By June 18, 1940 Hitler’s forces had overrun much of France and pushed England’s forces off the European continent. On June 20 the New York Times reported…
Defended by her mighty fleet and with the largest force of trained and experienced troops in her history concentrated in this island, Great Britain tonight hastened preparations to withstand a siege or repel an invasion
Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill said “The Battle of France is over, the Battle of Britain is about to begin”
And begin it did. While England prepared to send its children to safety in the countryside and to other nations, the air forces of Great Britain and Germany began nighttime raids on the homeland of the other. But the Brits were vastly outnumbered by the mighty German Luftwaffe which probed and bombed Britain’s defenses in prelude to a German invasion of the island.
By mid-July the shrill of air raid sirens had “become a nightly alarm in many British factory towns.” Wave after wave of German bombers roared over British targets and dropped their “loads of death.” On August 11 more than 150 German planes bombed the British airbase at Weymouth.
Then in mid-August Germany began a new tactic- a tactic which began with the accidental bombing of London. Civilian targets were at first banned by Hitler but after the accidental bombing and the subsequent bombing of Berlin by the Royal Air Force (RAF), the enraged Hitler ordered the bombing of civilian targets-cities and factories.
As the hoards of German bombers swarmed over England the fearless RAF pilots rose in their hurricanes and spitfires to fight off the Luftwaffe threat. Still, “screaming bombs” continued to fall on London in near uninterrupted waves.
The mighty city turned into an inferno. The fires acted as beacons for more Nazi bombers hurled explosive and incendiary bombs onto the city. With a curfew in effect, Londoners could only huddle in shelters and sleep or read.
However, by October the RAF had developed new defensive tactics based on radar which could track enemy aircraft at night. German losses mounted and by the end of October, with bad weather setting in, Hitler and his commanders realized England could not be conquered in 1940. It would have to wait until another time- a time which thankfully never came.
Of the nearly 3000 men who fought for Britain during the four month battle, 544 were killed. Winston Churchill said “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”
The Germans lost 2700 men.
New York Times Archives
Battle of Britain Historic Site