- Slides: 14
The Battle of Britain, 1940 Changing the course of World War II
Winston Churchill • One of greatest wartime leaders, officer in British Army (fighting in Cuba/India/S. Africa), historian, writer, painter and honorary citizen of the USA. • At the forefront of British politics until disastrous Gallipoli campaign in WWI forced him out. • Served as Chancellor the Exchequer from ’ 24 -’ 29. • Out in the ‘political wilderness’ in the 1930 s
Winston Churchill • Warned (but was mainly ignored) about the rise of Hitler during the ‘ 30 s by Chamberlain and his government. • Became Prime Minister on 10 th May 1940 during Britain’s darkest hour. • His refusal to surrender against seemingly impossible odds inspired British resistance. • Renowned for his inspirational speeches (and cutting wit). • He led Britain to victory against the Nazis and in 2002 was voted the Greatest Briton of all time.
The Battle of France ends • Following the evacuation of 360, 000 British/French troops from Dunkirk, Hitler turned his attention to Britain. • Operation Sealion: the Nazi invasion of Britain is announced (16/7/40). • To succeed, air superiority but be established and the R. A. F. must be defeated and British morale broken.
Hitler plans the invasion of Britain • 18 th June 1940, Churchill announced to the British people that…
German advantage? • The Luftwaffe had a clear numerical advantage over Fighter Command (the RAF). • German attacks began in July 1940, focusing on airfields and shipping and finally major towns and cities. • But it soon became apparent that the Luftwaffe, led by Goering had significant disadvantages.
…Over to you What advantages do you think (or know) the RAF had? Think about… 1) Location 2) Equipment/technology 3) Tactics/training
British advantages - Location 1) German planes not suitable for longdistance raids (Fighters could only stay over England for 10 mins. ) 2) …Whereas RAF planes could land, refuel and take off rapidly. 3) If shot down/parachuted out, German pilots were over enemy territory…
British advantages – Technology/equipment • Britain had RADAR: limited/but necessary planes could be sent to specific locations • The Spitfire and Messcherschmitt were evenly matched in dogfights but the German bombers were easy to shoot down alone.
British advantages – Tactics/training • German pilots trained to give support to ground troops, not fight plane vs. plane. • German air force negated earlier tactics of bombing airfields in favour of bombing cities.
Main reason for British victory? • Change in German tactics… But why? • Initial tactics began on 8 th August: Germans launched 1, 500 bomber daily raids against airfields and radar stations. • By late August Germans had lost over 600 aircraft to the RAF’s 260. • But the RAF were losing badly needed aircraft and experienced pilots.
Main reason for British victory? • Air Marshal Dowding tried one last tactic. • He ordered a huge bombing raid of Berlin. • This enraged Hitler who, in turn, ordered the bombing of air fields and radar stations to stop and the bombing blitz on London to begin. • Gave the RAF time to recover. • By late September German bombers were being shot down faster than they could be rebuilt • The RAF had won the Battle of Britain. • Operation Sealion postponed indefinately
The Blitz • Started in London on 7 th September 1940, continued for 57 consecutive nights destroying 1 million homes and killing 20, 000 in London alone. • Strategic bombing of other British cities (Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, Coventry) killed another 20, 000 civilians. • Nazi command hoped to break the morale of British people… • It had the opposite effect, British defiance becoming known as ‘the spirit of the Blitz’.
A turning point in the war • Many historians see the Battle of Britain as a key Allied victory in WWII. • Hitler’s frustration at not being able to defeat Britain resulted in him turning his attentions to the ultimately doomed invasion of Russia (Operation Barbarossa). • The last word goes to Sir Winston…