Battle of Britain

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Battle of Britain
Season 19 Spitfires, RAF
Season 19 Spitfires, RAF
date depending on the source: mid-1940 to early 1941
place United Kingdom
output Demolition from the German side
consequences German invasion prevented,
British retain control of the air
Parties to the conflict

German Reich NSGerman Reich (Nazi era) German Empire Italy
Italy 1861Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946) 

United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom and Commonwealth and Allies


Hermann Göring
Albert Kesselring
Hugo Sperrle
Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
Rino Corso Fougier

Hugh Dowding
Keith Park
Trafford Leigh-Mallory
Quintin Brand
Richard Saul

Troop strength
(operational at the beginning)
998 medium bombers,
261 Stukas,
151 reconnaissance aircraft,
80 coastguard aircraft,
805 single-engine fighters,
224 twin-engine fighters,
a total of 2519 aircraft
(operational at the beginning)
560 bombers,
754 single-engine fighters,
149 twin-engine fighters,
500 aircraft,
a total of 1963 aircraft

July 1 to October 31 Total operational losses (with / without enemy population ):
693 medium bombers
72 Stukas
600 unm. Hunter
235 two. Fighter
191 other
total of 1791 aircraft

Total losses outside of operations (accidents):
99 medium bombers
25 Stukas
63 einm. Hunter
17 two. Fighters
79 Others
total 283 aircraft

July 1st to October 31st Total operational losses (Battle Casualties):
RAF Fighter Command
1026 einm. Hunter
113 two. Hunter
30 m. Fighters destroyed on the ground by
RAF Bomber Command
376 Bomber
RAF Coastal Command
148 overpowered Recon and Fighters
Royal Navy Air Arm
total (known) 1693 aircraft

Total losses outside of operations (accidents):

The Battle of Britain was the attempt by the German Luftwaffe to force the surrender of Great Britain in the Second World War after the victory over France between the summer of 1940 and the beginning of 1941 with air raids against the British armed forces and British cities, or the planned invasion of the United Kingdom by gaining air superiority Prepare the island. Known internationally as the Battle of Britain , the air battle was a series of skirmishes in British airspace waged by the German Air Force against the Royal Air Force (RAF) . British historians set the period of the battle from July 10th to October 31st, 1940, as from that day the daytime attacks were largely absent. Some sources and statistics refer to a period up to May 1941, when the Luftwaffe combat squadrons were withdrawn for Operation Barbarossa .

The aim of the High Command of the Wehrmacht in the Battle of Britain was the winning of air superiority over the British air space by destroying the Royal Air Force (RAF) . This was considered to be a basic requirement for a successful invasion, the planning of which had already been discussed between Hitler and Grand Admiral Raeder in December 1939 ( Operation Sea Lion ). However, Hitler later hoped to force Great Britain to negotiate peace by intensifying the bombing; At the end of September 1940, the invasion plans were internally postponed indefinitely, that is, in fact, given up.

The term Battle of Britain ( English Battle of Britain ) was the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill coined, who declared in a speech to the House on June 18, 1940:

“The battle that General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect the battle for (Great) Britain to begin now. "


In the 1930s, the role of the air force in a future war was seen as crucial by military leaders and politicians alike.

This opinion was based on the successes of the bombing of Great Britain by German airships and bombers during World War I. Despite the small number of aircraft used and the small loads of bombs dropped, they had noticeably damaged British armaments production and made it necessary for significant British forces to be withdrawn from the Western Front . The damage to destroyed equipment and the failure of the businesses affected was far exceeded by the loss of production caused by factory workers failing to show up at work for fear of further bomb attacks. This made the morale of the population an important factor in planning the air war.

The development of aviation technology and the technology of the internal combustion engine (higher power density ) also meant that in the 1920s and 1930s it was possible to build larger and faster bombers with a heavier bomb load than in the First World War. The military and politicians therefore expected that the effects of future bombing attacks would far exceed those observed in World War I.

Due to the low performance advantage of the fighters built in the interwar period over the bombers and the lack of a functioning air surveillance system, it was assumed that the enemy fighters would seldom succeed in intercepting the bombers at all. Should the fighters get into a firing position, it was expected that the bombers would be able to repel all attacks by fighters in close formation flight thanks to their improved defensive armament with mutual fire support.

