On this Day 1940: The phoney War is over..! The Battle of Britain begins.

From the outset of the war Britain had been expecting a great German air assault on its soil.  It was this fear that drove mothers to evacuate their children from the big cities, the blackout enforced, gas masks and Anderson shelters distributed.

While the plans for Operation Sea Lion and the preliminary air battle were taking shape, the Luftwaffe was not of course idle.  From its captured airfields it harassed Britain by night, and from the July 10th 1940 onwards it waged increasing war by day against British shipping in the Channel.  Germany sent 120 German bombers and fighters to strike British convoys, while 70 more bombers attacked dockyard installations in South Wales on this day 1940.

Britain at this time of the War had fewer fighters than the German Luftwaffe, 600 to 1,300 but it had the advantage of an effective radar system and British planes like the Spitfire could turn tighter then the German ME 109’s.

The name ‘Battle of Britain’ is taken from a Winston Churchill speech in which he said that “…the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin.”

Although exact figures are hard to come by, it is thought that about 1,000 RAF planes were shot down in the Battle of Britain and a loss of 544 pilots killed. The German Luftwaffe lost many more planes than this, perhaps as many as 1,800 and more than 2,500 aircrew killed.

The Blitz, which continued long after the end of the Battle of Britain, resulted in over 40,000 civilian deaths and over 50,000 injured.

Top Fighter Aces of the Battle of Britain:

Sgt Josef Frantisek (Czech): 17  

Plt Off Eric Lock (UK): 16½           

Sgt James Lacy (UK): 15½

Fg Off Brian Carbury (NZ): 15½

Plt Off Robert Doe (UK): 15

Fg Off Witold Urbanowicz (Poland): 15

Plt Off Paterson Hughes (Australia): 14 & 3x½

Plt Off Colin Gray (NZ): 14 & 2x½

Flt Lt Archie McKellar (UK): 14½

Flt Lt Carl Davis (UK): 11½

Do you have a WW2 pilot in the family, or have you ever wondered if any of your ancestors were in the Forces during the war? If so, find out more by visiting Forces War Records, a site that specialises in transcribing war records into digital data that can be easily searched and cross referenced: www.forces-war-records.co.uk.


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