How Significant was the Battle of Britain from the German point of view?
|“The Battle of France is over, the battle of Britain is about to begin” Winston Churchill.|
It began on 10 July and finished on 31 October 1940.
There were a large number of individual fights and “come downs” during the Air battles, the key events are listed below.
The Battle of Britain is often described as having 4 phases:
Phase 1: 10 July – 12 August 1940 Attacks on Channel Shipping
The Luftwaffe attacked shipping conveys in the English Channel and Channel ports and coastal radar stations on the South coast. There were widespread night-time raids all along the coast.
16 July: Adolf Hitler issued Directive No. 16, calling for preparations to be made for Operation Sealion – the invasion of Britain. Hitler demanded that ”the British Air Force must be eliminated to such an extent that it will be incapable of putting up any sustained opposition to the invading troops.”
Phase 2: 13 – 18 August 1940 Attacks on Airfields and Radar Stations
The Luftwaffe planned to destroy the aircraft of Fighter Command, either on the ground or in the air. Airfields and radar stations became the focus of German bombing. The raids destroyed valuable aircraft and damaged airfields, making it difficult for aircraft to operate. The airfields of No.11 Group in the south east of England suffered the heaviest attacks. Small civilian airfields were used in emergency.
13 August: ‘Eagle Day’ (Adlertag): The Luftwaffe launched intense raids on RAF airfields, focusing their attacks in the south east of England.
18 August: The Hardest Day: Fierce air battles between the Luftwaffe and the RAF, with severe loss of RAF aircraft on the ground.
Phase 3: 19 August – 6 September 1940
The Luftwaffe continued to bomb towns, cities and airfields across the south coast of England, the Midlands and the north east.
20 August: British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, acknowledged the enormous gratitude to British & Allied aircrew: ”Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.”
24 August: During night bombing of Britain, a lost German bomber formation dropped bombs on London by mistake.
25 August: In retaliation of the bombing of London, the RAF launched their first bombing raid on Berlin.
31 August: Fighter Command suffered its heaviest losses to date. 303 Squadron (Polish Squadron) – based at RAF Northolt – became operational.
Phase 4: 7 September 1940 – 31 October 1940
Mass bombing raids were launched against London, and continued against other major British cities.
15 September: Battle of Britain day. The Luftwaffe launched its heaviest bombing raids on London. Fighter Command successfully fought the attacking aircraft, resulting in heavy Luftwaffe losses.
17 September: Hitler postponed the invasion of Britain (Operation Sealion)
26 September: The Spitfire factory at Southampton was attacked and destroyed.
October: The German Luftwaffe focused their bombing raids on British cities at night, to reduce Luftwaffe casualties. Coastal towns, airfields and other military targets were attacked during the day.
31 October: The German Luftwaffe were denied air superiority by the RAF. The Battle of Britain ended. Hitlers Channel Ports that had been filling with German Invasion bardges, began emptying again, the invasion plan had become impossible and was now a failure…..
Stukas did peristently bomb the chain high and chain low radar installation towers in the Southern approaches to Britain, but they got rebuilt literlay “overnight”…..
First came the Stukas, terrifyingly effective against the low Countries and road convoys of helpless French Belgium and Dutch Civilians, the siren shrieking screaming vultures were in fact shot to pieces in large numbers over Englands Skies, and were soon withdrawn to casualty experience…..The Stuka was too lightly armed and far too slow….
Above. In France Luftwaffe Fighter crews take time out to rest and relax during a lull in the fighting. Note the ME 109 “Emille” being serviced with the open engine bay in the background. Servicing had to be done “as and when” and Mechanics often worked during the day and night to keep airframes airworthy. Shortage of fuel to return home and risk from mechanical breakdown or navigation mistakes (flying a reciprocal course) were all real risks to german air crews, not just RAF ones during these battles in 1940. Computers had not been invented then, and navigation was by “Dead reckoning” or by Stars from the cockpit (or “Astro Dome)
German large glazed Plexi Glass cockpits were lighter, gave improved visibility, but exposed the crew to danger from even small arms fire from the gorund. Above photo, a Royal Air Force Corporal examines bullet holes in the Plexi Glass of this downed Heinkel HE III bomber in England.
In order to win the War in the Western Front, Germany knew it had to stop effective resistance coming from Great Britain.
Above. Luftwaffe Ground Support crew prepare a Condor bomber for its next mission.
Below Some types of German Air Force (Luftwaffe) Crew and soldiers.
During this time German Submarines strangled supplies of evrything to britain, sinking Merchant shipping carrying its war and civilian supplies. Also air strikes by long range FW 200 Condor Anti shipping bombers, based at Bordeaux Merignac off the bay of Biscay, caused serious losess .
A RAF Fighter Command “Spitfire” Aircraft in a “Dog fight” over Kent shoots down a German “Staffel Capitan” in his Me 109 fighter. Germans who crashed or parachuted out their planes over Britan were invariably soon captured, taken to prison and lost to Germanies Luftwaffe, soon the trained quality pilots began to be in short supply, further weakening German Air Reich Marshall Goerings Plans.
Next came the Fighters to destroy the RAF FIghter command in the skies….Huge aerial combats took palce in braod daylmight over the English countryside, and civiolians frequently had to duck and hide in hay stacks or hedges or roadside ditches to avoid the German fighters, some of whom opened fire on civilians….
A view of the English coast as it first appeared to the crew of this German Heinkel HE III two engined bomber. The pilot sits to the left of the photo.
Above. Inside a Heinkel HE III cockpit. Map reading and following the River Thames was still often used to Navigate by Visible landmarks to find the targets and fly home again.