In 1932, influential British politician Stanley Baldwin said: "The bomber will always get through [to the target]" , expressing the popular belief at the time that a future war would be decided by air strikes on the civilian population. According to the Trenchard Doctrine formulated in 1928 , it was assumed that bombing "any object that effectively destroys the enemy means of attack and diminishes one's resolve to fight" would be more strategic than fighting enemy forces in direct battle, and began already with the development of the stick incendiary bomb , the main weapon of the later bombing war and the triggering of over 20 firestorms in major German cities from spring 1943.

When in 1934 a war against the heavily rearming German Reich, led by Hitler since 1933, became foreseeable, the British government formulated a five-year plan to expand the British air force. It envisaged both the creation of a strong force of bombers to attack Germany and the creation of an air defense system to repel German bombing attacks. This plan was implemented in essential parts according to the original draft. The establishment of a network of military airfields in southern England and the training of a cadre of fighter pilots and crews were a priority. The equipping of the Royal Air Force with modern combat aircraft, however, could only take place towards the end of the planning period.

The lack of sufficiently strong and operational air forces in the 1930s influenced British politics and is often seen as one of the reasons for Chamberlain 's policy of appeasement . Conversely, the German Reich was fully aware of the threat posed by its newly created air force and used it to support its expansionary policy. The fact that a radar chain was set up on the English south coast for air defense (see Chain Home ) remained hidden from the Germans.

As early as the first months of World War II, it was clear that expectations of the combat power of bombers had been far too high. As early as 1939, British attacks on German warships and naval bases on the North Sea made it clear that fighter planes guided by search radar could now put bombers into action and inflict devastating losses on the bomber formations despite their defensive armament, for example in December 1939 in the aerial battle over the German Bight . This conclusion made British air defense systems appear far more important than had been expected before the war. At the same time, bomber attacks had proven less effective than expected.

Nevertheless, the British maintained their expectation that bombing raids against the civilian population would be decisive for the war (from 1942 called “ morale bombing ”). The German air raids during the ensuing Battle of Britain were also directed in the final phase, from which the decision was expected, against the greater London area (" The Blitz ") and thus against the civilian population of Great Britain .

Hitler was apparently undecided about attacking Britain.

initial situation

The situation in Europe in 1940

Since the expansion plan for the Royal Air Force (RAF) was approved under the name Plan A in 1934 , the British worked systematically to build a modern air force. The most important steps were the expansion of a network of air bases, the establishment of a base of trained ground personnel and a cadre of pilots, and later - around the two years between the Munich Agreement and the Battle of Britain - equipping the RAF with modern bombers and fighter planes.

On September 1, 1939 , the German Reich attacked Poland , France and Great Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, and the Second World War had begun.

In several lightning wars , Germany was able to inflict massive losses on the Allies in 1940 and occupy the Benelux countries and large parts of France during the western campaign . The British troops on the mainland were encircled near the northern French port city of Dunkirk , but were barely saved from destruction in Operation Dynamo . The rescue of the expeditionary army from around 240,000 soldiers and 100,000 other soldiers from allied states greatly boosted British morale. Since all heavy weapons had to be left behind during the evacuation, the successful defense of the British Isles against a German invasion was not yet certain. The overwhelming defensive success of a few days, however, formed the decisive basis for Churchill's categorical no to start peace negotiations with the German Reich and was the early beginning of the end of the invasion plan against England. Hitler decided to attack the Soviet Union, the main ideological opponent, without first having defeated the enemy in the West or having come to a modus vivendi with him .

On June 22, 1940, an armistice was signed between the French Army and the German Wehrmacht , much to the disappointment of Great Britain.

Due to the quick victory over all opponents of the war except Great Britain, signals were expected from Hitler expressing the desire for an end to the fighting on the part of the British. Indeed, there were political and popular currents willing to do so.

But Arthur Neville Chamberlain , who until then had advocated the policy of appeasement , had resigned as Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, and the energetic Winston Churchill took his place. He made it clear on May 13th that the "war against a monstrous tyranny as it has never been surpassed, in the sinister catalog of the crimes of humanity" can only be ended with a "victory at any price" . The attacks by the British RAF on German cities began with the attack on Mönchengladbach on May 11, 1940 with 35 bombers.

Bomb with the inscription "Extra Havana for Churchill", August 1940

On July 16, 1940, Hitler gave the order to prepare the Sea Lion Company . In order to be able to carry out this plan, the German General Staff was certain that one would first have to gain control of the air over England.

Hitler's appeal to the common sense of England that further bloodshed could be avoided, made in a speech to the Reichstag on July 19, resulted in no reaction.

