. Despite this, RAF aircraft targeted these planes, some of which were escorted by Bf 109s.

After RAF fighters forced single He 59s to land on the sea on July 1 and 9, a contentious order was sent to the RAF on July 13. All German air ambulances were forced down or shot down by British fighters on specific orders approved by the War Cabinet. The British also expected their crews to report on convoys, with the Air Ministry informing the German government on July 14 that Britain was unable to grant immunity to aircraft flying over areas where operations were taking place on land or at sea or approaching British or Allied territory, or territory under British occupation, or British or Allied ships. Even though four more He 59s were shot down by RAF aircraft throughout the combat, the Seenotdienst proceeded to pick up downed Luftwaffe and Allied aircrews, earning Adolf Galland's praise for their bravery.

The RAF's Strategy

The Dowding System

During early Chain Home system tests, the aircraft frequently missed their "bandits" due to the delayed flow of information from the CH radars and observers to the aircraft. On the other hand, attempting to intercept raids compelled Luftwaffe fighters to search for their targets at random, and many of them returned home, never having seen enemy aircraft. As a result, two or more RAF fighters were as effective as two Luftwaffe fighters, more than compensating or overturning the numerical disparity.

While Luftwaffe intelligence reports undervalued British fighter forces and aircraft production, British intelligence assessments overvalued German aircraft production, the number and range of aircraft available, and the number of Luftwaffe pilots. As a result, 91 Squadron RAF) sent out aircraft armed with Hurricanes and Spitfires to look for and report Luftwaffe formations approaching England. In addition, the radio broadcasting service (known as Y Service) that monitored Luftwaffe radio traffic patterns greatly aided in the early detection of raids.

Fighter Formations

Fighter Command planned to battle primarily bombers over Britain in the late 1930s, not single-engined fighters. Early in the battle, Fighter Command recognized the flaws in this structure, but it was deemed too risky to change tactics in the middle of a fight because replacement pilots – often with little flying experience – could not be quickly retrained, and inexperienced pilots required firm leadership in the air, which only rigid formations could provide. GERMAN PILOTS TERMED the RAF formations Idiotenreihen ("rows of idiots") because they left squadrons open to assault. Frontline RAF pilots were well aware of their own tactics' fundamental flaws. These were usually the least experienced pilots, and they were frequently the first to be shot down without the other pilots knowing. 74 Squadron, under by Squadron Leader Adolph "Sailor" Malan, used a derivative of the German formation known as the "fours in line astern" during the conflict, which was a considerable improvement over the traditional three-plane "VIC." However, few RAF fighter units were able to attack the bombers head-on in the setting of fast-moving, three-dimensional air combat. During the conflict, some commanders, including Leigh-Mallory, recommended forming "Big Wings" of at least three squadrons to attack the enemy en masse, a strategy pioneered by Douglas Bader.

Interceptions in high numbers, according to proponents, resulted in increased enemy losses while decreasing their casualties. As a result, enormous wings were thought to be significantly more effective than they were. Because 12 Group was charged with protecting 11 Group's airfields while Park's squadrons intercepted oncoming attacks, the problem produced much friction between Park and Leigh-Mallory. Because of its time to build up to Big Wings, they frequently arrived late or after German bombers had hit 11 Group's airfields. On November 15, Dowding submitted a report written by Park to the Air Ministry to draw attention to the Big Wing's performance problem. He stated in his statement that the widespread employment of the Big Wing from September 11 to October 31 resulted in just ten interceptions and one German aircraft destroyed, but Air Ministry ignored his information. According to a postwar study, Dowding and Park's technique was the best for 11 Group.

