The Battle of Britain in the Second World War began with skirmishes in June and July 1940, reached a climax in August and September and ended in the ferocity of the Blitz during the following winter. It laid the foundations for the survival of Britain and the eventual destruction of Nazi Germany.
Soon after the fall of France in the middle of June, the Germans began to prepare for a possible invasion of Britain by setting out first to destroy the Royal Air Force. There was a long series of air battles and bombardments.
The Germans seemed to have no systematic plan of action. On the other hand, Britain had developed a radar early warning system and a superb fighting aircraft, the Spitfire. Thus, although outnumbered, the British were able to defend with superior equipment and undivided aim against an enemy whose fleets of bombers, the Dornier 17, the Heinkel III and the Junkers 88, proved vulnerable to attacks by Spitfires and hurricanes. The best German fighter, the Messerschmitt 109, was on a par with the Spitfire but, over England, was at the limit of its range.
After waves of attacks had failed to put the R.A.F. out of action, the Germans switched their offensive from Fighter Command airfields and installations to London and other cities, causing terrible damage. But the raiders also suffered heavy casualties. On September 15 the British destroyed 185 enemy aircraft, demonstrating to the Luftwaffe, the German airforce, that it had lost the battle. Attacks on cities with explosive and fire bombs continued but lost their impetus by the end of April 1941.