Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Battle of Britain Essay

The Battle of Britain Essay

The Battle of Britain began to become intense on July 10,1940, with German dive-bombers attacking convoys off the South and East coast of England and with raids on coastal towns from Dover to Plymouth. The RAF's seven hundred fighters faced four times that number of enemy fighters and bombers. Shipping losses increased but the real objective of destroying British fighters in combat was not achieved. At the end of the first week in August the RAF had lost ninety-six fighters and the Germans one hundred and ninety-two aircraft.

The second phase of the Battle began on the 8th of August, when the Luftwaffe intensified its attacks and also struck at fighter airfields and radar stations. A week later the Germans mounted their greatest effort in a series of attacks from Northumberland to Dorset, losing seventy-five aircraft to the RAF's thirty four. Pressure was maintained until August 18 but bad weather for the following five days gave RAF pilots a much-needed rest.

Over the next two weeks, the third phase, the Luftwaffe continued its attacks on fighter airfields, with a daily average of a thousand or more aircraft taking part. The proportion of fighters to bombers was increased to 3 to 1 in the attacking German formations and the defending RAF squadrons had their most difficult period, losing two hundred and eighty-six fighters to the Luftwaffe's three hundred and eighty.

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This wearing down process was having a serious effect on Fighter Command and had the attacks on airfields continued the outcome of the Battle might have been very different. Suddenly on the 7th of September the Germans switched their attacks to London itself, in both day and night raids, know as the “Blitz”. On the 15th (now celebrated as Battle of Britain Day), over a thousand enemy aircraft were involved of which fifty-six were lost. It is interesting to note that the RAF claimed 185 aircraft destroyed but later research has reduced that number to 56.

Throughout September London was the main target and many battles were fought in the skies above it. Hitler abandoned his invasion plans until furthur notice. This was predicted by Goring’s promise that the Luftwaffe could defeat Britain without any help from the Army or Navy. The air battles continued throughout October, by the 31st, was the official end of the Battle.

Nearly 500 pilots and aircrew had been killed, 500 more were wounded and 915 aircraft were destroyed. The up till then undefeated Luftwaffe had been beaten and lost 1733 aircraft and crews in the process. There are 2950 names on the official list of 'The Few’. Churchill made a speech on August 20th saying, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".

Over the course of June and July 1940, it became obvious that Britain was not going to lay down to the Luftwaffe. The Germans recognized that the destruction of the Royal Air Force had now become essential to the achievement of their strategic plans. On 1 August 1940, Hitler issued his Fundamental Directive No 17 for the "Conduct of the Air and Sea War against England." The Luftwaffe was to use all means to overpower the Royal Air Force in the shortest time possible.

Attacks were to be directed primarily at flying units, their ground installations, and their supply organization as well as the aircraft industry in order to "establish the necessary conditions for the final conquest of England." To try and achieve this aim, the Luftwaffe had to produce around 3,358 aircraft. Fighter Command was outnumbered more than 3:1 overall.


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