The Battle Of Britain Essay, Research Paper
The Battle of Britain
Some historians talk of crucial battles where the right man in the right place at the right time can alter the course of history. Others say that the forces of history are inexorable and mere mortals can barely hope to influence, much less deflect or halt them. The Battle of Britain is very close to evidence for the former view. It is known as the greatest aerial battle ever fought, and was a large contributor to the Allies victory of the Second World War. It came at a time when Britain, disillusioned by the carnage of the Great War, was beginning to doubt its powers. Britain?s triumph in the battle would restore their lost confidence and play an important role in helping them to defeat Hitler.
In May of 1940 Germany invaded France. The French army and its British and Belgian allies were overpowered by the German blitzkrieg. Toward the end of May, Allied troops were backed up to the coast of France in the town of Dunkirk. In a daring rescue attempt, an armada of ships from England picked up the soldiers and brought them across the English Channel to safety. Ships of all kinds were used, ranging from Royal Navy ships to fishing boats. The Royal Air Force provided cover, protecting the troops from German planes. Over 300,000 soldiers were saved from the oncoming German army. France fell into German hands however, and only the English Channel separated Great Britain from the enemy.
At this time, Hitler was planning operation Seelowe, which would be an attempt to invade Britain. As ever, the Royal Navy was Britain’s first and last line of defense. The German?s smaller navy hardly stood a chance against the determined British forces. Consequently, Hitler relied heavily on the powerful Luftwaffe, the German air force, to control the English Channel and destroy the Royal Navy. The Germans had one great advantage: they had many more aircraft. Also, the Royal Air Force was desperately in need of fighter pilots, as they had little more than 800 of them. This reassured the Luftwaffe, who?s objective was to neutralize the RAF Fighter Command and secure command of the air. These events would all make for the greatest and most surprising aerial battle ever fought. A battle in which not only Britons, but also Canadians, Poles, Czechs, Americans, South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders, and the French came together to defeat one of the greatest evils that has ever existed.
The battle of Britain was the first major battle fought entirely in the air. Hermann Goring?s air force began its assault on England in July 1940 with more than twice the 600 aircraft available to Sir Hugh Dowding?s Fighter Command. Every day between June and October 1940 the RAF and the Luftwaffe clashed over Britain. The Luftwaffe’s final effort to destroy England’s air force began on Eagle Day, August 13, 1940. Hermann G?ring thought his vastly superior forces could sweep the Royal Air Force from the sky in just four weeks, but poor weather and bungled communications hampered the Luftwaffe’s raids. Eagle Day ended with 46 German aircraft destroyed, compared to only 14 RAF fighters. The RAF inflicted on Germany their first defeat of the war.
The Battle of Britain was one of the greatest moments in British history: although short of planes and pilots, the Royal Air Force held off the Luftwaffe and prevented a German invasion. Churchill called it Britain’s “finest hour”. The major contributor to Britain?s triumph was the radar, the first modern air-defense network based on new technology. It allowed Fighter Command to have a good idea of where German attacks were heading and how strong they were. The radar forced Hitler to bomb Britain’s cities, hoping for a British surrender by reducing industry to rubble and weakening the will of the British people. Although many were killed, the factories kept working while the relentless only united the British people in their determination to beat the Nazi foe.