Above. German Military Propaganda remained buoyant, but in fact they lost the battle of britian in the Skies. The Invasion was cancelled permanently.
As Prime Minister and English War Leader Winston Churchill said “Hitler knows he must break us in this Island or lose the war”.
Large German bomber formations escorted by Fighter planes, bombed Britian, in a “Blitz” of terror, yet were unable to break Englands resolve…..things got especially bad in the big Cities such as London, Coventry and Liverpool where there were important Military factories producing war materiel for England against the Nazis.
Above. many german planes were hit and did not return to their bases in occuppied France, crashing in England, meant if they survived, denying any surviving aircrew to return to German service again.
Germany lost many air crews to being taken prisoner because they bailed out from their damaged machines over English territory. British Pilots who had to jump out, landed on friendly territory and went back to fly again against the germans….Goering could not keep up this level of loss for very long…..
Above. A German Fighter Pilot has baled out and been captured upon lanfing with his parachute “somewhere in England” in 1940. Note the Local Policeman has come, and the Local Air Raid Warden and four “Civil Defence Volunteers” known as the “Home Guard” Soldiers. (Photo Living History Re Enactor Society).
Experts at the University of York and the Britain’s National Archives have created an interactive map which shows the locations of over 30,000 air raids on Britain during WW2. It has detailed accounts of when and where bombs landed in the country between 1939 and 1944.
URl to see the interactive map
Map Plots 30,000 Luftwaffe Air Raids on The UK During WW2 (warhistoryonline.com)
The records span from the first bomb to land near Edinburgh (on October 16, 1939, just six weeks after Nazi Germany invaded Poland) to the last one on the southeast coast of England (March 29, 1945).
Many persons were left homeless because bombers had destroyed their houses….
A similar project mapped the bombs that fell on London during the war. This is the first time the entire country has been mapped out this way.
Britains skies were defended by a few courageous fighter pilots against overwhelming enemy odds and numbers….War Leader Winston Churchill later wrote of their victory, “Never before in the field of human conflict has so much been owed, by so many, to so few”.
The Bell has rung and the order to “Scramble” for takeoff has come……
Above. it was very important to get up and into the air as soon as the german formations got sighted, because other enemy fighters or bombers also came to attack the Fighter airfields and runways and shoot up the planes on the ground before they could take off to stop them.
The Luftwaffe raid on RAF Fighter base kenley.
Given RAF Kenley's importance, theLuftwaffe attempted to destroy it by means of a massive bombing raid on 18 August 1940. The attacking Luftwaffe aircraft suffered heavy casualties during the raid. Despite some damage to the airfield and the surrounding buildings and homes, this bombing raid proved unsuccessful. By the following day, RAF Kenley was operational again. But Hitler kept up pressure to try to break Fighter Command Airfields into submission. he came within seven days of success when Hitler suddennely switched Bombing target Priority instead to London and the Cities, giving precious timeat least to repair and reorganise fighter command.
It was a close run thing…..
Below This Heinkel HE III was the very first bomber to be brought down on English soil. It seems to have landed more or less intact, so likely the crew survived and got taken prisoner for the duration.
Then came Hitlers flights of bombers, and endless air raids, rageing fires and civilian casualties…..some cities like Bristol could be seen cleary burning at night time from as far away as Shepton mallet, which is nearly thirty Miles away !!!
Above. Destruction from German Luftwaffe bombs in the City of Bristol.
Above. All that remains of a families home in London, destroyed by a direct hit from bombs during the Blitz. Many civilians sheltered in the Underground stations or Air raid shelters, but if you got caught above ground, it was often fatal during an air raid due to the blasts and flying shrapnel….*
A injured lady is rescued from the debris of her home after a German Air raid.
The sight that often greeted civilians re emergeing from A nights Air raids on a British town or city was often shocking….but it remained “Business as usual”…..
Above Luftwaffe German Air Reich Marshal Hermann Goering. he failed to break English air control of the skies for Hitler. After the war, he was tried at Nuremberg, by the Allies, and found guilty of War Crimes.
Below Herman Goering with SS officers at Goerings “Carinhall” Residence in a German Forest. His house was found to contain stolen looted Art treasures, some he had even stolen from herr Hitler himself !!
Goering had looted precious Art treasures, and thousands of rare bottles of Wine from France among others things, his house was found full of them after Germany surrendered in May 1945. Bekow. Goering was tracked down and arrested.
It needs to be remembered that Hermann Goering was not just a mere Air marshall of ordinary status, Goering was also one of the top members of the “inner circle” of Adolf Hitler, he was a top level Nazi party member and high up in Hitlers regime. he was particulalry guilty.
Sentenced to death by hanging, he chose to dispense with the formalities, and took Cyanide Poison rather than face a hangmans rope…..
German Air Marshal Goering was tried for war crimes in Nuremberg and found guilty, he was sentenced to death but took poison….
Goering commited suicide in his prison cell, one of the other prisoners gave him thier own cyanide Pill….
Below. SECRET A German Wartime Plan of Operation Sealion, Hitlers Invasion of Britain scheduled for early Autumn in 1940. But Germany failed to win control of Englands Air spaces, and the invasion got cancelled.
Hermann Goering Air Marshall of the German Luftwaffe was given the task of defeating Britains Royal Air Force, gaining overall german Air superiority was essential pre requirement to successfully launch Operation Sealion, the Nazi Invasion of Great Britain.
Wrecked Luftwaffe Aeroplanes stored somewhere in Britain in 1940….German losses were too high in terms of machines and men, and the invasion was cancelled.
Some of the German bombers still remain in very remote areas where they first crashed….a sombre reminder of those now far off times in 1940.
Goering promised many things to Hitler, but failed in the end to deliver them.