By the end of May Allied troops were cornered, on the coast, in the town of Dunkirk. They had been overpowered by the German blitzkrieg(?Battle of Britain?). Though German bombers had destroyed over 200 of the rescue armada’s ships, the British still were able to evacuate 224,000 of their troops along with 123,00 French(Mosley 20). Though they had been forced to abandon most of their equipment and supplies on the beach, the British avoided the trap set by the Germans. This event was the precursor to the Battle of Britain.
At this point, Germany felt that Allied forces were weak and if they were to invade Great Britain, the time was then. Prefight OddsAfter Dunkirk the Royal Air Force had low morale and it’s numbers were severely depleted. In the attempt to protect the rescue armada from the Luftwaffe the RAF(Royal Air Force) lost 106 fighters and 75 pilots, which was one fourth of their air power. By July 1940 the stage was set for the Battle of Britain, which was to be the first major battle to be fought entirely in the air. In the months after Dunkirk several factors had come into play that would both hurt and help the Allies and the Germans. The Luftwaffe was estimated to have 4,500 first-line aircraft and the RAF 2,900(Mosley 52).
And now that the English Channel was the only thing separating the Allies from the Germans, Britain needed to catch up. The British needed to replenish their supplies and they needed to drastically increase the number of planes being produced as soon as possible. Two things helped bring the British more planes for the Battle of Britain. The first was Churchill not allowing any more planes to be flown to France as aide, after all, France had already been defeated and occupied by German forces. The second action was the increased factory production of planes.
In the months that followed the evacuation at Dunkirk, British workers built 446 new fighters for the RAF, which was 100 more than the Germans were producing. In order to build this many new planes the factories were working seven days a week and by Lord Beavbrook’s ?work without stopping? policy. In an attempt to help the effort, women all over Britain put their household items containing aluminum out for collection, so that the necessary materials for fighter production was available(Mosley 52). Another plus for Britain was their bombers. The bombers would be used to attack targets in Germany’s industrial heartland and also in German-controlled Channel ports, where German ships were assembling for Operation Sea Lion ,the projected seaborne invasion of Britain. They also had good RAF fighters, which would be needed to protect the British Isles during the battle(Mosley 54).
One other significant home advantage for Britain was that they were able to recover any pilots who had bailed out of their planes relatively quickly because they had the Royal Navy ready and if they landed in GB they wouldn’t have to worry about being put in a POW camp. There were three other defensive advantages the British had: Command headquarters(defensive air operations), radar, and a German code breaking machine. Britain located their base of operations at Bently Priory, an 18th century mansion. It was their top-secret hub of air operations, with a plotting room(worked by the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), where Chief Marshal Dowding and his air-controllers would watch the great chart and plan the battle depositions to be made to the RAF(Mosley 56).
Radar(RAdio Detection And Ranging) was an important aspect of Britain’s ground defenses. Britain used it to detect distant objects, their location, and their speed, by analyzing the ultra-high-frequency radio waves reflected from their surfaces. Dowding created a communications network with radar reports, which would get fed back to Bently Priory’s central plotting room, where Dowding and his staff would be able to deploy fighters where and when they were needed. Radar was the first form of a modern air defense network system(?Battle of Britain? and Mosley 54). The code breaking machine was also a valuable resource and also a very top-secret one too. The machine was kept so secret that even Dowding’s subordinate commanders didn’t know about it.
The machine enabled the British to intercept and break complex German codes, allowing them to estimate the Luftwaffe’s intended targets and the numbers of aircraft to be employed even before the planes left the ground(Mosley 56). On the other hand, it looked as if all the odds were against Britain and for Germany after Dunkirk, but Germany made a series of miscalculations that ended up costing them dearly. One of the first mistakes made by Germany was their unchanged pace of plane production after Dunkirk. Hitler believed that if they increased airplane production it would alarm the population of Germany and also that the raw materials used to build the planes should be directed towards the production of guns. Also if the Luftwaffe wanted to bomb London or any other large industrial city they would need more long-range heavy bombers but because of the stalled production they weren’t built. The only bombers Germany had available at the beginning of the battle were Dornier-17 and the Heinkel-111.
Both planes had short ranges and were vulnerable to fighters coming in at them from certain angles. Part of Germany’s strategy going into the Battle of Britain was that the ground troops would be the most important aspect once they landed and that their fighters and bombers would be mainly used as offensive support(Mosley 47). That was one of their first miscalculations. One of Germany’s worst failures in the skies was with their Junkers-87 dive bomber. It was a highly effective bomber but it was very vulnerable to RAF fighters.
