Ward's Book of Days.
Pages of interesting anniversaries.
What happened on this day in history.
On this day in history in 1940, began the Battle of Britain.
The Battle of Britain was a conflict in the air lasting 84 days, between the Royal Air Force and the German air force, the Luftwaffe.
The Second World War had begun on 3rd September 1939, when Britain and France declared war on Germany. France had quickly fallen to the German army, and German troops were poised on the other side of the English Channel, ready for an invasion. Before the Germans could invade, they needed to gain air superiority. In 1940, they launched an ambitious plan to knock out all British airfields.
In June 1940, the Luftwaffe launched several raids on British ports as a softening up exercise. Although these attacks caused some considerable damage, the R A F had the advantage of radar, which alerted them to when and where attacks were taking place.
On 8th August 1940, the main attack began. In the first week of the battle, the Luftwaffe launched about 1,500 attacks per day, aimed at airfields and radar stations, but the rate of attacks diminished as the Luftwaffe continued to lose aircraft to the R A F’s superior Spitfire, a single-seater fighting aircraft designed to take out enemy bombers. By late August, the Luftwaffe had lost 600 aircraft compared with a British loss of 260. In September, the British retaliated by carrying out a bombing raid on Berlin, which so infuriated the German High Command, that they turned their attention to the bombing of London, Coventry and Liverpool.
By October 1940, the R A F had shot down 1,700 German aircraft and the German resources were too weak for them to continue. The enemy had been repelled and the Battle of Britain was won. The threatened invasion was prevented although this did not prevent the Luftwaffe from carrying out a series of bombing raids in the winter of 1940-1941, known as the Blitz, the German word for lightning. Winston Churchill, speaking of the RAF pilots who engaged in the battle, said ‘Never in the history of human conflict, was so much owed to so few by so many’. The RAF pilots of 1940, thereafter became known as ‘The Few’.
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