The dispute between Park and Leigh-daylight Mallory's plan was blamed for Dowding's dismissal in November 1940. Contributions from the Bomber Command and the Coastal Command: Bomber Command and Coastal Command aircraft performed offensive flights against objectives in Germany and France during the battle. Bomber Command conducted day raids on warships and naval ports an hour after the declaration of war, while night raids dropped leaflets because it was unlawful to bomb sites that could harm people. Following the early tragedies of the war, with Vickers Wellington bombers being shot down in large numbers bombing Wilhelmshaven and the slaughter of the Fairey Battle squadrons sent to France, it became clear that they would have to fly mostly at night to prevent huge losses. On May 10, 1940, Churchill was elected Prime Minister. On May 12, the War Cabinet determined that German actions warranted "unrestricted warfare," On May 14, they authorized an attack on German oil and rail objectives on the night of May 14/15. The RAF's night navigation was poor, and they only carried tiny bomb loads. As the threat grew, Bomber Command switched its priority to attacking the German aircraft industry on June 3, 1940. By September, the building up of invasion barges in Channel ports had become a top priority target. The government issued a warning on September 7 that the invasion could happen in the following few days, and Bomber Command assaulted the Channel ports and supply depots that night. They launched another big raid on the Channel ports on September 13, sinking 80 large barges in the port of Ostend. On September 17, 84 barges were sunk in Dunkirk, and by September 19, It had dropped about 200 barges. The loss of these barges may have influenced Hitler's decision to postpone Operation Sea Lion indefinitely. These operations' success was partly due to the Germans' lack of Freya radar stations in France, resulting in air defences of French harbours that were not nearly as good as those over Germany; Bomber Command had targeted the Channel ports with roughly 60% of its strength.

From July through December 1940, Bristol Blenheim units raided German-occupied airfields during daylight hours and night. Churchill made a point of emphasizing Bomber Command's involvement in his famous August 20 speech about "The Few," complimenting Fighter Command and adding that bombers were even then hitting back at Germany; this section of the address is generally ignored, even now. Nevertheless, 718 Bomber Command crew members and 280 Coastal Command crew members were killed between July 10 and October 31, according to a roll of honour in Westminster Abbey's Battle of Britain Chapel. During September and October 1940, the British media reported extensively on bomber and Coastal Command operations against invasion barge concentrations in Channel ports. British propaganda claimed that RAF attacks sunk many barges and caused extensive disruption and damage to German invasion preparations in what became known as "the Battle of the Barges."

Phases of the Battle

When the Air Ministry offered August 8 as the start date, Dowding remarked that operations "merged into one another almost insensibly" and proposed July 10 as the start date. The Royal Air Force Museum says five primary phases can be identified, with the caveat that stages overlapped and dates aren't exact:

  • Störangriffe ("nuisance raids"), scattered small-scale probing attacks both day and night, armed reconnaissance, and mine-laying sorties from June 26 to July 16. Daylight Kanalkampf ("Channel warfare") against shipping begins on July 4.
  • July 17 – August 12: daylight during this time, Kanalkampf attacks against commerce become more intense, with increased attacks on ports and coastal airfields, as well as nocturnal raids on the RAF and aircraft manufacturing.
  • Adlerangriff ("Eagle Attack"), the primary assault; effort to destroy the RAF in southern England, included significant daylight strikes on RAF airfields, followed by intensive night bombing of ports and industrial areas, including London suburbs, from August 19 to September 6.
  • The Blitz begins on September 7 and lasts until October 2, concentrating on day and night strikes on London.
  • 3–31 October: large-scale night bombing assaults, especially on London; daylight strikes now limited to small-scale Störangriffe fighter-bomber raids drawing RAF planes into dogfights.