The other highly effective German fighter plane was the Me-109(Messerschmitt-109) but there was also a flaw to it. The Me-109 had a terrible range and was barely adequate for the operations required of it. It could only fly for 80 minutes, therefore, with the amount of time it took to fly back and forth it only had a maximum of twenty combat minutes available causing many planes to run out of fuel and crash before they could get back to France and land(Mosley 49). Another miscalculation of the German strategy was the importance and use of radar in air operations. They put most radar use in the hands of their navy because they thought it would be more useful in ocean reconnaissance(Mosley 54). If Germany had put more time into developing the Luftwaffe for the Battle of Britain and utilized all possible air resources their miscalculation might not have turned out so costly.
Operation ?Sea Lion?Operation ?Sea Lion?(Seelove) was Hitler’s plan to invade the British Isles by the combined forces of the Reich(Mosley 56)(see figure). Phase One of the operation was the neutralization of the English Channel. Luftwaffe strategists believed the closing of the 21-mile wide Straights of Dover would be the easiest part, blocking passage to the Port of London. The second part of Phase One was the complete obliteration of the RAF. This would be done by destroying all RAF air fields, defenses and aircraft factories in a huge combined bomber and fighter blitz(Mosley 56).
Phase Two of operation ?Sea Lion? would be the actual on land invasion of the British Isles. The initiation of Phase One was the beginning of the Battle of Britain. Battle of BritainJuly 10, 1940. Hellfire Corner(a stretch of water near Dover). The first confrontation of the Battle of Britain. There were few loses for both sides but both sides also left with a sense of self-satisfaction, more confident in their goals(Mosley 57).
In the first 10 days the British suffered heavy loses because they flew in tight formations and had no room to move when they were under attack by the Germans. The RAF soon changed their strategy and began flying in ?Finger Four? formation, which broke up the rigidity of the old formations and improved their odds against the Luftwaffe in air encounters(Mosley 86). Every day, during the months of June to October 1940, the RAF and Luftwaffe fought in the skies. The Luftwaffe’s final attempt to knock out the RAF began on ?Eagle Day?, August 13,1940(?Battle of Britain?).
Though the weather was stormy a flight of 74 Dronier bombers and 50 Me-110’s headed towards RAF fields and installations in Kent. The Luftwaffe, relying on heavy cloud cover, made it to Eastchurch airfield in England and bombed. By 3:45 p. m.
the unleashing of Eagle Day’s offensive began. At the end of Eagle Day the Luftwaffe calculated successful attacks on six RAF airfields, the wiping out of several small factories, and the paralysis of the port of Southampton, along with 88 RAF planes being destroyed. The Luftwaffe had miscalculated it’s gains and loses because only 13 RAF fighters had been shot down compared to 23 German planes(Mosley 94). Though Luftwaffe intelligence officers were disturbed by the fact the British always seemed to know where their attackers were coming they still didn’t recognize the effectiveness of the British radar system and still didn’t take direct action against it.
Two days after Eagle Day the Luftwaffe were back in the air. Goring ordered the largest number of planes used for a single operation into the air for an attack on Southern England. Up to that point there had never been as many dogfights in one day of fighting. The RAF lost 34 planes and the Luftwaffe lost 75(Mosley 96). In four days, starting August 14, the RAF shot down 194 Luftwaffe planes(Mosley 99).
The RAF gave Germany their first defeat of the war. The RAF were able to hold off the German invasion even though they were short of planes and pilots. It was one of the greatest moments in British history(?Battle of Britain?). The British were victorious because of their sophisticated defense mechanisms and also because of a series of tactical mistakes made by the Germans.
After the Battle of Britain was over and Germany had aborted ?Operation Sea Lion? Hitler changed his strategy towards Britain and the other Allies. He turned to bombing Britain’s cities in hopes of a surrender(?Battle of Britain?). Britain was able to endure the bombings, factories remained in operation and in the end they were able to stay afloat until D-Day and the defeat of the Nazi’s. Herman GoringHerman Goring was head of the Luftwaffe between 1933-1945. He was second in power to Adolf Hitler.
Goring oversaw formation of the Luftwaffe before World War 2. Goring ended up killing himself while in prison awaiting execution for war crimes(?Battle of Britain?). Sir Hugh DowdingDowding was the Air Chief Marshall during the Battle of Britain, head of the RAF Fighter Command, and the defensive counterpart of Sir Arthur Harris. Dowding built-up the defensive air power of the RAF during the 1930’s.
