By July 1940 (seventy years ago this month) France had been over-run and the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated from Dunkirk. Germany now held most of NW Europe.
The German High Command was preparing to invade Britain (Operation Seelöwe [Sealion]). They knew that to successfully invade would require elimination of the RAF. On 10 July Reich Marshall Herman Goering ordered a series of attacks which are now known as the Battle of Britain.
The Battle of Britain lasted from 10 July until 31 October, 114 days. In essence the battle can be split into five distinct phases:
• Phase 1 –10 July to 7 August (attacks on coastal shipping plus limited attacks on radar installations and airfields in Southern England);
• Phase 2 – 8 to 23 August (intensive attacks on radar installations and airfields in Southern England);
• Phase 3 – 24 August to 6 September (continuing attacks on airfields and aircraft factories);
• Phase 4 – 7 to 30 September (the Luftwaffe switch attacks to London); and
• Phase 5 – 1 to 31 October (daylight attacks discontinued in favour of massive night attacks. Daylight nuisance raids by Bf 109 fighters).
Over the whole campaign, Fighter Command lost 537 aircrew killed and as many again badly injured out some 3,000 aircrew who took part in the battle. The Luftwaffe lost almost five times as many men (2,662) and more than 6,000 wounded or captured. The British lost ten fighters for every nineteen German aircraft destroyed. The eight squadrons based at Tangmere and its satellite airfield, Westhampnett (seven equipped with Hurricanes) claimed over 300 enemy aircraft destroyed during the battle.
The Museum’s Battle of Britain Hall has many artefacts and memorabilia connected to this famous and important time in Britain’s history including a display of many of the signatures of the ‘Few’.
THE SIGNATURES OF THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN FEW CAN BE SEEN IN A DISPLAY IN THE MUSEUM’S BATTLE OF BRITAIN HALL.