Small-Scale Raids

Against the night of June 5/6, it launched a series of small-scale bombing raids on Britain, which continued sporadically throughout June and July. The first large-scale strike occurred at night on the 18th and 19th of June, when small attacks across Yorkshire and Kent, involving 100 bombers. These types of nuisance raids, which involved only a few planes, sometimes as few as one, were used to educate bomber crews in both day and night attacks and test defences and try out new methods, with the majority of flights taking place at night. These training flights lasted into the first week of September, except for August. Against this, the raids provided a critical time for RAF fighters and anti-aircraft defences to prepare and rehearse and time for the British to study German tactics. The strikes were widespread: merely 20 aircraft set off alarms in 20 counties on the night of June 30, and the first daytime bombings took place on July 1 in Hull, Yorkshire, and Wick, Caithness. Most of the flights were reconnaissance missions on July 3, although bombs hit Guildford, Surrey, killing 15 civilians. Throughout August, September, and into the winter, numerous small Störangriffe raids were carried out daily, with the goals of bringing RAF fighters up to the battle, destroying specific military and economic targets, and triggering air-raid warnings to affect civilian morale: four major air-raids in August involved hundreds of bombers, while 1,062 small raids were carried out across the UK.

Skirmishes in the English Channel

The Kanalkampf was a series of running battles over convoys. According to intelligence sources, the RAF was on the verge of defeat, and raids would attract British fighters for the Luftwaffe to take down. On August 6, a strategy was agreed upon to destroy RAF Fighter Command across the south of England in four days, then bomb military and economic targets up to the Midlands until daylight attacks could be carried out unhindered across the entire United Kingdom, culminating in a major bombing attack on London.

Assault against the Royal Air Force's Radar and Airfields

Adlertag ("Eagle Day") was postponed until August 13, 1940, due to bad weather. Adlertag began with a series of raids against coastal airfields utilized as forwarding landing sites for RAF planes, as well as satellite airfields,' spearheaded once again by Erpro 210 (including Manston and Hawkinge). The airfield attacks moved further inland as the week progressed. The radar chain repeatedly raided. Furthermore, several bombers dropped their payloads ineffectively early, owing to early engagement by RAF fighters.

As a result of these losses, Luftflotte 5 did not participate in the battle again. August 18 was dubbed "The Hardest Day" because it saw the most deaths on both sides.

Raids on British Cities: On August 15, Erprobungsgruppe 210, directed by Hauptmann Walter Rubensdörffer, bombed Croydon airfield (near London) instead of RAF Kenley. According to German intelligence sources, the RAF, which was supposed to rely on local air control, was experiencing supply shortages and pilot casualties. The loss of the RAF was to be followed by bombing military and economic objectives, gradually spreading up to the Midlands, according to the strategy agreed on August 6. On August 19, 1940, Göring authorized strikes on aircraft factories. On the night of August 19/20, sixty strikes targeted the aircraft industry and harbours, with bombs falling on Croydon, Wimbledon, and the Malden in the London suburbs. On the 21st and 22nd of August, night attacks were carried out in Aberdeen, Bristol, and South Wales. The output of an aircraft plant in Filton, near Bristol, was severely harmed overnight on the 22nd and 23rd of August by an attack in which Ju88 bombers dropped nearly 16 tons of high explosive bombs. Over 200 bombers struck the Fort Dunlop tyre factory in Birmingham on August 23/24, disrupting output significantly. On August 24, a systematic bombing campaign began with the most significant raid, killing 100 people in Portsmouth. It hit numerous sections of London that night; this account has been disputed. On the 24th and 25th of August, more night raids were carried out throughout London, with bombs falling on Croydon, Banstead, Lewisham, Uxbridge, Harrow, and Hayes. From August 24, there have been attacks on airfields: On August 23, 1940, Göring issued a directive ordering nonstop attacks on the aircraft industry and the RAF ground organization to force the RAF to employ its fighters, continuing the policy of enticing them up to be destroyed, as well as targeted strikes on RAF airfields. The battle was fought between Kesselring's Luftflotte 2 and Park's 11 Group from August 24 onwards.

