Churchill’s famous ‘Battle of Britain’ speech made in the House of Commons on 18 June, has come to refer solely to the RAF –
…If the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’
This epic conclusion, from one of many famous Winston Churchill speeches, is something that makes you want to find out exactly what the Battle of Britain is and why it was so important. Being as the Battle of Britain Day is in two days time on 15th of September, maybe we should find out what it’s about and who we owe gratitude to.
So, brief historical run-down –
In world was II, the summer and autumn of 1940, the English and French have been evacuated out of Dunkirk and Hitler is planning to launch Operation Sea Lion a.k.a. An amphibious and airbourne invasion of Britain. Little did he know that this would be a turning point in the war, and it would not turn in his favour.
Germany’s navy (the Kriegsmarine), had already been decimated by the Norwegian Campaign. With this in mind, Hitler and the majority of his advisors could only see the success of Operation Sea Lion possible if the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) gained air superiority over the Royal Air Force, to support the amphibious invasion.
Germany’s pilots had better training, they had more experience and there was a greater number of them.
Britain’s pilots had less training, rigid and unhelpful formations that helped the untrained but left them vulnerable to attack.
However, the British fighter squadron formations allowed for sufficient reserve pilots when casualties or fatalities occurred whereas the Luftwaffe were unable to produce enough pilots to prevent a decline in operational strength as the battle progressed.
With bombers attacking first the RAF bases and then moving on to Towns and finally terror bombings you can imagine the carnage the planes would have left behind and the fear which Britain would have been gripped with. It seemed that a German invasion was all too possible, and the politicians were split. Some wanted to pursue peace with Germany, whereas Winston Churchill and others would not give in, he would not let Britain fall and he urged us to fight until the end.
Even George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth, both stayed in London while the bombing was taking place. After two bombs landed in the grounds of Buckingham Palace on the 10th & 13th of September, another two bombs destroyed the Royal Chapel while the royal couple were in a small sitting room about 80 yards from where the explosions took place!
The battle raged on from mid-summer right through to October and beyond, though October was seen as the official end to the Luftwaff campaign. This aerial war was seen as a massive turning point when the RAF maintained air superiority against the Germans. If they hadn’t, Operation Sea Lion may have taken place and we would be in a very different England today.
So, I’m urging everyone on Battle of Britain Day to not only honor the RAF for the past and continuing work but also visiting the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund Charity which helps current soldiers, and veterans from as far back as the Battle of Britain:
Pay tribute to those who gave their lives and put their life on the line to keep a free Britain for the future!
Winston Churchill summed up the battle and the RAF in these words –
‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many, to so few.’