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Battle of Britain

Web Image
A Canadian-built Hawker Hurricane Mk XII restored and operated by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton Ontario paid tribute to No. 1 (F) Squadron, the only RCAF fighter unit to participate in the Battle of Britain. This aircraft was lost in a fire that destroyed the museum in 1993. DND Photo

This is was first and only all air battle of World War II. There were no land or sea aspects to this engagement. It took place from July 10, 1940 to October 31, 1940. Germany had intended to win this air battle then lauch Operation Sea Lion to invade Britain. By the end of October 1940, Germany abandoned this plan and turned to the invasion of Russia.

Although the war wasn't over (continued until may 1945), the Allied Forces maintained the Island of Britain as a base for all operations against Germany. The USA sent troops to the European war beginning in 1942. Approximately 3,000,000 passed through Britain.

The winning of the Battle of Britain was absolutely essential for the eventual overthrow of Nazi Occupied Europe.

Battle of Britain (Only Air to Air Combat, No Land or Sea Battles)

The Battle of Britain was unusual. It was an all air battle. Aircraft only, no navies nor armies. The entire battle took place in the air, over South Esat England and the English Channel. For Britain, the two primary aircraft used were the Hurricane and Spitfire. Other aircraft such as the Bolton-Paul Defiant and the Fairey Battle were soon shown to be inadequate and withdrawn from the battle. Many Fairey Battle aircraft were shipped to Canada for training new airmen.

Two Very Different Commanders

  1. Web Image
    Lord Hugh Dowding - Air Chief Marshall RAF Fighter Command

    Lord Hugh Dowding - Air Chief Marshall, RAF Fighter Command. Dowding was a humble man, who ignored Churchill's order to maintain an airforce in France, but rather had concluded that Britain had scarce air resources, and defence of Britain was paramount. He would not risk losing aircraft in France - history proves him correct. It was Dowding's humble and analystic approach that saved Britain. He invested heavily in radar (new technology) and ground observer stations, so that the RAF could track the incoming fighters and bombers. He deployed aircraft sparingly and strategically. He also discounted the exhuberant claims of his men on their air success. He chose to believe a lesser estimate of their claims. He was careful and shrewd in his deployment of aircraft.

    Lord Dowding's name is chiselled into the wall at the Battle of Britain memorial in Wetminster Abbey in London - a fitting tribute to a humble and determibed man.

    Wkikpedia Lord Hugh Dowding

  2. Web Image
    International Military Tribunal Nuremberg.

    Hermann Goering - commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe (air force). Goering was the opposite of Lord Dowding. He was a brash, bigger than life character, who absolutely expected to win, and believed it would be easy. When his flyers made exaggerated claims of victory, it was exactly what he wanted to hear, and he believed it all. Goering did not stick to his strategy, and when they were winning by targetting airfields and radar, he was easily swayed to change startegy, ultimatley leading to the Luftwaffe losing the Battle of Britain.

    Pictured at right: Defendant Hermann Goering in the prisoners' dock at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals at Nuremberg. Goering was the former head of the Luftwaffe and was at one time second in command to Hitler.

    Wkikpedia Hermann Goering

Turning Point - Sunday August 25 1940

  1. The Accidental Bombing of London:

    To get to 11 Group's sector airfields - ringed round London - Kesselring often routed one raid direct and another along the great blind spot created by the Thames Estuary. In the small hours of Sunday 25 August a night raid used the Estuary route to the oil tanks at Thameshaven. The crew of one aircraft lost their way, continued too far westwards, and dropped their bombs. They hit the City of London. The raid caused more dismay among the British War Cabinet and the staff of Air Fleet 2 than among the Londoners. The outer suburbs had already been bombed and Londoners had been expecting raids. The bomb-load of just one errant bomber was a gentle introduction to total war.

    Just as the Rotterdam bombing prompted the 15 May War Cabinet to send the RAF to bomb the Ruhr next day, so now did Churchill authorize an immediate reprisal raid upon Berlin. During this period RAF Bomber Command believed themselves to be reducing the scale of German air attack by bombing aircraft assembly plants. Now eighty-one RAF bombers departed for Berlin on the night of Sunday 25 August. More civilians died. Here bombs were unexpected: the Nazi leaders had promised that Berlin was inviolable. They vowed to avenge the 'atrocities'. So began a chain of incidents that eventually ended not only the Battle of Britain, but - at Hiroshima - the war. Excerpt from "Fighter" by Len Deighton

  2. Reprisal:
  3. Blitz and Counter-Blitz

    On 24 August 1940 the first German bombs fell in central London; several had already fallen in suburban areas. On the following night, 25/26 August, more than eighty British bombers struck, for the first time, at Berlin. There were few casualties on either side, but a deadly confrontation had begun.

