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The Battle of Britain


Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island ... The Baedeker Raids' ... The targets were allegedly picked out of the famous Baedeker Guide books. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain
I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to
begin. Upon this battle rests the future of
Christian civilisation. Hitler knows that he will
have to break us in this island or lose the war.
If we succeed all Europe may be free and the life
of the world move forwards in to broad sunlit
uplands. But if we fail we will sink in to the
abyss of a new dark age made more protracted and
more sinister by the light of a perverted science.
Following the collapse of France on June18th
1940, Hitler ordered plans for an invasion of
Britain. The success of the plan would depend on
the Luftwaffes (airforce) ability to destroy the
RAF first. Air Marshall Goering promised Hitler
it could be achieved given the Luftwaffes almost
41 advantage over the RAF in aircraft.
Fighter Command sectors. 11 Group was the front
line in the battle and bore the brunt of enemy
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Radar allowed fighter controllers on the ground
to detect the numbers, direction and altitude of
enemy aircraft. Fighters could be sent to the
exact location to intercept them.
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Read the notes on the four phases of the Battle
  • How important was the outcome of this battle for
    (a) Britain (b) Germany ?
  • To what extent did the following factors decide
    the battle
  • (a) Leadership (b) luck ( c ) tactical errors
    (d) technology

Outcome of the battle
  • For Britain
  • Managed to prevent an invasion by German ground
  • Showed determined resistance to Nazi aggression.
  • Boosted civilian morale following Norway and
  • Showed USA that Britain was still in the fight

  • US Ambassador to Britain in 1940 was Joseph
    Kennedy (father of JFK). He telegrammed Roosevelt
    regularly after Dunkirk predicting that Britain
    would collapse in a matter of weeks and make
    peace. Battle of Britain boosted British prestige
    in the USA.

Outcome of the battle
  • For Germany
  • First strategic defeat of the war
  • Britain remained undefeated / unoccupied
  • Britain became a base from which to launch air
    raids in Europe and help resistance fighters on
    the continent.
  • From 1942 Britain became the base for the US
    build up of forces in Europe.

Factors luck
  • German accidental air raids on London led to
    retaliation strike on Berlin by RAF which led to
    a major change in tactics by Luftwaffe to city
    bombing from attacks on radar stations and

Factors technology
  • RAF fighters were modern and fast. Spitfire was
    fractionally slower than Me109 but more agile.
    Me109 had limited range over Britain.
  • Radar allowed the RAF to deploy aircraft with
    precision and avoided the need for wasteful
    patrols. The first instance in the history of
    warfare where commanders had an up to date
    picture of the battle as it unfolded in real

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  • Dowding and Park were brilliant RAF commanders.
  • Technology allowed them to oversee the battle.
  • Goering had confused aims and failed to press
    home the advantage the Luftwaffe had by
    mid-September 1940

Tactical errors
  • The switch to city bombing took the pressure off
    Fighter Command and allowed them to regroup, rest
    and repair airfields and aircraft.
  • Failure to wipe out the RAF by October made a
    postponement of Sealion inevitable as weather
    conditions in the English Channel would have made
    an amphibious assault too risky.

Key evaluation question Did the RAF win the
battle or did the Luftwaffe lose it ? Luftwaffe
lost it.
  • RAF desperately short of pilots by September. 25
    killed / wounded / battle fatigued.
  • Polish, Canadian, South African, American
    volunteer pilots made up the shortfall. Many RAF
    pilots were hastily trained with only a few hours
    experience in fast fighters.
  • Germans began the battle with a 41 ratio of
    advantage over the RAF against almost identical
    aircraft and battle-hardened pilots.

RAF won it
  • British fighter aircraft production (Lord
    Beaverbrook made Minister of aircraft production)
    ensured delivery of at least 200 aircraft a month
    by September.
  • German morale affected by continued RAF
    resistance. Poor intelligence underestimated
    strength of RAF resistance.
  • German losses peaked on September 15th 1940 with
    over 60 aircraft lost in one day.
  • Radar gave the RAF the edge in defensive
  • RAF fighting over home ground.

December 29th 1940 - the second great fire of
London - provided one of the most iconic images
of the 20th century.
The nature and extent of civilian bombing in
  • The Blitz lasted from September 1940-May 1941.
    There were not air raids every single night.
  • Most large cities in Britain were bombed
    including Belfast and Glasgow.
  • London was the principle target for Luftwaffe
    attacks, receiving 53 nights of consecutive

London Docks
Financial district The City.
West End
Parliament and Government offices. Whitehall
River Thames. On a clear moonlit night reflected
a superb navigational target for German bomber
How effective were the Luftwaffe raids ?
  • Read the notes on the effectiveness of the
    German raids on British industrial targets.
  • Based on that evaluation, should the Germans
  • (a) increased their attacks to increase pressure
    on Britain to make peace.
  • (b) Pursue a different strategy altogether ?

Limitations of the German bombing campaign
  • Germany only dropped 35,000 tons of bombs during
    the 1940-41 Blitz. This was a fraction of what
    was dropped on Germany later on (400,000 tons
    dropped on Germany in last four months of war)
  • Germany lacked a heavy long range bomber in
    1940 similar to the Lancaster and B29 bombers
    used by the RAF and USAF from 1943-45.

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Electronic warfare battle of the beams.
British engineers discovered these beams and
devised a method of jamming them so German
bomber crews could not follow their path.
German radio transmitters in France transmitted
two radio beams which could be made to cross over
a precise target such as an aircraft factory.
German bomber crews used these beams to navigate
to their targets.
The next five years saw a deadly electronic
arms race to win the radar battle.
Why wasnt poison gas used ?
  • The British government had expected poison gas to
    be used on civilian targets.
  • All citizens were equipped with gas masks.
  • Germany had stocks of chlorine and mustard gas
    (used in WW1) and newer nerve gases such as
    Tabun. (Effectiveness of gas masks highly
    doubtful against these agents !)
  • Fear of retaliation prevented their use just as
    with nuclear weapons during the Cold War era.

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About 30cm in length, these magnesium incendiary
bombs were designed to start fires, overwhelm
rescue services and light a path for the second
wave of bombers to drop high explosive bombs.
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The night London burned, Roosevelt delivered one
of his most famous fireside chat radio
If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will
control the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa,
Australasia, and the high seasand they will be
in a position to bring enormous military and
naval resources against this hemisphere. It is no
exaggeration to say that all of us, in all the
Americas, would be living at the point of a guna
gun loaded with explosive bullets, economic as
well as military.
Reading tasks
  • Read the sections from Juliet Gardiner on the
    raids on Coventry 14th/15th November 1940 and
    London 29th December 1940.
  • What effects did the raids have on
  • Civilian morale, housing, industrial production
    and the emergency services

The Baedeker Raids
  • Following an RAF raid on the historic city of
    Lubeck, the Luftwaffe launched a series of
    revenge attacks on British historical /
    cultural targets.
  • The targets were allegedly picked out of the
    famous Baedeker Guide books.
  • Exeter, Bath, Cambridge, Canterbury and Norwich
    were all bombed in April-May 1942.
  • These were small-scale raids on small target
    areas as the majority of the Luftwaffe was
    stationed on the Russian front.

What if….?
  • If Hitler had not decided to invade the USSR in
    June 1941 he could have concentrated all his
    airpower on a sustained and massive aerial
    bombardment of the British Isles lasting for at
    least one or two years. What would have been the
    outcome ?

Had Germany not invaded the USSR in 1941 they
might have caused far more destruction to Britain.
The effectiveness of civilian bombing raids on
The effectiveness of civilian bombing raids on