The Battle of Britain began on 10th July 1940.
Hermann Goering, the Nazi air force chief, ordered attacks on shipping and ports in the English Channel. The movement of Allied vessels in the Channel was soon restricted as a result of British naval and aircraft losses.
The Battle of Britain was German’s attempt to achieve air superiority over the skies of southern England. With this achieved, Germany could then force Britain to the negotiating table or even launch an invasion across the Channel, a risky proposition for which air superiority was a precondition.
Britain’s fate rested upon the bravery, determination and skill of its fighter pilots.
Goering assembled 2800 aircraft to face Britain’s 700 fighters. The widespread German attacks on ports, shipping, and airfields was designed to lure British fighters into action and inflict heavy losses upon them.
Britain’s fate rested upon the bravery, determination and skill of its fighter pilots. These men were drawn from the British Empire, North America, Czechoslovakia, Poland and other Allied nations. Key roles were also played by the Hurricane and Spitfire fighters and Britain’s highly innovative early warning system, which made use of radar, a very new invention. This enabled RAF fighters to be effectively concentrated to meet enemy attacks. The RAF also benefitted from longer flying time as it operated over its own territory. In addition, crews who baled out were able to resume fighting, unlike their opponents who parachuted into captivity.
After weeks ot bloody and seemingly inconclusive aerial fighting, Germany made a grave strategical error by switching, from September 7th onward, to concentrate on the bombing of British cities. This gave the RAF a vital respite. German losses on these raids were unsustainable and it was clear that the RAF was far from defeated. Air superiority over southern England remained an unattainable goal.
On October 31st, after 114 days of aerial combat, German conceded defeat, having lost 1733 aircraft and 3893 men. The RAF, at a cost of 828 aircraft and 1007 men, had won the battle for the skies above southern England, keeping Britain in the war and ruling out the possibility of a German invasion.