To compensate for certain losses, 58 Fleet Air Arm fighter pilot volunteers were assigned to RAF squadrons, and the same number of former Fairey Battle pilots were used. Pilots who bailed out of their downed planes could be back at their bases in hours, and if they were low on fuel or ammo, they could be rearmed right away. During the Battle of Britain, one RAF pilot was shot down five times, yet he could crash land in the United Kingdom or bail out each time. A bailout over England meant arrest – nearly as many Luftwaffe pilots were taken prisoner as were killed during the critical August month – while parachuting into the English Channel meant drowning or death from exposure. According to Stephen Bungay, in a letter to Hugh Trenchard accompanying Park's report for August 8 – September 10 1940, Dowding claims that the Luftwaffe "achieved very little" in the final week of August the first week of September. During July, August, and September, the number of pilots in RAF Fighter Command grew. According to the numbers, the number of pilots available never decreased: 1,200 were available in July, and 1,400 were available on August 1. The RAF had more fighter pilots general than the Luftwaffe throughout the combat. Although the RAF's single-seat fighter reserves were depleted in July, the loss was offset by an effective Civilian Repair Organization (CRO), which had repaired and returned to service 4,955 aircraft by December, as well as aircraft kept at Air Servicing Unit (ASU) airfields.

Richard Overy shares Dye's and Bungay's viewpoints. In July, 496 new aircraft were built, followed by 467 in August and another 467 in September (excluding repaired aircraft) to compensate for the losses in August and September. According to Overy, from August 3 to September 7, the number of acceptable and total strength returns revealed an increase in fighters, from 1,061 on strength and 708 serviceable to 1,161 on force and 746 available. Furthermore, Overy shows that between June and August 1940, the number of RAF fighter pilots increased by one-third. On the other hand, they claim that 103 pilots were dead or missing, and 128 were injured, resulting in a weekly loss of 120 pilots out of a fighting force of less than 1,000. According to them, the RAF was losing the war. In his 1953 acting to the official British narrative of WWII, Denis Richards agreed that the RAF's most critical problem was a shortage of highly experienced pilots. According to him, 154 RAF pilots were killed, severely injured, or went missing between August 8 and August 18, while only 63 fresh pilots were training. While Germany's reserves did not fall to a half-dozen during the Battle of Britain, Richards believes the two weeks from August 24 to September 6 were crucial because Germany destroyed significantly more aircraft than Britain produced.

The Blitz begins with day and night attacks on London. Hitler issued "Directive No. 17" on August 1, 1940. For the Conduct of Air and Sea Warfare Against England empowered him to decide on retaliatory terror operations. In addition, Hitler issued a decree that London would not be destroyed unless he ordered. In July, the Fliegerkorps received specific plans for raids on communications, power stations, munitions works, and docks in the Port of London under Operation Loge's code. Charges against military and commercial objectives in towns and cities were to culminate in a significant attack on London, according to the strategy agreed on August 6. Raids on locations on the outskirts of London were carried out in mid-August.

The Luftwaffe's doctrine envisaged the prospect of reprisal assaults on cities, and RAF Bomber Command had been bombing residential areas regularly since May 11. The Germans felt this was on purpose, and as the raids became more frequent and large-scale, the population became impatient for retaliation. On August 25, 1940, Bomber Command dispatched 81 aircraft to attack industrial and commercial targets in Berlin. Clouds obscured exact identification, and the bombs exploded throughout the city, killing some civilians and causing damage to residential areas. As a result of the ongoing RAF raids on Berlin, Hitler rescinded his decision on August 30, allowing the planned bombing offensive to proceed. With General Albert Kesselring's enthusiastic support, Göring planned to strike London on September 3 after obtaining evidence that RAF squadrons had lost five or seven fighters out of twelve. On September 5, Hitler issued an order to assault cities, including London. Hitler condemned the bombing of Berlin in a widely publicized speech on September 4, 1940, and characterized the planned assaults on London as retaliation. Vergeltungsangriff was the name of the first daylight raid (revenge attack). On September 7, an extensive series of charges involving almost 400 bombers and over 600 fighters targeted docks in London's East End at all hours of the day and night. For fifty-seven nights in a row, the Luftwaffe abandoned their morning raids, launching attacks on London late in the afternoon. The extra distance was the most dangerous component of hitting London for the Luftwaffe.