From today's perspective, the UK landing plan is seen as unrealistic. Neither the equipment of the navy nor the army was suitable for this project. There was a lack of transport for an invading army. A war of conquest against Great Britain had not been thought of in the armament phase until 1939.

German operation plan

The Supreme Commander of the Air Force was Field Marshal General Hermann Göring . He was always characterized by his hasty obedience to Hitler, who on July 19 awarded him the rank of Reichsmarschall of the Greater German Reich , created especially for him . After the victorious war against France, which the staff of the Wehrmacht High Command had strongly advised against, Hitler saw himself as an excellent general. The only remaining opponent in the West was Great Britain, and although he had assured us in early 1939 that he would never wage war against England, he now led it by overestimating its own military and political possibilities.

At the Battle of Dunkirk, Göring was unable to fulfill his announcement that he would destroy the British expeditionary force . This enabled the Allies to evacuate hundreds of thousands of their soldiers to England in Operation Dynamo . In spite of this, Goering saw another chance to demonstrate the combat capabilities of the Luftwaffe, especially the effectiveness of strategic bombing, on the British Isles.

The German Air Force pulled together five air fleets. Three of them were called up for the attack: Luftflotte 2 under General Field Marshal Albert Kesselring with the aim of attacking the southeast and London; Luftflotte 3 under General Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle with the aim of attacking the west, the Midlands and the northwest; and Luftflotte 5 under Colonel General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff , which was stationed in Norway and Denmark , was to attack the north of England and Scotland. Towards the end of the air battle, an association of the Italian Air Force , the Corpo Aereo Italiano , under the command of Rino Corso Fougier, intervened in the fighting.

According to an order by Goering, British air surveillance and the RAF's coastal bases were to be shut down in four days. In a further step, mainly production facilities for fighters and other aircraft were to be attacked within four weeks.

But the British defense was stronger than expected and the air fleet commanders wanted to implement the strategy differently but were determined to follow a single approach. While Albert Kesselring wanted the Luftflotte 2 mainly to bomb London , Hugo Sperrle of Luftflotte 3 intended to attack the British air bases first. Sperrle's plan was implemented.

The Air Force Command Staff 1c, responsible for enemy reconnaissance, estimated on July 16 that the Royal Air Force owned around 900 fighters, 675 of them operational. This gave the Germans a realistic picture of the British hunting rifle, which at that time had around 700 hunters.

British plan of operations

British radar surveillance; white line radar range, black line low-level radar

By October 1940, the Commander in Chief of RAF Fighter Command Air Marshal Hugh Dowding . The dowding system - the British air defense concept - goes back to him .

Spatially, the air defense of British airspace was assigned to four groups:

  • South West England and Wales: 10 Fighter Group , under the command of Sir Christopher Quintin Brand ;
  • South East England with Greater London: 11 Fighter Group , under the command of Air Vice Marshal Keith Park ;
  • Central England: 12 Fighter Group , under the command of Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory ;
  • North: 13th Fighter Group under the command of Air Vice Marshal Richard Saul .

Another division took place in sectors, each with two to four squadrons . The command centers were called Sector Stations .

Building on the air defense system developed in the First World War to repel German air raids, the British had developed a modern system for identifying and repelling air raids, which was based on an information and command network supplied by radar crews and air space observers with reports about their own and enemy aircraft movements.

There were numerous radar stations ( chain home ) on the British coast , the range of which extended to the German air force bases in France. Over the inland, aircraft were visually tracked by the observer corps and reported by telephone.

The information obtained in this way was first collected and assessed at the headquarters of the Fighter Command of the RAF, the Bentley Priory , a mansion near Stanmore . Enemy movements were displayed on large map tables and the information passed on to the Operation Rooms of the Sector Stations . The interceptors were alerted and managed from there.

These were then brought to the enemy by radio instructions. The limiting factor was shortwave technology, which made undisturbed communication difficult and was therefore replaced by VHF from September 1940 .

Although Germany had a technological lead in the research and development of radar (under the name of radio measurement ), the practical use of the existing equipment from locating enemy aircraft to directing the interceptors by the British was highly effective.

The deciphering of the German Enigma code in Bletchley Park , known as a company under the code name ULTRA , also provided important information about the attacks by the Germans.

To address the pilot shortage, pilots from the Commonwealth , France, the United States , Poland and Czechoslovakia were deployed under the command of the Royal Air Force.

