Towards the end of the Battle of France the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was evacuated from Dunkirk, code name ‘Operation Dynamo’, and brought back to Britain to regroup.

On 18th June 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced “The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin”.

On 22nd June 1940 France had no choice but to surrender to Germany leaving Britain alone to face the might of the German onslaught.

Before Germany could invade Britain it was necessary for the Luftwaffe to achieve air superiority to prevent costly air attacks during the crossing, this task was given to the Luftwaffe Commander-in-chief Hermann Göring.

Hermann Göring was a fighter pilot ace in the First World War and was awarded the ‘Blue Max’, the highest airforce award in Germany.

He was also the commander of the famous fighter wing ‘Jagdgeschwader 1’, which was once led by the ‘Red Baron’ Manfred von Richtofen.

Hitler’s plan to invade Britain, code named operation Sealion, was to launch a seaward attack using invasion barges to land on the beaches of Sussex and Kent and to succeed he needed to control the English Channel.
Hermann Göring (Wikimedia Commons)
Hermann Göring, 1932
(Wikimedia Commons)

This meant that the Royal Air Force Fighter Command, commanded by Sir Hugh Dowding, had to be defeated by the Luftwaffe.

Air Marshall Hugh Dowding (Wikimedia Commons)
Air Marshall Hugh Dowding
(Wikimedia Commons)
The primary aircraft used in the Battle of Britain were the Supermarine Spitfire and The Hawker Hurricane of the RAF and the Messerschmitt Bf109 and Junkers Ju87 ‘Stuka’ dive bombers of the Luftwaffe.

At the start of the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe had 2,500 serviceable aircraft and the RAF only had 660 serviceable aircraft, the weakness in the RAF being a lack of trained pilots who had been killed in the recent hostilities in the war in France and had not been replaced.

Even though outnumbered, the RAF had advantages over the Luftwaffe such as Radar and over a 1000 Royal observer corps posts.

The RAF also had less distance to travel to the battle zone therefore more time could be spent in combat.
Aircraft Spotter, London (Wikimedia Commons)
Aircraft Spotter
(Wikimedia Commons)

The RAF aircraft could also be quickly rearmed and rejoin the battle and RAF pilots who had to bail out or make forced landings could do so over friendly territory and be able to return to their squadrons. Any Luftwaffe aircrew who had to bail out were likey to be made prisoners of war.
Due to the limited range of the German fighters and the distance they had to fly, their bombers had minimal air cover which left them vulnerable to British fighters once the fighters had to return to their base.

The Battle of Britain commenced on the 10th July 1940 with the Germans attempt to achieve control of the Straits of Dover. The tactic of the Luftwaffe was to provoke the RAF into a full scale air war which by the end of July saw the RAF loose around 150 aircraft and the Luftwaffe around 270 aircraft.

The AR213 was flown for a time by James 'Ginger' Lacey the most successful RAF pilot of the Battle of Britain & it also appeared in the film 'The Battle of Britain'. After an extensive restoration the aircraft is now on the flying circuit as a representation of a Mk I Spitfire.
Spitfire Mk.Ia - AR213

During August 1940, Göring’s attention turned inland to the RAF’s airfields, operations rooms and the crucial Radar stations which gave the RAF early warning of the Luftwaffe’s raids.

The Radar stations were attacked by Junkers Ju87’s the terrifying ‘Stuka’ dive bomber but without effective fighter cover they were easy prey for the RAF fighters and by mid August the ‘Stukas’ had effectively been wiped out, preventing precision bombing.

By mid August Göring’s tactics seemed to be paying off, the RAF had been badly hit with six of its main seven airfields out of action and losses were around 550 aircraft, although this success had come at a cost with the Luftwaffe losing around 1000 aircraft.

Confident that the RAF were on their knees, from late August the Luftwaffe commenced night bombing raids on English cities and also ended attacks on British Radar Stations as Göring underestimated their importance. As a result Fighter command continued to receive vital information regarding German raids.

Messerschmidt Bf109
Messerschmidt Bf109
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 (often called Me 109) was the predominant German fighter during the Battle of Britain and was designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid 1930s

This change in tactics by the Luftwaffe gave the RAF time to repair the airbases and an opportunity to give their exhausted aircrew necessary rest for the further combat to come.

The last major combat of the Battle of Britain came on the 15th September 1940 when the Luftwaffe lost 60 aircraft to the RAF’s 28 aircraft. By this show of defiance it was clear to the German high command that the RAF were far from beaten and two days later on the 17th September 1940 the proposed invasion of Britain was postponed …… Indefinitely.

The inability of the German war machine to force Britain to negotiate for terms or offer an outright surrender was seen as the first major defeat for the German army and is considered to be the turning point of the war.

By the end of the battle of Britain the Luftwaffe had lost approximately twice as many aircraft as the RAF, the actual figures are difficult to establish although at the time these figures were wildly exaggerated by the propaganda war machine on both sides.