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The Battle of Britain Timeline

The Battle of Britain was Europe's last stand against the expanding power of the Axis.

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"The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the future of Christian civilization." - Winston Churchill, June 1940

The Who
Air Chief Hugh Dowding, Royal Air Force Fighter Command
Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring, German Luftwaffe


The When and Where
July 10th, 1940 to May 10th, 1941 (the majority of the fighting occurred from July 10th, 1940 and October 31st, 1940). The battle took place primarily over the English Channel and England proper and involved German-held bases in northern France as well as attacked originating from German-controlled Norway.


The What
After the fall of Poland, the Low Countries (Luxembourg, Belgium and Netherlands), Denmark, Norway and northern France through expert coordination and speed of air and land forces (Blitzkrieg warfare), the German military machine moved its attention onto Great Britain, the heart of the British Empire. In preparation for a ground invasion of the island (Operation Sea Lion set to begin on August 15th, 1940), German warplanners recognized that air superiority would have to be earned and this meant the destruction of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Less than three weeks after the Fall of France, the German Luftwaffe went to work against this storied group of aviators. Initial raids by German bombers were aimed at ports along the coast as well as shipping lanes to deprive the island nation of critical material while helping to lure RAF fighters that were countered by Luftwaffe fighter escorts. Prior to the Battle of Britain, the German military machine knew little of defeat thanks to their recently strong showings across Europe.


The Numbers
Against 3,358 aircraft (including 1,223 fighters, 1,482 bombers and 327 dive bombers) fielded by the Germans, the British managed just 1,963 total aircraft - primarily 903 of which were single-two-seat fighter types - 560 bombers and 500 coastal-minded aircraft. The Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire became stars of the British cause during the battle, facing off against the equally stellar German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter.


What Happened?
Aided by its intelligence network and growing proficiency with radar which detected incoming waves of German aircraft over the Channel, the British managed to hold steady despite daily attacks which eventually turned into terror raids against civilians (tens of thousands would perish in the German bombing campaign). German fighter escorts suffered from limited range while British fighters were allowed to operate over friendly territory, RAF pilots being able to carry out several sorties in a single day. After several changes in strategy by the Luftwaffe amidst mounting losses (including the September 7th change to attacking London directly) and an unwillingness on the part of the British to capitulate, Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion indefinitely and moved his thoughts to his true master plan - the invasion of the Soviet Union - feeling that Britain could, at the very least, be contained and do no serious damage to The Reich from its now-weakened position - however, one of Hitler's grand mistakes would be creating two distinct fronts in the war. The Luftwaffe lost 1,887 aircraft to the enemy's 1,547 (including 56 alone on September 15th) with 2,698 aircrew dead against the British 544.


There are a total of 19 Battle of Britain Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence. It bears appropriate mention that Free French and Polish forces also participated in the Battle of Britain alongside the RAF (the RAF was further strengthened by contributions from its Commonwealth and volunteers from elsewhere). Similarly, a small contingent of Italians fought alongside the Germans.

1940
Saturday
June 1st - August 12th

German Luftwaffe forces concentrate efforts on maintaining control over the vital shipping lanes of the North Sea. At least 30,000 merchant ships are destroyed during this period.

1940
Monday
August 12th

The first attacks on RAF airfields and radar stations are conducted by German fighters and bombers. Germany intends on destroying RAF air supremacy before attempting its land invasion.

1940
Tuesday
July 16th

Hitler delivers Fuhrer Directive 17 as Operation Sea Lion - the land invasion of the British mainland to occur between September 19th and September 26th.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

"Eagle Day" is enacted - a four day bombardment of key RAF airfields and radar installations. Poor weather initially delays the assault and any bombing thereafter produces mixed results.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

Portland is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

Andover is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

Southampton is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

At least 40 total Luftwaffe aircraft are destroyed by the RAF and ground-based flak teams.

1940
Thursday
August 15th

74 Luftwaffe aircraft launched from bases in Denmark and Norway are lost on what will be remembered as "Black Thursday".

1940
Saturday
August 17th

The RAF is forced to poach the ranks of Bomber Command in an effort to fill its dwindling supply of capable fighter pilots.

1940
Monday
August 19th - August 24th

Poor weather and overcast skies limit any major German bombing efforts over Britain.

1940
Monday
August 19th

Underestimating overall RAF fighter strength, Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering changes offensive tactics and orders his fighters to tempt RAF fighters to duke it out in the skies as opposed to bombing them while still on the ground.

1940
Saturday
August 24th - August 31st

Luftwaffe bombing resumes. During this period, RAF airfields are hammered with the loss of 200 fighters. However, losses for the Luftwaffe number some 330 aircraft.

1940
Tuesday
September 3rd

Due to consistent Luftwaffe losses and inconclusive results across the entire campaign, Hitler postpones Operation Sea Lion to September 21st.

1940
Saturday
September 7th

In an effort to break the resolve of the British people, Hitler orders the bombing of London over the bombing of strategic RAF airfields and installations.

1940
Saturday
September 7th

348 bombers and 617 fighters of the German Luftwaffe descend on the British capital city of London in a massive bombing raid.

1940
Sunday
September 15th

Two massive bombing raids are conducted against Britain. The German Luftwaffe sees some 300 total RAF fighters airborne, showcasing Goering's gross estimate of total RAF air power. 80 German aircraft are lost in total. This day would go on to become "Battle of Britain Day".

1940
Monday
September 16th

The German Luftwaffe redirects it sbombing campaign to now cover night-bombing of British cities.

1940
Tuesday
September 17th

With the unexpected results of his campaign against Britain, Hitler officially postpones Operation Sea Lion indefinitely.
SECOND WORLD WAR HISTORY

1939:

German Invasion of Poland
Battle of the River Plate
Battle of the Atlantic
Winter War: Soviet Invasion of Finland


1940:

German Invasion of France
RAF Bombing Campaign
Dunkirk
The Battle of Britain
Operation Compass
Operation Judgment
The Balkans Invasion


1941:

Sink the Bismarck!
The Invasion of Crete
Operation Barbarossa
The Arctic Convoys
The Siege of Leningrad
The Battle of Sevastopol
Soviet Offensive - Battle for Russia
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
Japanese Conquest of the Pacific


1942:

Kharkov
Operation Blue
The Battle of Coral Sea
From Gazala to Tobruk
The Battle of Midway
Operation Jubilee
The Battle of El Alamein
Guadalcanal
The Solomon Islands
Operation Torch
Kokoda Trail
Stalingrad


1943:

Kasserine Pass
The Schweinfurt Raids
Kursk
Operation Husky
Battle of Tarawa


1944:

The Landings at Anzio
Monte Cassino
"Big Week"
D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy
The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot
Operation Bagration
Beyond Normandy
The Warsaw Uprising
Operation Market Garden
The Battle of the Bulge


1945:

The Push to the Oder River
Battle of Okinawa
The Fall of Berlin

EVENTS by WAR YEAR:

1939
1940
1941
1942
1943
1944
1945


EVENTS by DAY of the WEEK:
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday


Miscellaneous:
Pearl Harbor Speech Text
Propaganda Posters
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World War 2 Statistics

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Denmark
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France
Germany
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Holland
Hungary
India
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Japan
New Zealand
Norway
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Romania
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Soviet Union
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