While German fighters wanted to concentrate on RAF aircraft over southern England in free enemy flights, the British pilots were instructed not to attack fighters flying alone, but only if they were accompanying bombers. This fact was a supposed additional clue to the far too early assessment that the RAF was exhausted and defeated.

Balance of power at the beginning of the air battle

In a dispute conducted as an attrition battle, the numerical ratio is of certain importance, even if not the only one. The number of aircraft available for battle (as shown in the table below) differs from the actual operational aircraft by about 10 to 25%. The number of machines that were ready for use varied daily.

Thanks to Lord Beaverbrook (Minister for Aircraft Production), the RAF produced an average of 440 single-seat fighter aircraft from July to September. Beaverbrook had increased the production of fighter aircraft at the expense of every other type of aircraft and was partly heavily criticized by the RAF leadership, among other things because the production of training aircraft for pilot training, which was of critical importance for the RAF, was affected by Beaverbrook's measures.

At the Luftwaffe, the average monthly output of approximately 230 fighters was only half as large, the responsibility of General Luftzeugmeister Ernst Udet . While around 800 trained pilots left the flying schools in Germany every month, the RAF only came up with just over 200.

British airspace observer on a house roof in London

The table leaves out the 84 Messerschmitt Bf 109 E of Luftflotte 5 (Norway), as their range meant that they had no way of reaching the British coast.

There were also a significant number of scouts and liaison aircraft available on both sides. The Air Force also had a significant number of sea rescue planes, which later played an important role in the Battle of Britain. In total, the RAF owned around 3,000 aircraft at this time, while the Air Force owned around 4,500, spread over five air fleets.

Luftwaffe: Luftflotten 2, 3 and 5 (July 20, 1940) Royal Air Force (June 1940)
bomber 1576, including 316 single-engine Ju 87s about 500
single engine fighters 809 Bf 109 E. approx. 700, including approx. 250 Spitfires
twin-engine fighters 300 Bf 110 approx. 96 Bristol Blenheim IF

Course of the air battle

Canal battle July 10 to August 11, 1940

Although targets on the English coast were attacked during the day, during this phase the air force attacks were concentrated on convoys in the English Channel , in the Thames estuary and on naval facilities along the coast. Inland targets were bombed at night. Both the Air Force and the RAF took this opportunity to compare their tactics and combat capabilities.

The losses among the Allies were so high that convoys in the English Channel were strictly prohibited.

Attacks on targets near the coast: 12. – 23. August 1940

On August 12, there was finally a major attack by test group 210 on four radar stations near Portland and Dover , in which over 200 bombers were involved. Some British interceptor bases near the coast were also attacked by bombers and fighter planes. However, the radar stations were operational again six hours after the attack, as only the power supply and a few barracks were destroyed, while the radar towers remained undamaged. On the part of the Luftwaffe, this led to the decision not to continue attacking the radar systems, which were apparently very difficult to destroy, so that they remained in operation largely undisturbed until the end of the war.

He 111 formation over the English Channel, 1940

On August 13, “Eagle Day”, a series of large-scale attacks on the facilities of the RAF began, in particular the bases of the 11 Fighter Group under the leadership of Air Marshal Keith Park . Coastal radar stations and naval facilities were also repeatedly the target of attacks.

On August 15, Air Fleet 5 attacked in the north of England as it was believed that the air defense was concentrated in the south. However, this turned out to be a fatal mistake and numerous bombers were shot down. Therefore, the day on the British side is also known as The Greatest Day (German: The greatest day ). One reason for the high casualties was the lack of long-range escort fighters. The twin-engine Messerschmitt Bf 110 (Me 110) had the appropriate range, but was inferior to the single-engine fighters and suffered high losses itself. Air fleet 5 was unable to recover from the high losses during the entire air battle.

The August 18 is called The Hardest Day (German: the hardest day ), since both sides had the highest losses of the entire battle. The day before, Colonel Schmidt, the officer in charge of intelligence in the Air Force High Command, determined the following strength of British air defense: 430 hurricanes, spitfires and defiants. Of these, 70% are ready for action, i.e. around 300. In fact, the forces were distributed as follows on August 18:

