7. The Battle of Britain

Posted: February 10, 2011 in World War 2
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

In all, Churchill made five trips to Paris to stiffen Reynaud’s resolve during the battle for France, but he was never able to give Reynaud what the French leader most wanted: use of Britain‘s remaining fighter squadrons. Churchill knew that if Britain were to carry on alone after the fall of France, it would have to rely upon its navy & the Atlantic lifeline to America. Yet the Royal Navy couldn’t possibly bear up under such a stain unless the Royal Air Force (RAF) also completed effectively for control of the skies.

After France’s defeat, a euphoric Hitler assumed that Britain, now isolated, would submit as well. Yet Churchill surprised the Führer by rebuffing several peace initiatives made through neutral countries, & Hitler instead went to work on a British invasion plan, code-named Operation Sea Lion.

The chief problem that the German planners encountered was that they couldn’t transport large enough armies across the English Channel: The German navy had neither enough troopships to carry sufficient men & equipment, nor enough warships to protect such a fleet, even if one could be assembled. However, eager to shift the focus elsewhere, naval commander in chief Erich Raeder pointed out that, given any invasion scenario, air supremacy over the Channel would be vital. Therefore, while the naval planning continued, Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring to eliminate the RAF.

Goring accepted this task with his usual confidence, bordering on braggadocio. Wiping out the RAF’s Fighter Command wouldn’t be a problem, he told the Führer; in fact, Göring believed that his medium-range Heinkels, Dorniers & Junkers could likely bomb the British into submission without any invasion. The first phase of his air operations over the Channel began on July 10th, focusing primarily on British shipping lanes & thus rarely engaging the RAF. On August 8th; however, the Luftwaffe began attacking the RAF’s southern fighter bases in earnest, marking the start of the Battle of Britain.

As the Germans soon learned; however, the British had several key technological advantages. The Hurricanes & Spitfires that they had been stockpiling since 1937, for example, could outperform most of the German fighters; & the new British radar, which had only recently become operational, now provided the RAF with reliable advanced warning of all incoming German planes. Thus the Luftwaffe could not use surprise, as it had in France, to destroy countless Allied aircraft on the ground.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Vera Mae, Vera Mae. Vera Mae said: 7. The Battle of Britain http://wp.me/pZLjO-nv […]

  2. matt weston says:

    this was a great post – love the blog. Keep up the great work!!

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