Göring ordered this shift in tactics on September 16. The goal of this new phase was to launch the first independent strategic bombing campaign to achieve political success and compel the British to surrender. Hitler hoped that "eight million people going insane" (referring to London's population in 1940) would "create a catastrophe" for the British. Hitler opposed postponing the attack because "the announcement would reach the enemy's ears and reinforce his resolve." Hitler ordered a decrease in construction on Sealion on September 19. He doubted that strategic bombing would succeed, but abandoning the air war would be an admission of defeat. To hide his plan to invade the Soviet Union from Joseph Stalin, he had to preserve the illusion of emphasis on conquering Britain. The majority of Luftwaffe bombing raids took place at night during the fight. They suffered unsustainable losses in daylight raids, with the most recent large-scale daytime attacks occurring on September 15. On September 18, an invasion of 70 bombers failed miserably, and day raids were gradually phased out, leaving night raids as the primary mode of attack. It redirected anti-aircraft guns to London's defences, but night strikes had a far lower success rate. From mid-September, Bf 109 planes equipped to carry one 250 kg bomb gradually took over Luftwaffe daylight bombing. Other patrols at lower altitudes would fly up to join the combat if Luftwaffe spotted them. As a result of the Battle of Graveney Marsh, on September 27, a Junkers Ju 88 flying back from a raid on London was shot down in Kent.

In October and November 1940, the German bombing of Britain reached its peak. After World War II in 1939, the King and Queen chose to remain in London rather than flee to Canada, as some had recommended. THROUGHOUT THE WAR, George VI and Elizabeth lived in Buckingham Palace, but they frequently visited their daughters, Elizabeth (the future queen) and Margaret, at Windsor Castle on weekends. On September 10, bombs landed on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, and on September 13, two bombs destroyed the Royal Chapel, causing more catastrophic damage.

Attrition Statistics

Overall, the RAF had 1,796 pilots on the ground by November 2, up from 1,259 pilots in July 1940. German papers (including Luftwaffe intelligence officer Otto Bechtle posted to KG 2 in February 1944) translated by the Air Historical Branch, German fighter and bomber "strength" dropped from August to December 1940. On the other hand, Williamson Murray claims that 1,380 German bombers were on the ground on June 29 1940, 1,420 bombers on September 28, 1,423 level bombers on November 2, and 1,393 bombers on November 30 1940 (based on Air Historical Branch translations). The number of Luftwaffe pilots available declined by 136 between July and September, although the number of operational pilots had shrunk by 171. German fighter pilots were not given training or rest rotations, unlike their British counterparts, contrary to common belief. The first week of September was responsible for 25% of Fighter Command's losses and 24% of the Luftwaffe's total losses. Only one day (September 1) between August 26 and September 6 did the Germans destroy more planes than they lost. There were 325 German and 248 British casualties. In August, the Luftwaffe lost 774 aircraft to all causes, accounting for 18.5 per cent of all combat aircraft at the start of the month. In August, Fighter Command lost 426 fighters, accounting for 40% of the 1,061 fighters available on August 3. Between August 1 and August 29, It destroyed 99 German bombers and 27 other types. From July through September, the Luftwaffe lost 1,636 aircraft, 1,184 of which were lost due to enemy action. It accounted for 47 per cent of single-engined fighters, 66 per cent of twin-engined soldiers, and 45 per cent of bombers' initial strength.

Propaganda

From June 18, 1940, when the Luftwaffe launched short, probing daylight assaults to test RAF defences, propaganda became an essential part of the air battle that developed over Britain. The British media's concentration on the air battles steadily intensified until early July, with the newspapers, periodicals, BBC radio, and newsreels daily relaying the contents of the Air Ministry communique. The German OKW communique matched Britain's efforts in claiming the upper hand. Aircraft claims, addressed under 'Attrition data,' were at the heart of the propaganda battle on both sides of the Channel. Many, including Douglas Bader, refused to believe the new figures.