A Spitfire's on-board camera recorded tracer ammunition hitting a He 111 over England on September 25, 1940
Operational forces on the morning of August 18th: Luftwaffe
Luftflotten 2, 3 u. 5
(Fighter Command)
bomber 1134, including 276 single-engine Ju 87s  
single engine fighters 780 Bf 109 E. 826, including 262 Spitfires
twin-engine fighters 214 Bf 110 51 Bristol Blenheim IF
Losses by the evening of August 18:
Aircraft destroyed or badly damaged 100 136, of which 60 were destroyed or damaged
Pilots killed or captured 62, including 17 in captivity 30 fallen

The RAF's 60 aircraft destroyed on the ground included training and liaison aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft and sea rescue aircraft, but not a single hurricane or Spitfire. These were all airborne in time for the fight. The distribution of the casualties on that single day is symptomatic of the entire battle: the loss among pilots in the Luftwaffe through wounding, imprisonment and death was always significantly higher than that of the RAF. The British pilots usually fought over their homeland and were thus ready for action again after an emergency landing, while German pilots were taken prisoner under similar circumstances.

After that day, Göring withdrew the Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber from the air battle as far as possible. This aircraft was a symbol of the Blitzkrieg, but in the Battle of Britain it turned out to be too endangered and the losses were extremely high. As a result, the Luftwaffe lost its potential for precision attacks. Göring also arranged that the Bf 110 should only be used when it was absolutely necessary.

Göring also stopped the attacks on radar stations as he considered the attacks to be ineffective. This proved to be a strategic mistake, as as a result the British defenders always knew when and where they would meet the Germans, a relief for the structure of the British air defense.

Attacks on airfields and aircraft factories in southern England: August 24 to September 6, 1940

The more the targets moved inland, the more difficult the situation became for the attackers. A major handicap of the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 was its inadequate penetration depth for use as an escort fighter. After reaching the English coast, the pilots of the Bf 109 had a fuel supply for about 30 minutes of combat time. If they had to accompany bombers 15 minutes (about 100 kilometers) inland, there was practically no fuel left for a fight against the British fighters.

Do 17 and Spitfire in aerial combat over England, 1940

The twin-engine Messerschmitt Bf 110, which was actually intended as long-distance escort, had the necessary penetration depth, but proved to be completely unsuitable for this task and suffered heavy losses. Nevertheless, the bases of the 11 Fighter Group , responsible for the defense of southern England and London , came under severe distress.

However, the loss figures assumed by the Air Force on the British side were incorrect and changed by the propaganda. Many of the RAF aircraft counted as total loss were actually only damaged, and the important pilots, provided they remained uninjured, could be deployed with new aircraft on the same day. The German reconnaissance failed and the German leadership came to believe that the RAF was de facto no longer operational. Göring announced that the RAF had a maximum of 50 Spitfires. In fact, the number of daily operational hunting machines was at no time less than 650, Hurricanes and Spitfires combined.

Attacks on London and other cities: from September 7, 1940

Bomb damage in Birmingham 1940

On August 24, bombs fell for the first time on the suburbs of the city during an attack on Thames ports east of London , which resulted in a night attack by the RAF on Berlin on August 25 . Thereupon Hitler ordered on September 4th to attack London from now on. When the bombing of the southern English fighter bases was stopped, the British air defense was able to recover and subsequently develop its full effect against the inadequately equipped units of German bombers and fighter-bombers.

The 12 Fighter Group under the leadership of Air Vice Marshal Leigh-Mallory was also called in to defend London . This was the first time that large numbers of British hunters were deployed. During the attacks, the London Underground served as an air raid shelter .

Sunday, September 15, 1940, is also known in England as the Battle of Britain Day , on which a record number of enemy aircraft had been shot down and the German attack strategy had proven to be a failure. Contemporary sources named 175 German aircraft shot down, later figures were close to one hundred. By the afternoon of that day, all British squadrons were in the air with no reserves left on the ground.

On the morning of September 17, Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion "indefinitely"; on October 12th General Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel announced :

“The Fiihrer has decided that from today until spring the preparations for Sea Lions (landing in England) should only be continued for the purpose of continuing to put Great Britain under political and military pressure. Should the landing operation be considered again in the spring or early summer of 1941, further orders will be issued [...] "

From October 29, 1940, major daytime attacks on London were stopped. However, isolated attacks with bombers and fighter bombers continued. The night raids continued until May 1941.

In order to be able to fly effective night attacks, the Knickebein radio navigation system was developed, in which radio beams were sent once from northern Germany and once from northern France, which crossed over the dropping area. The British initially did not take the intelligence reports on this system seriously. When MI6 agent Reginald Victor Jones was able to prove the existence of the rays, however, successful countermeasures were initiated. For this purpose, interference signals and rays were sent that made the system unusable.