    The next German air raid on London was by day on 26 August. Learning of a British bombing raid on Leipzig that same day, Churchill wrote to Sinclair [Minister of Air War]: "Now that they have begun to molest the capital, I want you to hit them hard, and Berlin is the place to hit them." While London was being pounded almost every night by German bombers, these smaller raids against Berlin helped raise British morale. International Churchill Society

  4. Outcome:

    The alternate bombing of Berlin and London, caused The German Luftwaffe to change strategy. They had been successfully destroying British air fields and radar installations. The Luftwaffer strategy was starting to take a significant toll on RAF Fighter Command operations. But now with the switch to bombing London and letting fighter command rebuild its infrastructure, the tide was turing, and RAF Fighter Command would ultimately be victorious.

YouTube Battle of Britain Overview

YouTube How Battle of Britain Won? (animated)

YouTube The Man Who Saved Britain (Air Chief Marshal Hugh Caswall Tremenheere Dowding)

YouTube Thirteen Hours that Saved Britain (Black Thursday)

Museum Lord Beaverbrook (Minister of Aircraft Production)

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few", referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force crews who were at the time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe, with Britain expecting an invasion. Pilots who fought in the battle have been known as The Few ever since; at times being specially commemorated on 15 September, "Battle of Britain Day". Wikipedia

YouTube Never was so much owed by so many to so few - Winston Churchill Speeches (3:19)

Britain Source George VI


YouTube The Hawker Hurricane

YouTube Supermarine Spitfire

YouTube Operation Sealion

Battle of Britain Slides

Air War Casualties: Battle of Britain (24)

1 Sqn (RAF)
Cobourg, Ontario
46 Sqn (RAF)
Toronto, Ontario
141 Sqn
Victoria, British Columbia
501 Sqn
St John, New Brunswick
111 Sqn
Moncton, New Brunswick
74 Sqn
Vancouver, British Columbia
151 Sqn
Rossland, British Columbia
151 Sqn
Brandon, Manitoba
501 Sqn
Victoria, British Columbia
85 Sqn
Oak Point, New Brunswick
257 Sqn
Gull Lake, Saskatchewan
253 Sqn
Sackville, New Brunswick
242 Sqn
Winnipeg, Manitoba
1 Sqn
London, Ontario
92 Sqn
Westmount, Quebec
1 Sqn (RCAF)
Lloydminster, Saskatchewan
41 Sqn
Ottawa, Ontario
92 Sqn
Winnipeg, Manitoba
66 Sqn
Vancouver, British Columbia
66 Sqn
Victoria, British Columbia
242 Sqn (RAF)
St Thomas, Ontario
66 Sqn
London, Ontario
615 Sqn
Ottawa, Ontario


  1. Watch the videos above and read the material.
  2. Choose any of the flyers below, look at their picture, see where they are from, find their home on the map. These Canadians were Killed in Action during the Battle of britain. Think about their age. Richard Alexander Howley was 20 years old. How close is it to your age? Read the material, watch the videos.
  3. Answer the questions below.

Questions for the Battle of Britain

  1. When was the Battle of Britain fought?
  2. What was Hitler’s goal in launching the Battle?
  3. Battle of Britain specifics:
    1. Where was the Battle of Britain fought ?
    2. What aircraft were used by the British in the Battle?
    3. Explain what each of the British aircraft was used for in the Battle.
    4. List the aircraft the Nazis used and what each one was used for.
  4. Overall was the Battle of Britain was mainly a battle of the navies, armies or air force? Explain your answer.
  5. What was the Blitz?
  6. Damage and Consequence
    1. Name three cities that were badly damaged in the Battle.
    2. What kind of damage was done to the cities of Britain?
  7. Why did Hitler decide to stop the bombing of Britain?
  8. Leadership
    1. Name two leaders in Great Britain who helped get the country through the Battle of Britain.
    2. What important role did each of those leaders have in the Battle?
  9. Imagine you were a child in London during the worst part of the Blitz. Write a short story about what you and your family did to protect themselves, what you thought about at night and a few of the things you saw and heard.
  10. Why were the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic Ocean so important during this Battle?
  11. If you had been a leader of the UK during this Battle, what four things would you have done to ensure the country would have won?
  12. If the Nazis had succeeded in winning this Battle and Britain had surrendered, what do you think the Nazis would have done? Suggest at least three things. Include your reasoning.
  13. If the UK had surrendered to the Nazis, how do you think this would have affected Canada?
  14. Winston Churchill Speech:
    1. Who was Churchill speaking to?
    2. Who is the Fuhrer?
    3. Who are the "many"?
    4. Who are the "few"?
    5. From your studies are there any other Winston Churchill speeches that are significant?

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