The Battle of Britain was an aerial campaign fought between British Royal Air Force and Luftwaffe. It lasted from 10th of July until 31st of October. The dogfights took place mainly over central and southern England. It was the first campaign that was fought only between aircraft.
After France had capitulated, Hitler was hoping that Gret Britain would withdraw from the war and accept his peace proposal. Due to firm refusal of German proposition, Third Reich ordered preparations for invasion, cryptonym ‘Seelöwe’ (Sea Lion).
The main condition that had to be fulfilled to allow a successful invasion was total domination of the skies. The RAF was able to thwart those plans, and because of that, the Luftwaffe moved on to another phase of the battle – to crush the spirit of Great Britain’s citizens by bombing civilian targets.
By preventing the Luftwaffe’s air superiority over the UK, the British forced Adolf Hitler to postpone and eventually cancel Operation
Sea Lion, but Nazi Germany continued bombing operations against Britain, which became known as the Blitz.
This victory of the RAF is considered by many as the Nazis’ first major defeat, and a crucial turning point in the war. However, the British victory in the Battle of Britain was achieved at a heavy cost.
Total British civilian losses from July to December 1940 were 23,002 dead and 32,138 wounded, with one of the largest single raids on the 19th of December 1940, in which almost 3,000 civilians died.
After the battle, Britain was able to rebuild its military forces and establish itself as an Allied stronghold, later serving as a base from which the liberation of Western Europe (Operation Overlord) was launched.
Luftwaffe Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, Chief of the Luftwaffe; Lieutenant General Bruno Loerzer and Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe General Hans Jeschonnek study a map during the Battle of Britain. [ Via] Bomb with sign ‘Extra-Havanna für Churchill“. August 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-342-0615-18 / Spieth / CC-BY-SA 3.0] The Crew and a ground staff of the Luftwaffe prepare the start of the bomber Junkers Ju-88. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-402-0265-03A / Pilz / CC-BY-SA 3.0] Ground staff refueling a Messerschmitt Bf 110. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-404-0521-19A / Koster / CC-BY-SA 3.0] German Heinkel He 111s which went into service in 1937. Some 6000 Heinkel He 111s were built but were found to be a poor match for Hurricanes and Spitfires during the Battle of Britain. [ Via] German Heinkel He 111 bombers over the English Channel. 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-0678 / CC-BY-SA 3.0] 9. KG 76 on their way to the target, 18th August 1940. [ Via] Messerschmitt Bf110 fighter of Zerstörergeschwader 76 heavy fighter squadron over the English Channel, Aug 1940. These were the first fighters with the shark’s mouth that inspired the RAF in Africa and the AVG in China. [ Via] A Dornier Do-17 medium bomber dropping a string of bombs on London. 20 September 1940. [ Via] A flight of German Do-17 Z bombers of Kampfgeschwader 3 over France or Belgium, possibly en route to Britain, September-October 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-343-0679-14A / Gentsch / CC-BY-SA 3.0] A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by by Pilot Officer J D Bisdee, as he dives on a formation of Heinkel He IIIs of KG 55 which had just bombed the Supermarine aircraft works at Woolston, Southampton. 1940. [© IWM (CH 1826)] The front of a Heinkel He-111 medium bomber in flight during a bombing mission to London. November 1940. [ Via] German Heinkel He 111 flying towards their targets in the United Kingdom. [ Via] Two Dornier Do 17Z of the KG76 Squadron on London’s West Ham sky. [ Via] Bf-109 after an emergency landing on its way back to France across the English Channel. 