Emergency landing Bf 109 on the English Channel in France, 1940

The attacks on the city of Coventry on November 14, 1940 and April 8, 1941 were the worst bombing raids of the war to date. These attacks coined the term Coventrieren in German propaganda , which means the destruction of a city in order to break the enemy's morale. This formulation was, however, a propagandistic exaggeration, since the attacks were primarily directed against military production facilities. The casualties among the civilian population amounted to 1,236 deaths. In addition, many thousands of homes and around 75% of the factories were destroyed, but this did not lead to any noticeable decline in production. The area bombings by the Royal Air Force from 1942, for example against the old town center of Lübeck , were initially considered revenge for Coventry. The attack on London on December 29, 1940 led to a "second fire in London" and killed many people.

Foreign support

Great Britain

Volunteer pilots from foreign nations also flew in the Royal Air Force. In addition to the volunteer pilots, the governments that had fled to Great Britain from the German troops also set up their own flight units that took part in the fighting under the command of the RAF. The Czechoslovak and Polish pilots in particular turned out to be effective. The Polish squadron was ready for action on August 31, 1940 and, although the pilots only made up 5% of all RAF pilots, recorded about 12% of the kills. Numerous pilots from other nations took part in the Battle of Britain from a total of 2927 pilots, according to some information about a fifth, including 147 Polish, 101 New Zealand, 94 Canadian and 87 Czechoslovak pilots.

German Empire

Towards the end of the air battle, the German Air Force was supported by an Italian squadron, the Corpo Aereo Italiano . Allegedly following a request from Benito Mussolini , 80 Fiat BR.20 bombers, supported by an indefinite number of Fiat G.50 and Fiat CR.42 fighters, were stationed in Belgium .

With little success, the association suffered heavy losses on November 11th as a result of RAF hurricanes.


Victims among the English civilian population up to April 1941: 27,450 dead, 32,138 injured.

RAF losses between July 1 and October 31, 1940: 544 pilots (Fighter Command only) killed, 1693 aircraft (fighters, bombers, Coastal Command) destroyed in combat.

Losses of the German Air Force in the aerial warfare against Great Britain July 1 and October 31, 1940: 2,000 Air Force personnel killed, 2,600 Air Force personnel missing or captured, 1,791 aircraft destroyed in combat, 1,386 of which were caused by enemy action.

The Battle of Britain led to a definite defeat for the German Air Force. The causes were, among other things, the wrong German ideas about the possibilities of a strategic air war , poor tactics of the German high command, lack of strategic bombers and long-range escort fighters, inadequate secret service work and the powerful, radar-based British fighter control system.

In addition, the German Air Force suffered greater losses in the war of attrition, while the British were able to make up for their losses through increased production of fighter aircraft, accelerated pilot training and the recruitment of pilots from foreign nations.

Winston Churchill commented on the importance of the battle: "Never before in the history of the armed conflict have so many owed so much so much to so few" . Thus the legendary expression The Few (German: the few ) was coined as a synonym for the pilots of the Royal Air Force. He also alluded to the perceived inferiority at the beginning of the operation in terms of the number of combat aircraft ready for action.

In retrospect - but before the end of the war - the German defeat against England could be interpreted as an anticipation of the overall defeat. According to Heinrich Mann , it should be classified as the 1914 Battle of the Marne:

"The Battle of Britain decided the war against Germany. But first, who sees it at the same hour. On September 9, 1914 or several days later, since nothing was announced in Germany about a battle on the Marne, I guessed not verified that the end was virtually negotiated. Only that I almost forgot this basic fact for a time in the years that followed, dragged on and dragged on. "

The British public had no clear perception of the end of the battle or of their own victory over the period from autumn 1940 to spring 1941. The air threat was sustained by the night raids, and the threat from German submarines stepping up against supply convoys was alarming. Only after the end of the Second World War was the victory in the (air) Battle of England celebrated at a large ceremony in London. In the fall of 1940, as a result of the Big Wing controversy, Dowding was replaced by Charles Portal. Keith Park was also replaced by Trafford Leigh-Mallory, who would then lead the entire Allied air force during the 1944 invasion.

In October 1940, Hitler tried to win Franco ( Spain ) and Pétain ( Vichy France ) new allies in the fight against Great Britain, but this attempt also failed. Negotiations on an anti-England coalition were even started with the Soviet Union , but they also failed.

