The Battle of Britain refers to the aerial conflict between the British and German air forces in the skies over the UK between July and October 1940. It was a decisive turning point of WWII.
Its name was born after the then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the famous speech: ‘The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin…’
It was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign yet. Germany needed to control the English Channel to launch an invasion of Britain.
The RAF had 1,200 planes on the eve of battle, including 800 Spitfires and Hurricanes — but only 660 of these were serviceable.
In a speech to the nation, Winston Churchill said: ‘The gratitude of every home on our island, in our Empire and indeed throughout the world, except the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen, who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of World War by their prowess and devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’
September 15 is now celebrated as Battle of Britain Day.