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5 Facts About the Battle of Britain That May Surprise You

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”


The Battle of Britain was the successful defense of the Great Britain against the air raids conducted by the German air force in 1940 after the fall of France during World War II. Also known as the Air Battle for England, this was a military campaign in which the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy defended the United Kingdom against large scale attacks by Nazi Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe. The battle commenced on 10th of July 1940 and ended on 15th September 1940.


Recognizing the importance of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain, the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. 

Here are 5 facts about one of Britain’s most important victories in the Second World War that you must know – 

1.     Hitler’s plan to invade Britain in 1940 

After Germany’s defeat of France in June 1940, Adolf Hitler had expected that Britain would seek a peace settlement but was met with Britain’s determination to fight on. Hitler was confident that he would succeed in taking over Britain, as the Nazi government had re-established its air force called Luftwaffe in the years following the First World War (Germany had been banned from having an air force following the First World War). The Luftwaffe was recognized as the largest and most formidable air force in the world at that time. The invasion of Britain was codenamed Operation ’Sealion’. 

2.     Britain’s formidable air defense network

The Dowding System – named after Fighter Command’s Commander-in-Chief Sir Hugh Dowding – brought together such strategy and technology like radar, and ground defenses that unified their system of defense. This air defense network developed by the British, gave them a critical advantage in the Battle of Britain. 

The Dowding System could process huge amounts of information in a short period of time. This proved critical in ensuring Britain’s victory as this system allowed Fighter Command to manage its valuable and limited (compared to Germany) resources. 

 Smoke air raid London Docklands capital British Sept 7 1940

3.     Not all of the Pilots who fought were British

Men came from all over the Commonwealth and occupied Europe – from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), Belgium, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia. There were even more pilots from the neutral United States and Ireland. Winston Churchill – the then Prime Minister of Britain – called these pilots “The Few”. 

4.     “….so much owed by so many to so few”

Riggers, fitters, armorers, repair and maintenance engineers – from all corners of Britain helped secure its victory in this battle. Factory workers helped in keeping the production of aircrafts up during this crucial period. Members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) also played in role in securing this victory – they served as radar operators and worked as plotters tracking raids. The Home Guard – the then newly formed Local Defense Volunteers – had been set up as the last line of defense against the German invasion. 

5.     A defensive victory for Britain 

Victory in the Battle of Britain did not win the war, but it made winning an achievable goal in the longer term. Four years later, the Allies launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe from British shores which proved decisive in ultimately bringing the war against Nazi-led Germany to an end. 

The autumn of 2020 marked a significant milestone for British defense – the 80th anniversary of Battle of Britain. September 15th is recognized as the Anniversary of the Battle of Britain Day. This year marks the 82nd Anniversary of the Battle of Britain Day.

Follow us for more updates on how different charities are marking the 82nd Anniversary of the Battle of Britain Day!

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