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-344-0741-30 / Röder / CC-BY-SA 3.0] R.A.F. A portrait of Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park while commanding RAF squadrons on Malta, September 1942. In Germany, he was supposedly known as “the Defender of London”. [© IWM (CM 3513)] Supermarine Spitfire Mk VBs of No. 131 Squadron RAF being prepared for a sweep at Merston, a satellite airfield of Tangmere, Sussex. June 1942. [© IWM (CH 5879)] British pilots running towards their fighters (Spitfires) on the air-raid alarm. [ Via] Defiant Mark Is, including L7026 PS-V, and N1535 PS-A, of No. 264 Squadron RAF based at Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire, in flight. (PS-V was shot down on 28 August 1940 over Kent by Bf 109s) [© IWM (CH 884)] Hawker Hurricane Mk Is of No. 242 Squadron during the Battle of Britain, 1940. [© IWM (CH 1430)] Hawker Hurricane Mk I aircraft of No 85 Squadron, Royal Air Force on patrol during the Battle of Britain. [© IWM (CH 1510)] Hawker Hurricanes of No 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force, based at Wittering, Cambridgeshire, followed by a similar formation of Supermarine Spitfires of No 266 Squadron, during a flying display for aircraft factory workers, October 1940. [© IWM (CH 1561)] Hurricanes of No. 85 Squadron in flight in search of the enemy, October 1940. [© IWM (CH 1499)] Hawker Hurricanes of No. 85 Squadron RAF, October 1940. [© IWM (CH 1500)] Supermarine Spitfire Mark Is of No. 610 Squadron based at Biggin Hill, flying in ‘vic’ formation, 24 July 1940. [© IWM (CH 740)] A Spitfire pilot of No. 610 Squadron recounts how he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110, Biggin Hill. September 1940. [© IWM (HU 104450)] The Clash Pattern of condensation trails left by British and German aircraft after a dog fight. [© IWM (H 4219)] British fighter Supermarine Spitfire flies in front of the cab of the German Heinkel He 111. [ Via] A Spitfire aircraft going down after being hit by a German Heinkel III in a dog fight. [© AWM 044727] German Do 17 bomber and British Spitfire fighter in the sky over Britain. December 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1969-094-18 / Speer / CC-BY-SA 3.0] Heinkel HE-111 aircraft of the Luftwaffe being shot down during the Battle of Britain. [Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-] Camera gun footage of a Ju 87 Stuka being shot down by an RAF fighter, 1940. [© IWM (C 2418)] A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by by Pilot Officer J D Bisdee, as he dives on a formation of Heinkel He 111s of KG 55 which have just bombed the Supermarine aircraft works at Woolston, Southampton. The rearmost aircraft of the leading ‘staffel’ receives a burst of machine gun fire from Bisdee, as shown by the streaks of light from the tracer bullets. Its port engine is also on fire. [© IWM (CH 1827)] A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by Flying Officer Tadeusz “Novi” Nowierski (formerly Polish Air Force) as he closes in on a formation of Dornier Do 17Zs of KG3 south-west of London at approximately 5.45 pm on 7 September 1940, the first day of the Blitz. Tracer bullets from the intercepting Spitfires can be seen travelling towards the enemy aircraft which were heading back to their base after bombing East London and the docks. [© IWM (CH 1820)] A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I, flown by the Commanding Officer of No. 609 Squadron RAF, Squadron Leader H S Darley, as he opens fire amongst a formation of Heinkel He 111s of KG 55 which have just bombed the Supermarine aircraft works at Woolston, Southampton. [© IWM (CH 1829)] Destroyed German bomber Heinkel HE 111 [ Av Franz Hollerweger / CC BY-SA 2.0] A German Heinkel He 111 P bomber of the Stab/KG 55 which crash-landed at Hipley in Hampshire on 12th July 1940. It was shot down by Hurricanes of ‘B’ Flight, No. 43 Squadron over Southampton Water. [© IWM (HU 90819)] Spitfire pilots pose beside the wreckage of a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, which they shot down as it was attacking a Channel convoy, 1940. [© IWM (CH 2064)] German Officer examines the bullet holes on the fuselage of Heinkel He 111. The damage was caused by 7.69mm machine guns of British aircraft. [ Via] Sergeant Schnell Siegfried of the 4.JG2 Squadron presents the marks of victories on the tail of his Messerschmitt fighter Bf 109E. [ Via] A still from camera gun film shows tracer ammunition from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by Flight Lieutenant J H G McArthur, hitting a Heinkel He 111 on its starboard quarter. These aircraft were part of a large formation from KG 53 and KG 55 which attacked the Bristol Aeroplane Company’s works at Filton, Bristol, just before midday on 25th September 1940. [© IWM (CH 1823)]