Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary
2010 celebrates the 70th Anniversary of The Battle of Britain, a critical turning point of World War II and the first battle ever fought by air forces alone. Across the UK there will be celebrations of this incredible victory. Don’t be afraid to show your patriotism and celebrate veterans by donning your favourite union jack scarves, union jack bowlers, or even waving an RAF ensign flag. You can even grow your very own wing commanders moustache, purchase a commemorative edition 70th Anniversary Battle of Britain flag, or take your inflatable spitfire out for a day on the water. Journey back in time for a look at why we celebrate so passionately this turning point in history.
The date is June 1940. The French have just surrendered to German forces and Dunkirk has been evacuated of both French and British soldiers. Hitler’s focus is on the invasion of the Soviet Union. He believes that the British will follow the French example after having suffered defeats on land and finding themselves without allies. Lord Halifax, Britain’s Foreign Secretary echoes English sentiments of negotiating peace with the Germans. On 18 June 1940, in a speech delivered to the House of Commons, the month old Prime Minister, Winston Churchill says, “What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.” And so the Battle of Britain, which would stretch from summer to fall was named.
The German Navy had suffered great damages to their fleet and Hitler was advised that an invasion of the UK should only be undertaken as a last resort, and even then only with complete air superiority. Thinking that preparations for such an invasion would frighten Britain into submission, directives were given to prepare for attack. These were complete by mid August 1940.
Despite internal debate, the German’s decided they would find an easy victory against the United Kingdom. They knew Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious invasion of Britain planned for mid-September, would only meet success if the impressive Royal Air Force was completely disabled. The first attacks on the RAF occurred on radar stations and airfields by German bombers on 12 August 1940. The next day “Eagle Day” is enacted by the German Luftwaffe which involved a four day assault on key airfields and radar stations. The results are mixed, but the towns of Southampton, Portland, and Andover feel the wrath of the Germans. The RAF retaliate taking down at least 40 German aircraft.
Two days later, on what went on to be known as “Black Thursday”, 74 German aircraft go missing after being launched from Denmark and Norway.
In an act of underestimation of the RAF forces German commander, Hermann Goering, changes offensive tactics from bombing aircraft on the ground. Instead he orders German fighters to take the RAF on it the skies. Although weather prevents ground bombing of Britain from 19-24 August, the bombing resumes to the effect of decimating 220 British fighters. However the German losses number around 330 which forces Hitler to indefinitely postpone Operation Sea Lion to 21 September.
On 15 September, in an attempt to demoralise the British, the Germans conduct a massive bombing raid. The RAF launch an incredible 300 fighters, darkening the sky with their impressive force. 80 German Luftwaffe planes are lost in what we will all remember as “Battle of Britain Day”. Within 2 days Hitler would indefinitely postpone Operation Sea Lion, and would never forget that the British should never be underestimated.
If you are searching for ideas on how to properly commemorate this day, look no further. Celebrations of this epic anniversary will take place across the UK. Don your favourite union jack scarves or union jack bowlers and head out to the Bentley Priory of Battle of Britain Trust’s Battle of Britain’s 70th Anniversary concert and tea dance on the grounds of the Bentley Priory on 12 September.
At RAF Fairford the German Luftwaffe have been invited to help commemorate the anniversary air spectacular. Expect to see an RAF Ensign flag or a Battle of Britain flag and maybe even a wing commanders moustache. There you will see aircraft flown not only by the Germans but the Italian forces as well. This is a special treat for all the pilots who fought in this important battle.
On 4 and 5 September you can see a Battle of Britain Memorial air show at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire. You’ll be treated to a sky filled with actual Battle of Britain fighters and modern military aircraft in remembrance of the pilots who helped make this moment in history one to remember. Bring the kids for a fun family day complete with funfair rides, flight simulators, bungee trampolines and demonstrations.
If none of these suits your fancy, head out to get your own inflatable spitfire and hit the waters in memory of a naval operation that the UK thwarted 70 years ago.