“The Battle of France is over – The Battle of Britain is about to begin”
Following the evacuation from Dunkirk the British Army was a defeated army, being made up of around a third of a million demoralised men, minus their kit, and in most cases; their rifles and small arms. The Germans had a two-week window [Operation Sea Lion] in which they could have invaded England.
The Germans didn’t know the presence and true strength of the Royal Navy so they decided to delay. Unknown to the Germans their e-boat strength was superior to the Royal Navy’s having newer and faster boats with better weapons. Even the Royal Navy’s cruisers with their heavier guns would have been in danger from Stuka dive-bombers.
Furthermore Sir Hugh Dowding [commander of the RAF] had bluffed Germany into thinking there were more RAF reserves than there really was. This was the main reason the invasion didn’t start in the last two weeks of September; as Hitler didn’t believe he would have full command of the skies.
This led to a failure to invade on Germany’s part because unknown to them; they had blown it – after the 1st October the wind and tides change together with weather conditions and by the following spring it would be too late. Britain’s bluff would have gained valuable time for the armed forces to recover.
The Battle of Britain [10 July] Begins
Therefore instead of Operation Sea Lion Adolf Hitler ordered Herman Goering [leader of the German Luftwaffe] to launch Operation Eagle Attack. The Luftwaffe started off attacking shipping off the British coast and then the airfields and control centre’s of Fighter Command, then Bomber Command, and then aircraft related industrial targets in the south of England.
Nearly 3000 RAF pilots [mostly inexperienced] served with fighter command [average age 20] led in formation by a Wing Commander against the experienced Luftwaffe whom referred to these tactics as ‘idiotic!’ The odds were stacked against Britain but the RAF did have lady luck, radar and the ‘Spitfire.’
Firstly the Spitfire which the Germans under estimated was the only British fighter which could confront the Bf 109 on equal terms. The Luftwaffe’s Bf 109’s flaw was its poor fuel load and economy. It was limited to 20 minutes over English territory before having to return home.
Secondly in Britain’s favour was the fact that if a German pilot was shot down, even if he survived he was captured and lost to his side forever. Whereas if a British pilot were shot down and survived he could be up the next day and in some cases later the same day.
Thirdly the RAF had the advantage of fighting over their own territory and ‘Radar.’ The Luftwaffe’s intelligence didn’t know how developed Britain’s radar was. It is estimated that around 1,000 British planes were shot down during the battle, while over 1,800 German planes were destroyed.
“If the British bomb our cities, we will bury theirs.”
Lastly ‘lady luck,’ because if it hadn’t been for one lone German bomber who veered off course and inadvertently jettisoned their bombs over London, Winston Churchill would never have ordered the retaliatory bombing of Berlin. Therefore Britain would surely have lost the Battle in the skies.
Much to the amazement of stunned Berliners, on the night of August 25th, 81 British Hampden bombers appeared over Berlin and delivered a blow to the heart of Germany. Hitting the Nazi’s hard hurting Hitler’s Ego. Hitler immediately hit back stating, “if the British bomb our cities, we will bury theirs!”
Hitler just didn’t know how close he had really come to destroying the RAF. A massive series of raids [7th Sept1940] involving nearly four hundred bombers and more than six hundred fighters targeted docks in the East End of London, day and night. The raids were code named ‘Operation Loge.’
By bombing London the RAF had for the 2nd time recovered. The Luftwaffe drew the RAF [15th Sept1940] into the most concentrated battle of annihilation. Around 1,500 aircraft took part which lasted until dusk. The RAF continued to deal the Germans terrible losses. The action was the height of the Battle of Britain where the RAF was victorious.
“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few”