Battle of Britain Day 80th Anniversary 15 September 2020
Battle of Britain is the name commonly given to the effort by the Luftwaffe to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), before a planned sea and airborne invasion of Britain during the Second World War. The Luftwaffe tried to destroy the Royal Air Force.
The Battle of Britain was a turning point in World War II; if the RAF had not held off the Luftwaffe, Hitler would have likely moved forward with his Operation Sea Lion invasion of the British Isles. This would have been devastating to the British people and all efforts to stem Hitler’s rise to power. Germany needed to control the English Channel to invade Britain, and the battle prevented them from gaining that valuable control.
Common opinion is that the Battle of Britain took place between 10 July and 31 October 1940. There are believed to have been four main phases to the battle: 10 – 11 August, 12 – 23 August, 24 – 6 August and 7 September onwards. The German Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt Bf109E and Bf 110C fought against the British RAF’s Hurricane MKI and the Spitfire MKI.
From July 1940 coastal shipping convoys and shipping centres were the main targets of the attacks; one month later the Luftwaffe shifted its attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure. As the battle progressed the Luftwaffe also targeted aircraft factories and ground infrastructure and eventually resorted to attacking British towns and cities. The Germans planned to invade Britain with the objective of landing 160,000 soldiers along a forty-mile coastal stretch of South-East England. This plan was codenamed Operation Sea Lion.
During the Battle of Britain, the defence of the UK's airspace was divided up within RAF Fighter Command into four Groups, each comprising several airfields and squadrons. The groups involved, 10, 11, 12 and 13, saw very different levels of activity during the battle. No. 11 Group, responsible for the defence of London and the south-east saw the heaviest fighting, and pilots were often rotated among the groups to allow them to rest and recuperate after several weeks of fierce contact with the enemy. Each group was commanded by an Air Vice-Marshal, who served under the head of Fighter Command during the battle, Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding.
Ramsey fell under No 12 Group which defended the Midlands and East Anglia and was led by Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallorywith. RAF Wittering and RAF Collyweston (which later merged with RAF Wittering) being the closest airfields to have Ramsey have taken part.
Air superiority was originally seen as the key to British victory at the Battle of Britain. Records show that during the period of the Battle the Luftwaffe lost somewhere in the region of 1,652 aircraft, including 229 twin engine and 533 single engine fighters.
RAF Fighter Command aircraft losses totalled 1087 from July 10 to October 30 1940, including 53 twin engine fighters. In addition, the RAF lost 376 Bomber Command and 148 Coastal Command aircraft conducting bombing, mining, and reconnaissance operations in defence of the country.
The British won the Battle of Britain due to a confluence of factors. They were defending their home territory, so were more motivated to succeed, and also knew the local geography better than the invaders. Another major factor was the Dowding System, named after Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander in Chief of the RAF Fighting Command. The Dowding System’s pioneering use of radar which could warn the RAF of enemy attacks, aircraft and ground defence gave Great Britain a competitive advantage. Britain’s victory in the Battle of Britain demonstrated the courage and resilience of the country’s military and its people and allowed them to remain free from Nazi occupation. It also enabled the Americans to establish a base of operations in England to invade Normandy on D-Day in 1944.
The memorial to the Battle of Britain is located in Capel-le-Ferne, nr Folkstone, England. The Battle of Britain Memorial is a monument to aircrew who flew in the Battle of Britain. It is sited on the White Cliffs at Capel-le-Ferne, near Folkestone, on the coast of Kent. It was initiated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, and opened by the Queen Mother on 9 July 1993