Britain's Victory in the Battle of Britain
Following the British evacuation from Dunkirk and the French surrender
in June 1940, the Germans were uncertain what to do next. Hitler
believed the war was over and that the British, defeated on the
continent, would come to terms soon. However, he was to be frustrated
by British intransigence. Though there was a strand of public and
political sentiment that favoured a negotiated peace with Germany,
Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, refused to countenance
an armistice with the Nazis. His skillful use of rhetoric hardened
public opinion against a peaceful resolution and prepared the British
for a ...view middle of the document...
With control of the air the Royal Navy
could be beaten off and the British defences pummelled into
The first task at hand was therefore to win air superiority by
destroying the RAF as a fighting force. A plan was hatched to attack
RAF airfields and aircraft production centres. The Luftwaffe
commander, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring called his plans
Adlerangriff (Eagle Attack), which would begin on 11 August, or
Adlertag (Eagle Day), with an all-out attack.
Before the start of Adlertag there was a month of attacks on convoys
in the English Channel. This period of fighting was called Kanalkampf
(Channel Battle) by the Germans and was used as an opportunity to test
the RAF's defences and lure their fighter aircraft up to fight. The
RAF dates the beginning of the battle from the first convoy attacks on
10 July 1940.
German strategy was influenced by pre-war theories on strategic
bombing, such as those espoused by Giulio Douhet. This stressed the
air assault, the weakness of air defence, and the effects of terror
bombing on public morale. After the Spanish Civil War the emphasis of
German air operations had shifted toward a more tactical force. In
Poland and France, the Luftwaffe had operated jointly with the Army,
creating the Blitzkrieg or "lightning war". However, in the Battle of
Britain the Luftwaffe had to operate alone, not as support for an
advancing Army but as a decisive weapon in its own right. There
remained a strong belief in the power of strategic bombing and the
battle was seen by Göring as an opportunity to prove what his air
force could do.
The Luftwaffe regrouped after the Battle of France into three
Luftflotten (Air Fleets) on Britain's southern and northern flanks.
Luftflotte 2, commanded by Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring was
responsible for the bombing of southeast England and the London area.
Luftflotte 3, commanded by Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Sperrle was
responsible for the West Country, Midlands and northwest England.
Luftflotte 5, commanded by Generaloberst Hans-Jurgen Stumpff from his
headquarters in Norway, had responsibility for the north of England
and Scotland. As the battle progressed, command responsibility
shifted, with Luftflotte 3 taking more responsibility for the night
Blitz while the main attack fell upon Luftflotte 2's shoulders. Late
in the battle an Italian expeditionary force, the Corpo Aereo
Italiano, briefly joined the fighting.
Initial Luftwaffe estimates of the duration of the campaign was for
four days to defeat the RAF's Fighter Command in southern England,
followed by four weeks in which bombers and long-range fighters would
mop up the rest of the country and destroy Britain's aircraft
industry. The plan was to begin attacks on airfields near to the
coast, gradually rolling subsequent attacks...