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Battle of Britain Timeline (July 10th - October 31st, 1940)


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

The majority of the fighting of the Battle of Britain occurred between 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.

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.

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.

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 (July 10th - October 31st, 1940) events in the SecondWorldWarHistory.com database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events are also included for perspective. ©www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com

June 1st - August 12th
1940
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.

August 12th
1940
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.

July 16th
1940
Hitler delivers Fuhrer Directive 17 as Operation Sea Lion - the land invasion of the British mainland to occur between September 19th and September 26th.

August 13th
1940
"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.

August 13th
1940
Portland is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

August 13th
1940
Andover is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

August 13th
1940
Southampton is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

August 13th
1940
At least 40 total Luftwaffe aircraft are destroyed by the RAF and ground-based flak teams.

August 15th
1940
74 Luftwaffe aircraft launched from bases in Denmark and Norway are lost on what will be remembered as "Black Thursday".

August 17th
1940
The RAF is forced to poach the ranks of Bomber Command in an effort to fill its dwindling supply of capable fighter pilots.

August 19th - August 24th
1940
Poor weather and overcast skies limit any major German bombing efforts over Britain.

August 19th
1940
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.

August 24th - August 31st
1940
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.

September 3rd
1940
Due to consistent Luftwaffe losses and inconclusive results across the entire campaign, Hitler postpones Operation Sea Lion to September 21st.

September 7th
1940
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.

September 7th
1940
348 bombers and 617 fighters of the German Luftwaffe descend on the British capital city of London in a massive bombing raid.

September 15th
1940
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".

September 16th
1940
The German Luftwaffe redirects it sbombing campaign to now cover night-bombing of British cities.

September 17th
1940
With the unexpected results of his campaign against Britain, Hitler officially postpones Operation Sea Lion indefinitely.