The German fighter pilots were subsequently accused of cowardice by their commander in chief Hermann Göring . Goering repeated this charge several times later in the war, to explain defeats of the Luftwaffe and to divert attention from his own failure as commander.


The British censorship of private mail led to the realization in June 1940 that the war was not very " popular " among the British population . Socially disadvantaged strata of society considered the war to be a support for the interests of the privileged. The sudden realization, however, that after France had effectively left the conflict, Great Britain was fighting “alone against Hitler”, as well as Churchill's energetic speeches to the British House of Commons (“[...] I have nothing to offer except blood, hardship, tears and sweat [...] ] “) Led to a change in mood.

When German bombing attacks claimed massive civilian casualties, any propaganda to create an enemy image was superfluous in Great Britain . Perseverance was now required, which is why the British downfall figures for German aircraft were deliberately inflated, up to four times the actual German losses. In contrast to Germany, film material was not distributed on a large scale. Posters warned of dangerous loquacity and encouraged participation in war activities.

In order to protect against the devastating nightly bombing raids, it was announced that secret weapons would soon be ready for use. This meant air mine fields, night fighters equipped with precision radar and target-seeking surface-to-air missiles . None of these projects reached operational readiness during the war.

On the German side, the focus was on further swearing the population to the person of Adolf Hitler. The rapid military successes in the West, spread in picture and sound by “ Die Deutsche Wochenschau ”, served this purpose well. The regular and spectacular presentation of footage from the front had an impact on all age groups. For the German population, however, the war events on the English Channel were too far away to develop a particular passion for it. The increasing night attacks by British bombers were used, however, to build up the British and especially Winston Churchill as enemy. England's propaganda reported the German losses twice as high as they actually were; the Nazi propaganda about half as high as in fact. Until the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, the threat of invasion against Great Britain was maintained in order to divert attention from the preparations for Operation Barbarossa . From the spring of 1941, the Luftwaffe lacked the strength to undertake such an invasion due to the relocation of numerous units to the Mediterranean (see Africa campaign ), the Balkans ( Balkan campaign (1941) ) and the eastern border areas.

The war propaganda continues to have an impact over 70 years after the event. A theme shaped by war propaganda is the loss of pilots and aircraft. The myth of the victory of the few ( The Few ) over the many is held up by the British. The balance of power was by no means one-sided to the disadvantage of the British side, just as the German losses were not greater than the British.

As early as mid-August 1940 - the official start of the battle from the German point of view - the number of operational British fighter pilots and fighter pilot reserves exceeded that of the German side. By the end of October, it developed more and more to their disadvantage.

The loss figures on the British side were also corrected upwards over time, while those on the German side tended to be corrected downwards. For propaganda reasons, Churchill himself compared only the British losses of important single-engine fighters (Spitfire, Hurricane) with the total aviation losses of the Air Force (fighters, bombers, attack aircraft). According to him, this ratio was around 900 (British) vs. Approx. 2500 (German) aircraft losses from July to the end of October 1940. In the meantime, the illustration has established that the losses of the British bomber and coastal command and the losses of other types of fighter belong to the complete picture. Taking this into account, the cross-section of current publications results in a ratio of approx. 1500–1600 (British) vs. 1700–1900 total (German) aircraft losses. If one takes into account that approx. 290 downed British fighters were repaired afterwards and do not appear in the British loss statistics, the result is a parity of the numbers killed. German kills over British territory, however, were irretrievably lost.

Given the fact that about 300 German planes were shot down by anti-aircraft guns, there was no unilateral British victory, especially when looking at aerial combat. On the contrary, even the British loss of fighter aircraft were significantly higher than those of the German side - 1026 (or 1320 including the subsequently repaired kills) vs. 600 for single-engine fighters.

The picture turns out to be even more in contrast to the usual representation when the damage assessment is examined carefully. Hans Ring explains that the British category B losses ("repairable by depot or contractor") according to German standards were equivalent to a break of at least 60 percent and should be assessed as a total loss. According to this argumentation, the British aircraft losses would have to be set much higher in order to make them comparable with German figures. For the Fighter Command alone, in addition to total losses (Category C), 861 losses in Category B were recorded between July and October. According to the German damage assessment, 2000 (1026 (one) + 113 (two) + 861 (Category B)) British fighter pilots of all types and 835 German fighter pilots (600 (one) + 235 (two)) would have been lost in operations .

