RAF and Luftwaffe bases, group and Luftflotte boundaries. Wikipedia
Towards the end of the Battle of France the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was evacuated from Dunkirk, code name ‘Operation Dynamo’, and brought back to Britain to regroup.
On 18th June 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced “The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin”.
On 22nd June 1940 France had no choice but to surrender to Germany leaving Britain alone to face the might of the German onslaught.
Before Germany could invade Britain it was necessary for the Luftwaffe to achieve air superiority to prevent costly air attacks during the crossing, this task was given to the Luftwaffe Commander-in-chief Hermann Göring.
Hermann Göring was a fighter pilot ace in the First World War and was awarded the ‘Blue Max’, the highest air force award in Germany.
|Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe. Wikipedia|
Hitler’s plan to invade Britain, code named operation ‘Sea lion’, was to launch a seaward attack using invasion barges to land on the beaches of Sussex and Kent and to succeed he needed to control the English Channel.
This meant that the Royal Air Force Fighter Command, commanded by Sir Hugh Dowding, had to be defeated by the Luftwaffe.
|Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. Wikipedia|
|An Observer Corps spotter scans the skies of London. Wikipedia|
The Radar stations were attacked by Junkers Ju87’s the terrifying ‘Stuka’ dive bomber but without effective fighter cover they were easy prey for the RAF fighters and by mid-August the ‘Stukas’ had effectively been wiped out, preventing precision bombing.
Goring’s tactics seemed to be paying off, the RAF had been badly hit with six of its main seven airfields out of action and losses were around 550 aircraft, although this success had come at a cost with the Luftwaffe losing around 1000 aircraft.
Confident that the RAF were on their knees, from late August the Luftwaffe commenced night bombing raids on English cities and also ended attacks on British Radar Stations as Goring underestimated their importance. As a result Fighter command continued to receive vital information regarding German raids.
This change in tactics by the Luftwaffe gave the RAF time to repair the airbases and an opportunity to give their exhausted aircrew necessary rest for the further combat to come.
The last major combat of the Battle of Britain came on the 15th September 1940 when the Luftwaffe lost 60 aircraft to the RAF’s 28 aircraft. By this show of defiance it was clear to the German high command that the RAF were far from beaten and two days later on the 17th September 1940 the proposed invasion of Britain was postponed …… Indefinitely.
The inability of the German war machine to force Britain to negotiate for terms or offer an outright surrender was seen as the first major defeat for the German army and is considered to be the turning point of the war.
By the end of the battle of Britain the Luftwaffe had lost approximately twice as many aircraft as the RAF, the actual figures are difficult to establish although at the time these figures were wildly exaggerated by the propaganda war machine on both sides.