In the summer of 1940, the German Luftwaffe attempted to win air
superiority over southern Britain and the English Channel by
destroying the Royal Air Force and the British aircraft industry. This
attempt came to be known as the Battle of Britain, and victory over
the RAF was seen by the Germans as absolutely essential if they were
eventually to mount an invasion of the British Isles.
The Germans had overrun Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France
in May 1940, using the Blitzkrieg ('Lightning War') technique that
relied, among other things, on close coordination between ground
troops and the air force. Although the Luftwaffe proved very competent
in this role, it was not trained or equipped for the longer-range
operations that became part of the Battle of Britain.
It is widely believed that had the Germans succeeded in their aim of
destroying the RAF, they would have been able to invade Britain
relatively easily. This was, after all, at a time when the country was
the only European power resisting Nazi Germany, even though she did
enjoy massive support from her Commonwealth partners.
The Soviet Union did not enter the war against Germany until June
1941, and the United States didn't get involved until December of that
year. It was this state of affairs that lay behind Winston Churchill's
famous speech to Parliament on 20 August, right in the middle of the
concerted German air attacks on southern Britain, in which he said,
'Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many
to so few.'
Although the fear of a German invasion was real, it was perhaps
... middle of paper ...
... The Blitz, as it was known, continued after the Battle of Britain had
finished. During the Blitz, between September 1940 and May 1941, the
Germans dropped more than 35,000 tons of bombs for the loss of 650
aircraft. London was attacked 19 times with 18,800 tons of bombs.
The RAF defence was well organised. The brunt was borne by 11 Group,
covering Kent and Sussex. Radar would pick up an approaching force and
relay the information to a sector airfield, which in turn passed it to
11 Group HQ at Northolt. The Group would inform Fighter Command and,
if appropriate, bring in aircraft from other sectors.
Switching to attacks on London took the German fighters to the limit
of their range and brought them within range of 12 Group, defending
the Midlands. The switch to city bombing also allowed Fighter Command
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