Aircraft types

The most important types of aircraft used are listed below.

air force

Royal Air Force


  • Stephen Bungay: The Most Dangerous Enemy: a History of the Battle of Britain . Aurum Press, London 2001. ISBN 1-85410-801-8 .
  • Richard Collier: Eagle Day - The Battle of Britain . Heyne, Munich 1978. ISBN 3-453-00189-3 .
  • John Colville: Downing Street Diaries 1939-1945 . Goldmann, Munich 1991. ISBN 3-442-12811-0 .
  • Len Deighton : Battle of Britain . 2nd edition Heyne, Munich 1985. ISBN 3-453-01447-2 . (Original title: The Battle of Britain , 1983, ISBN 978-0-698-11033-5 ).
  • James Holland: The Battle of Britain: Five Months that Changed History. Bantam Press, London 2010, ISBN 978-0-593-05913-5 .
  • Richard Overy : The Battle Of Britain: Myth and Reality. Penguin, London 2010, ISBN 978-1-84614-356-4 .
  • Alfred Price: The Hardest Day, The Battle of Britain, August 18, 1940 . Cassell, London 1998. ISBN 0-304-35081-8 .
  • Percy E. Schramm (ed.): War diary of the OKW (High Command of the Wehrmacht). A documentation . Weltbild, Augsburg 2005. ISBN 3-8289-0525-0 .
  • Edward H. Sims: Fighter pilots - The great opponents of yore . 11th edition, Motorbuch, Stuttgart 1985. ISBN 3-87943-115-9 .
  • Theo Weber: The Battle of Britain . Flugwelt-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1956.
  • Derek Wood, Derek Dempster: The Narrow Margin. The Battle of Britain and the Rise of Air Power, 1930-1940 , reprint 2010, 1961, ISBN 978-1-84884-314-1 .


Web links

Commons : Battle of Britain  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. all information from Wood, Derek; Dempster, Derek (reprint 2010, 1961). The Narrow Margin, Appendix 12-18; based on the primary sources
  2. all information from Wood, Derek; Dempster, Derek (reprint 2010, 1961). The Narrow Margin, Appendix 12-18; based on the primary sources
  3. ^ Walter Anger: The Third Reich in Documents. Res publica collection . Volume 7. European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1957. p. 135.
  4. see page 79, e.g. B. Footnotes 363 and 366
  5. See Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Key decisions in World War II 1940/41. DVA, Munich 2nd edition 2008, ISBN 978-3-421-05806-5 , pp. 25–76: London, spring 1940. Great Britain decides to keep fighting .
  6. Klaus A. Maier, Hans Umbreit: Das Deutsche Reich and the Second World War , Volume 2, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 3-421-01935-5 , p. 381.
  7. Ulf Balke: The aerial warfare in Europe 1939-1941 . Bechtermünz Verlag, Augsburg 1998, ISBN 3-86047-591-6 , p. 408-413 (1057 pp.).
  8. Bloody foreigners. Untold Battle of Britain. , Channel4, November 6, 2016; Minute 2
  9. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller : Gebhardt, Handbook of German History . 10th edition, Volume 21: The Second World War, 1939–1945 . Published by Wolfgang Benz , Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004. ISBN 3-608-60021-3 . P. 88. (Strictly speaking, Müller writes of a British production capacity that is twice as large with 470 hunters per month.)
  11. ^ Walter Anger: The Third Reich in Documents. Res publica collection . Volume 7. Europ. Publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1957. p. 138.
  12. ^ The Battle of Britain, online at: , accessed April 9, 2012.
  13. Wood, Derek; Dempster, Derek (reprint 2010, 1961). The Narrow Margin, Appendix 12-18
  14. Wood, Derek; Dempster, Derek (reprint 2010, 1961). The Narrow Margin, Appendix 12-18
  15. ^ Heinrich Mann: An age is visited, Fischer, 3rd edition 2001, p. 66.
  16. ^ Dissertation Stilla (2005), p. 83
  17. [1]
  18. ^ [Churchill, W. (1949) The Second World War. Volume 2 - Their Finest Hour.]
  19. [Bergström, C. (2015) The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited, p. 281.]
  20. [2]
  21. [3]
  22. [Hans Ring, "Die Luftschlacht über England 1940", Luftfahrt international Edition 12, 1980 p. 508]
  23. [Wood, Derek; Dempster, Derek (reprint 2010, 1961). The Narrow Margin, Appendix 13]
This version was added to the list of excellent articles on October 5, 2005 .