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A young boy sits amidst the ruins of a London bookshop following an air raid Oct 8 1940

25 A young boy sits amidst the ruins of a London bookshop following an air raid Oct 8 1940 01

Luftwaffe vs RAFBattle of Britain

By mid. 1940 Hitler's forces had conquered much of Western Europe in a very short space of time. Countries like Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France had collapsed under the might of the German Blitzkrieg and only Britain remained defiant.

In the summer and autumn of 1940, Germany's Luftwaffe which had so out matched its previous opponent's now faced the RAF on their home turf. The Luftwaffe who were naturally over confident; conducted thousands of bombing raids, attacking military and civilian targets across the United Kingdom. Hitler's forces, in an attempt to achieve air superiority, were preparing the way for an invasion of Britain, code-named 'Operation Sea Lion'. At first, they targeted only military and industrial targets. But after the Royal Air Force bombed Berlin with a retaliatory strike in September, the German high command was outraged and whether by navigational accident or on purpose the RAF raid had the desired effect. The Luftwaffe began bombing British civilian centers. Some 23,000 British civilians were killed in the months between July and December 1940. This had a huge effect on the population and galvanized spiritually the British 'we will never surrender' attitude. So despite the thousands of Luftwaffe pilots and air crews which were sent to bring Britain and particularly the RAF to its knees, faced a few determined men! The aerial combats that followed in the skies above Britain, France, and the English Channel, each side fought tenaciously and it was the Luftwaffe who came out the losers. The aerial battles that took place have collectively become known as the 'Battle of Britain'. It was the inspiration that ultimately lead to the defeat of the Axis powers and the restoration of most of Europe.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking of the British pilots in an August speech, said, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." The British defenses held, and Operation Sea Lion was quietly canceled in October, but the bombing raids continued long after.

For me as a historian it's sad to think that the main political reason for Britain or rather Churchill's reason for getting involved in the war with Germany was Poland. However Winston Churchill and other's suppressed the news of the Poles massacred by the Soviets which later became known as the Katyn massacre and was known to have been ordered by Stalin was traded in a 'European Chess Game'. After the war in a political effort to appease Uncle 'Joe' Stalin the Poles who served so loyally by the side of their allied counterparts weren't even allowed to march in the procession at wars end. What gives politicians the right to trade nations defies the imagination.

Oh Politicians who start so may wars… are left to so few to try and fix.


This webpage was updated 7th November 2011

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