Today is Battle of Britain Day, a day that marks a pivotal point in the battle for air supremacy that saw the Royal Air Force emerge victorious against the larger forces of the Luftwaffe.
In winning the Battle, the RAF stopped Hitler’s invasion plans, preserved this country as the embarkation point for the Normandy landings in 1944 and probably shortened World War 2, saving countless lives in the process.
The bravery and sacrifice of the Few, the men of the RAF who took part in the Battle, is honoured at the National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne. Unfortunately, thanks to the Government’s new Covid-19 restrictions, the Trust will not be able to hold the usual short Service of Remembrance at the site, but our thoughts will turn to the debt we owe the Few and we will pause in respect at 11am.
The two video links below offer a fantastic insight into the Battle of Britain, while below is a short resume of the day and how it unfolded.
On 15 September 1940, Göring gave the green light for two of the Luftwaffe’s biggest raids ever. They were aimed at finally annihilating the RAF and followed reports from German intelligence that Fighter Command had no Hurricane squadrons left and just a few Spitfire squadrons.
The first wave of some 250 aircraft crossed the English coast at 11.30am, heading for London. Ten squadrons were scrambled by 11 Group and, for the first time, Douglas Bader’s big Duxford wing joined the fray over London.
By 12.30pm the first Luftwaffe wave returned home, having suffered a severe mauling over London and been chased all the way back to the Channel without its fighter escort.
Shortly after 2pm, around 500 fighters and bombers of the Luftwaffe’s second wave approached London. Squadrons from 10, 11, 12 and 13 Groups were scrambled. In the 11 Group operations room that afternoon, Winston Churchill asked Sir Keith Park: “How many reserves have you?”, to be told: “None”. At one stage all his squadrons were airborne.
Once again, the German bombers were severely mauled. So ended what was to become Battle of Britain Day.
Next morning the British press claimed 187 German aircraft were destroyed. The effect on British morale was immense, although the real figure was 67 for the loss of 27 RAF aircraft.
What was more critical was the Luftwaffe had already suffered heavy losses over the previous two months. Besides the 67, numerous aircraft limped back home to France with dead gunners, burned engines and broken undercarriages. The adverse effect on morale of crews that had been told by their intelligence that the RAF was defeated was significant.
The effect of that day’s battle showed Hitler that the Luftwaffe had lost the battle for air supremacy.