After the Battle of Britain, Dowding lost his position after a policy dispute. The strategy he employed during the Battle of Britain and his relentless determination are credited for the successful defense of Britain(?Battle of Britain?). Famous Planes of the RAFThe Supermarine Spitfire served as a first-line fighter throughout WW2. It was fast and maneuverable. It’s thin elliptical wings made it capable of very high speeds(571 km/hr).
It had a Ceiling of 10,360 meters and a Range of 805 km. The make-up of the plane was continuously being changed to meet the needs of low and high altitude fighters, tropicalized, navalized, or equipped as an unarmed photo-reconnaissance aircraft. It’s one of the most famous military aircraft in history. There were 20,351 built and the RAF retired the last Spitfire in 1954(?Battle of Britain?).
The Hawker Hurricane was a biplane, structure wise, with a monoplane layout. It had a Speed of 520 km/hr, a Ceiling of 10,900 meters, and a Range of 965 km. The fuselage was a braced steel tube construction, with wooden frames and fabric covering, making it easy to repair. The Hurricane was relatively inferior to the best fighters but they were sturdy, reliable, and easy to produce. Most fighters during the Battle of Britain were Hurricanes and later models were used as ground attack and anti-tank aircraft because they were obsolete as fighters. 14,533 were built(?Battle of Britain?).
The Boulton Paul Defiant was a two seat fighter with a four gun armament. It had initial success but heavy loses followed. It had a Max. Speed of 485 km/hr, a Ceiling of 9,250 meters, and a Range of 740 km. It was later used as a night fighter and then as a target tug. There were 1,064 built(?Battle of Britain?).
Famous Planes of the LuftwaffeThe Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a standard Luftwaffe fighter throughout the war. It had good performance and handling but it had restricted vision, bad landing characteristics, and it couldn’t carry a lot of armament because it was so small. It was the smallest frame that could be built around the large and powerful engine. The Me-109 had a Max.
Speed of 560 km/hr, a Ceiling of 10,500 meters, and a Range of 660 km. It was one of the best fighters in the world(E model). There were approximately 35,000 built and production continued in Spain after the war(?Battle of Britain?). The Junkers Ju 88 was one of the most versatile aircraft of the war.
It was used for various types of air battle: dive bomber, reconnaissance aircraft, torpedo-bomber, night fighter, heavy day fighter, and an anti-tank aircraft. The plane had a Speed of 470 km/hr, a Ceiling of 8,200 meters, and a Range of 2,730 km. There were 10,774 produced(?Battle of Britain?). The other Junkers, Ju 87 or ?Stuka’, was a gull winged dive bomber. It was the most feared bomber, it was ugly, sturdy, accurate, but very vulnerable to enemy fighters. It was very effective in destroying fortifications, ships, and instilling fear in people.
The last versions of the Ju 87 were used as anti-tank aircraft and there were over 5,700 produced. The Ju 87 had a Speed of 383 km/hr, a Ceiling of 8,000 meters, and a Range of 790 km(?Battle of Britain?). Aces of the AirOne of the most famous aces was Major Adolf Galland of the Luftwaffe. He was already an ace before the Battle of Britain began.
He had 37 kills. He was also one of the few Luftwaffe pilots to survive the war(Ward 162). Other Luftwaffe aces of the Battle of Britain include Helmut Wick, Walter Oesau, Hans Mayer, and Gustav Sprick. Brian Kingcome was one of Britain’s most respected and famous aces of the Battle of Britain. Other aces of the RAF include E.
S. Lock, J. H. Lacey, P. C.
Hughs, and C. F. Gray(Ward 162 and ?Battle of Britain?). ConclusionThe Battle of Britain was the finest hour for the British but the first defeat of the war for the Germans. Though Germany was favored in the invasion the tables turned and Britain proved to be steadfast and determined in the defense of their country and it worked. The Battle of Britain ended up setting the stage for D-Day , the demise of the Reich, and the end of World War Two.
?Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few? – Winston ChurchillBibliographyWorks CitedMosley, Leonard Battle of Britain: World War II. Canada: Time-Life Books Inc. , 1977. Ward, Arthur A Nation Alone:The Battle of Britain-1940.
London: Osprey Publishing Ltd, 1989. ?Battle of Britain? Online. Internet. 7 Nov. 1998. Available: www.geocities.com/Pentagon/4143/index.html Aviation Essays