Between July and October 1940, just 3000 young men secured the future of Britain in the first large scale battle to be fought exclusively in the air, in the rightfully named Battle of Britain. Days after the fall of France, Hitler set his sights on our nation, with the plan to launch Operation Sea Lion, which would force the fall of the allies and the subsequent victory of the Axis Powers. But in order to do this, he first had to defeat the RAF, which would ensure the Nazi’s land attack on South East England would be met with as little resistance as possible. But alas, the supreme competency of the Allied pilots, production and defences saved us from this great affliction which could have had the ability to change the course of WW2, and so our lives as we know them today.
‘We shall never surrender’Winston Churchill
At first, army defences on the south coast were attacked, as airport runways and British radar stations were bombed, but with even the worst day of the battle for Fighter Command (31st August 1940) still not crippling the RAF into surrendering, the Germans switched their tactics to focusing their attention on London on the 15th September 1940. We may perceive the Blitz as the most notable part of WW2, with it also being one of the most calamitous for the British people, however this diversion from RAF bases gave enough time for our air force to recover itself. With Britain producing twice as many planes as Germany could and with the German losses on the 15th being simply unsustainable, the tactic employed to shift the balance of power to the Nazis in effect led to their own demise. Ultimately, it could be argued that, in spite of the great trauma it brought, the Blitz played a part in our victory in the Battle of Britain. Regardless of the Luftwaffe being the largest and most formidable air force in the world before this fateful battle, its lack of comparable supplies and strategic ineptitude wrote our victory in stone. Our numerically insignificant RAF had kept strong with the help of radar, parachutes and the infamous British morale.
The prodigious significance of this 4 month battle on the outcome of WW2 as a whole is quite frankly unimaginable – it prevented an amphibious invasion, boosted British morale and provided a base for the liberation of Europe just 4 years later. A failure to secure air superiority over the English channel meant that pursuing Operation Sea Lion was potentially suicidal for the Germans, especially since the Luftwaffe had regressed whilst the RAF had only been restored, boosted and augmented. The planned amphibious invasion would not only meet the naval resistance, but also that from the air, potentially meaning that even in the luck of the troops arriving at our shores, they would be too weakened to advance, particularly if this advancement was met with the destructive powers of our RAF. The loss of the Battle of Britain made invasion impossible.
But its significance does not stop there. It marked the first major Nazi defeat of WW2, breaking their streak of successes across the mainland of Europe. Following the heart-warming events at the Dunkirk evacuation one month prior to the beginning of the battle, the British morale seemed unbreakable from the start and thanks to the admirable performance of the RAF, the victory only further boosted the nationalist optimism which gave us the upper hand in subsequent battles.
However some historians argue that despite this, a Nazi invasion was never likely, even in the event of their success at the Battle of Britain. This is supported by a peace treaty still being offered to Britain until the 19th July 1940, 9 days after the battle’s commence, potentially hinting that a full blown war was not on the Nazi’s list of desired outcomes, which Operation Sea Lion would be sure to prompt. The suggestion that Germany initiated this assault to coerce Churchill into signing the treaty is certainly plausible as it would prevent a threat to their power in Europe; however the mere existence of a planned invasion without doubt weakens this argument by implying they weren’t avoiding such war.
‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’Winston Churchill
Furthermore Britain’s air space defeat may not have been adequate enough for Hitler to launch his planned offensive, as he would need the command of the Channel also. This in itself was made impossible thanks to the British attack at Mers-el-Kebir naval base on the 3rd July, ensuring the Germans wouldn’t have enough resources to successfully attack our outright superior navy. Therefore, regardless of the outcome of the Battle of Britain, Hitler wouldn’t have had the ability to command the seas and consequently attack our shores triumphantly. But lest not forget, these are merely hypothetical scenarios – maybe the RAF would have been the tipping force which would have secured British success were there to be a naval battle in the channel, in which case the Battle of Britain was potentially even more pivotal in deterring the attack which could have cost us our nation.
So despite some criticism over its significance, ultimately maintaining our potent RAF at this time in the war helped to indefinitely prevent an amphibious attack from the Axis Powers, which may have knocked us out of the war, succumbing to fascism just like several other European counties. These 3000 men steered the pointer of surrender away from our shores as they fought for our great nation against the oppressors in the fundamental moments which helped us keep a grip of our territory. So yes, we do owe so much to these so few for securing our future as Britons.