Monday, May 4, 2009

Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England) is the name given to the sustained strategic effort by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) during the summer and autumn of 1940 to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially Fighter Command. The name derives from a speech made on 18 June 1940 in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He said: "The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin..."

The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces. It was the largest and most sustained bombing campaign attempted up until that date. The failure of Nazi Germany to reach its objectives—to destroy Britain's air defence or to force Britain out of the war by forcing an armistice or surrender—is considered both its first major defeat and a crucial turning point in the war.[9] Germany's plan was to gain air superiority, then launch Operation Sealion: amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain. Initially RAF airfields were attacked. As the Battle progressed, operations were extended to the strategic level: systematic destruction of aircraft production centres and ground infrastructure. Eventually the Luftwaffe and the RAF resorted to attacking areas of political significance and terror bombing tactics.

The British date the battle from 10 July to 31 October 1940, which represented the most intense period of daylight bombing. German historians usually place the beginning of the battle in mid-August 1940 and end it in May 1941, on the withdrawal of the bomber units in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the campaign against the USSR on 22 June 1941.

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