Nevertheless, the Air Ministry's successful publicity campaign from July–October 1940 and its valorization of defending pilots from March 1941 helped popularize the Battle of Britain. Feature films, books, periodicals, works of art, poetry, radio dramas, and MOI short films were all inspired by this. The Air Ministry also created the Battle of Britain Sunday memorial, a Battle of Britain clasp for pilots to wear in 1945, and Battle of Britain Week, which began in 1945.

Aftermath

The Battle of Britain was Germany's first significant military loss, with air superiority viewed as crucial to success. Exaggerated worries of strategic bombing had arisen due to pre-war theories, and the UK public view had been bolstered by surviving the horror. Fighter Command had carried out Sir Thomas Inskip's 1937 air policy of keeping the Germans from knocking Britain out of the war with considerable success for the RAF. The fight also swayed public opinion in the United States. He grew confident that the United Kingdom would survive and be aided in whatever manner possible. After returning from Britain, American writer Ralph Ingersoll released a book stating that "Adolf Hitler faced his first setback in eight years" in a conflict that could "go down in history as crucial as Waterloo or Gettysburg." Instead, combat morale has been shattered, and the RAF has been gaining strength week after week." Both sides made exaggerated claims about the number of enemy planes shot down. According to postwar archives, the RAF claimed 2,698 kills between July and September, whereas Luftwaffe fighters claimed 3,198 RAF planes downed. Both sides have different total losses and start and finish dates for documented losses. To put it simply, the Luftwaffe lost 1,977 aircraft between July 10 and October 30, 1940. RAF Fighter Command had lost 1,087 aircraft in the same period, including 53 twin-engined soldiers. 376 Bomber Command and 148 Coastal Command, the aircraft were destroyed while undertaking bombing, mining, and reconnaissance missions in the country's defence. Historians agree that the Luftwaffe was unable to crush the Royal Air Force. Their leadership and following arguments regarding strategy and tactics had engendered resentment among RAF senior commanders, and both were fired shortly after the battle. The RAF proved to be a solid and capable organization that made the most of the modern resources at its disposal. To cross the English Channel successfully, Hitler needed air superiority, something Richard Evans claims Hitler lacked. Even if German attacks on the 11 Group airfields guarding southeast England and the approaches to London had persisted, the RAF might have moved to the Midlands, out of range of German fighters, and continued the struggle from there. The victory was as much a psychological triumph as it was a physical one. And the 5:1 ratio was exceptionally near to the number of German aircrews active in the combat compared to those in Fighter Command. Because it increased the resolve of those devoted to opposing Hitler, the battle was a crucial turning point in the conflict. The Battle of Britain victory came at a high price for the British. The Battle of Britain is commemorated on this day.

"Never in the realm of human combat was so much due by so many to so few," Winston Churchill said of the battle. Since then, pilots who flew in the war have been known as The Few, and the struggle has been honoured on September 15, "Battle of Britain Day." The Luftwaffe launched their most extensive bombing campaign yet on this day in 1940, putting the entire RAF into action in defence of London and the South East, resulting in a decisive British victory that proved to be a turning point in Britain's favour. Battle of Britain Day is observed on the third Sunday of September across the Commonwealth and the second Thursday in the British Channel Islands. In addition, many artists have celebrated the day over the years, typically with pieces depicting the combat itself.

Museums and Memorials

During the conflict, the committee directed by Lords Trenchard and Dowding began planning the Battle of Britain window at Westminster Abbey. The virtual memorials are the Battle of Britain Monument in London and the Battle of Britain Memorial in Capel-le-Ferne, Kent. The fight is also commemorated by two museums in Hawkinge, Kent, and Stanmore, London, at the former RAF Bentley Priory. In addition, a "Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary Commemorative Mosaic" was constructed in 2015 using images provided by participants and their families of "the few" pilots and crews and "the many" – "Others who helped to the RAF's triumph in the skies over Britain yet went undetected."

Last updated: 2022-January-09
Tags: History World War II
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