Date: July 11, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

In preparation for our September VBC trip to England for a tour of English air fields and WWII sites, Glenn Flickinger gives us a presentation on the Battle of Britain, a clash of air power to control the skies over Britain and the English Channel. We will experience a re-enactment of the battle at the Duxford Air Show September 13-15.

The Battle of Britain, fought from July to October 1940, marked the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces and was crucial in preventing Nazi Germany from achieving air superiority, which was necessary for launching an invasion of Britain.

The battle began after Germany had rapidly conquered much of Europe, leaving Britain isolated. Adolf Hitler aimed to force Britain to negotiate peace by crippling its air defenses and infrastructure through sustained aerial bombardment. The Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, was tasked with this mission under Operation Sea Lion.

The initial phase of the battle, from July to early August, focused on targeting British shipping and ports. This strategy aimed to disrupt supplies and weaken British defenses. However, the Royal Air Force (RAF) managed to respond effectively, inflicting significant losses on the Luftwaffe.

In mid-August, the Luftwaffe shifted its focus to RAF airfields and radar stations. This was the most dangerous phase for Britain, as the destruction of these targets could cripple the RAF’s ability to defend the skies. The Germans launched large-scale attacks, leading to intense dogfights between German fighters and British Spitfires and Hurricanes. Despite suffering heavy losses, the RAF’s effective use of radar and efficient communication allowed them to remain resilient.

A turning point came in late August and early September when the Luftwaffe began bombing London and other major cities in what became known as the Blitz. This shift in strategy was partly a response to a British raid on Berlin, which angered Hitler. While the bombings caused significant civilian casualties and damage, they inadvertently relieved pressure on the RAF airfields, allowing the British fighters to regroup and recover.

The climax of the battle occurred on September 15, 1940, now known as Battle of Britain Day. The Luftwaffe launched a massive assault on London, expecting to draw out and destroy the RAF fighters. However, the British defenders were well-prepared, and the Luftwaffe suffered heavy losses. This failure convinced the German High Command that air superiority could not be achieved.

By the end of October, Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion indefinitely. The Luftwaffe’s inability to dominate the skies over Britain marked the first significant defeat for Nazi Germany in World War II. The RAF had successfully defended Britain, preserving it as a base for future Allied operations, including the eventual liberation of Western Europe.

The Battle of Britain was not just a military confrontation but also a test of national endurance and morale. The bravery of the RAF pilots, often referred to as “The Few” based on Winston Churchill’s famous tribute, played a crucial role in securing the victory. Their efforts ensured that Britain remained a beacon of resistance against Nazi tyranny.

In summary, the Battle of Britain was a crucial air campaign in World War II that thwarted Hitler’s plans for invading Britain. The RAF’s strategic use of radar, resilient defense of key airfields, and the shift in German tactics to bombing cities all contributed to the British victory. This battle not only prevented a German invasion but also set the stage for future Allied successes in the war.

We’re grateful to UPMC for Life and Tobacco Free Adagio Health for sponsoring this event!