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1940 - Battle of Britain


RAF Pilot

1940: British Royal Airforce (RAF) pilot Douglas Horne walks away from his Hawker Hurricane airplane after flying a sortie against the German Luftwaffe over the Thames Estuary in the Battle of Britain, England.

Hulton Archive / Stringer/ Archive Photos/ Getty Images

Battle of Britain (1940): The Battle of Britain was the intense air battle between the Germans and the British over Great Britain's airspace from July 1940 to May 1941, with the heaviest fighting from July to October 1940.

After the fall of France at the end of June 1940, Nazi Germany had one major enemy left in Western Europe -- Great Britain. Overconfident and with little planning, Germany expected to quickly conquer Great Britain by first gaining domination over airspace and then later sending in ground troops across the English Channel (Operation Sealion).

The Germans began their attack of Great Britain in July 1940. At first they targeted airfields, but soon switched to bombing general strategic targets, hoping to crush British morale. Unfortunately for the Germans, British morale stayed high and the reprieve given to British airfields gave the British Air Force (the RAF) the break it needed.

Although the Germans continued to bomb Great Britain for months, by October 1940 it was clear that the British had won and that the Germans were forced to indefinitely postpone their sea invasion. The Battle of Britain was a decisive victory for the British, which was the first time the Germans had faced defeat in World War II.

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